I am pleased to make a contribution on the Primary Industries Legislation Amendment Bill 2017.
It is an omnibus bill that makes amendments to numerous pieces of legislation, some being minor and for the purposes of tidying up and some being more significant.
In the time that I have I wanted to speak to three of the amendments that relate to important acts. The Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994 will be amended to enable the secretary of the department to recover the costs of carrying out work under section 79(1) or (2) during the sentencing stage of criminal proceedings following a conviction of a person for an offence under section 35(1) for failing to carry out required works.
This is something that has apparently been missing. At times the department has had difficulty in recovering moneys for works they have had to undertake. So while it is possible to recover costs from a landowner in civil proceedings, this amendment now extends it to where criminal proceedings are underway. It means that where a person has been directed by the department — the secretary — to undertake work under a land management notice or prohibited from actually doing something and where there may need to be recovery works undertaken or works done in the situation where the landowner has not done the work they were required to do, the works can be undertaken and the cost of the failure of the landowner to do what was meant to be done can be recovered during the course of those proceedings.
I understand that in many cases this could relate to pest and weed control, for instance, and the member for Murray Plains referred to that. It also brings to mind a recent episode of Lateline that I saw that depicted huge earthworks going on, without apparent authority, up on cotton farms in southern Queensland, both on Crown land and on farmland, to harness creeks, rivers and flood plains to capture water for dams. Something like that, where work is unauthorised and is done without authority, could no doubt lead to a situation, if the legislation in Queensland were such, to require a landowner to rehabilitate and return the countryside to the condition it was meant to be in. I imagine it is the sort of legislation that could perhaps be extended to a number of areas, depending on what the illegality of the works or the failure to do works might represent.
The Dairy Act 2000 is being amended by this bill. Dairy Food Safety Victoria is established under this act as the licensing body and regulator. Currently the act only applies to milk from cows, sheep, goats and buffalo. Clause 5 of the bill amends the definition to cover milk from any animal, excluding humans. It will amend the definition of ‘dairy farm’ to include:
… any premises where an animal is kept or milked for the purpose of producing milk for … sale …
The definition of ‘milk’ is being changed to a much broader one, being:
… the mammary secretion of any milking animal …
It will include camel milk. There has been growing interest in recent years in the production of camel and camel milk products. At the Shepparton saleyards in 2015 200 camels that had been rounded up in outback Australia were sold in response to growing interest in the production of camel milk in the region. There are now a number of properties farming camel milk in the Goulburn Valley and indeed right across Australia.
Feral camels have been widely deemed a huge problem in the outback environment. Reading up to prepare for this speech, I found out that Australia may have the largest population of wild Arabian camels in the world. Their habitat is desert country, including the Great Sandy Desert, the Gibson Desert, the Great Victoria Desert and the Simpson Desert. Camels were first introduced into Australia in the 1840s to assist in the exploration of inland Australia. Apparently between 10 000 and 20 000 were imported from India between 1840 and 1907. So to deal with what has become an explosion in the camel population in inland Australia, various entrepreneurs are seeing an opportunity to harness what is really an animal product there — bring them into farmland, set up dairies and make a living from them.
The availability of camels really has created a business opportunity for farmers seeking to create a bit of a niche market in the production of camel milk and camel products. Camel milk has been sold this year for $20 a litre, and it is generally sold in 1-litre and 500-millilitre containers to markets, independent grocers, Middle Eastern stores and health shops throughout Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia most commonly. There are plans to really create an export market in this space, and this bill will ultimately help facilitate that by the amount of regulation that is being introduced.
There is a Rochester farm that sells directly to our Queen Victoria Market down here. The products are being extended from milk to feta cheese, chocolate, yoghurts, body soap and even lip balm and laundry powder, so the possibilities are great. Megan and Chris Williams run a business called the Camel Milk Co Australia, just near Kyabram. They acknowledge the challenges of setting up a new industry such as this because it lacks the very significant support networks that the wider dairy industry has. They do not have agronomists and nutritionists and the sort of governing bodies and regulation around camel milk, so again the definitional changes in this legislation will help bring them into a more regulated environment. I think that will also promote the industry, knowing that there is some regulation around it. The milk is said to be not so thick and fatty, silky, a little salty and generally lighter than cow’s milk. I have to congratulate all of those who have been innovative enough to adopt this opportunity, and I wish them well. There are significant export opportunities opening up for camel milk.
It is on this note that I wish to move on to another aspect of the bill where amendments to legislation are proposed. Amendments are proposed to the Meat Industry Act 1993 to allow vehicles — mobile abattoirs — to become licensed as meat-processing facilities and to provide that facilities that are only used to process game that is not intended for sale do not need to be licensed. The bill also removes the prohibition on the slaughtering of animals on a farm from the operation of the act. We see that clause 60 of the bill amends section 3(1) of the Meat Industry Act to change several definitions, which will allow those terms to be capable of including mobile vehicles for the slaughter of animals. It is the definitions of ‘abattoir’, ‘general meat processing facility’ and ‘pet food processing facility’ which are amended. For instance, the definition of abattoir will now include a vehicle used for slaughter of consumable animals for human consumption.
The Meat Industry Act establishes a licensing system enabling the adoption of national food safety standards for the hygienic production and processing of meat for human consumption and for pet food. It had not previously provided for the slaughter and processing of meat to be undertaken in vehicles even though there was really no reason why it could not be, and compliance with national food safety standards was actually there in that space.
There are many business opportunities coming out around these things, and I think, probably, ultimately the proliferation in farmers markets may one day be a place where there can be an expansion of this. At the moment I think many people are looking at the hunting of deer as another opportunity. My understanding of the legislation is that at this stage the legislation will only allow for a mobile vehicle to be present and deal with the slaughter and management of deer in circumstances where it is to be used for human consumption or for pets but not sold. I hope someone is nodding their head over there to indicate that I might be right on that score.
Deer hunters have been encouraged in the state of Victoria to participate in the culling of deer because we have so many of them, and it is an actual concern to people in the High Country that we have something like 750 000 to 1 million sambar deer roaming the Victorian High Country. Hunting of the deer is very important because of this population explosion and of course because of the ongoing damage to the environment. So along with many other amendments I commend the bill to the house.