E&OE TRANSCRIPT SATURDAY, 28 JUNE 2014 ABC AM SUBJECT/S: Live export fee hikes

ASHLEY HALL: The live animal export industry is furious the Federal Government is hiking fees for certification and inspection by more than 60 per cent.

The industry body, the Australian Livestock Exporters' Council, has labelled the fee hike "an act of bureaucratic bastardry," and says it may send some exporting companies broke.

Live exporters say it's time for the Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, to show he really does support the industry.

Will Ockenden reports.

WILL OCKENDEN: It's another threat to the viability of the live export industry, but this time it's not coming from animal activists releasing gruesome video of welfare breaches.

The industry says this time the threat is inefficient paper-pushers in Canberra, charging way too much for basic administration.

ALISON PENFOLD: We see the decision today as an act of bureaucratic bastardry in a race to fix the Department of Agriculture's bottom line.

WILL OCKENDEN: Alison Penfold is from the Australian Livestock Exporters Council.  She is furious with the department's decision to hike fees for the inspection, certification and registration of live animal shipments.

ALISON PENFOLD: We've got exporters facing a per hour charge of $671.80 for simple document processing. Now there is no reason or rationality to be charging exporters that sort of fee when they are charging other industries far lower amounts on a per hour basis.

WILL OCKENDEN: The Department of Agriculture spends about $10 million a year in certifying live animal export shipments and making sure welfare is maintained through the supply chain.

But it only recovers about $6.5 million from industry to perform those services.

In a statement, the department says that shortfall has caused budgetary problems, and in order to give shipments the tick of approval it needs to recover fees.

But Alison Penfold says the industry has done all it can to reduce costs, but the department hasn't.

ALISON PENFOLD: For the last several years we have been working, trying to work with the government to address the significant inefficiencies in service delivery and have faced bureaucratic stonewalling at each point.

WILL OCKENDEN: Alison Penfold says if the Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, is serious when he says he supports the industry, he should fix it.

ALISON PENFOLD: The serious issue yet to be addressed by the Minister are these regulatory costs.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: If Barnaby Joyce sits back and accepts this, it will be totally inconsistent with what he has said about the live trade industry since taking office.

WILL OCKENDEN: Labor's Joel Fitzgibbon is the shadow minister for agriculture.

JOEL FITZGIBBON: He's constantly claiming credit for, as he says, getting the live trade industry going again where in fact it was Labor's work prior to the election that bolstered our output.

WILL OCKENDEN: The Labor government banned live exports to Indonesia. How can you claim credit when you nearly killed the entire industry?

JOEL FITZGIBBON: Labor did ban exports or suspend exports at least to Indonesia, and that was a difficult period. And I've said many times that I regret the impact on the industry but at the same time, it allowed us to implement the best animal welfare system in the world - something Barnaby Joyce now always cites when a new export market is opened.

WILL OCKENDEN: The Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, was unavailable for interview but it's expected he will make an announcement regarding this issue early next week.

ASHLEY HALL: Will Ockenden.


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