Improving agricultural export legislation

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​​​​​​​​​​The Australian Government is improving agricultural export legislation to better support farmers and exporters, and facilitate market access into the future.

This follows a review by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to identify what works well in the existing legislation and what could be improved. The improvements were approved by the government  in December 2015.

The improvements include:

  • making the rules for exporting easier to understand and apply
  • providing a more effective set of enforcement tools to prevent those who don’t follow the rules from bringing the system down for everyone.

The changes will not affect the government’s commitment to meet importing country requirements or international trade obligations.

This work ties in with increased investment in reducing technical barriers to trade which is being delivered through the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

Improvements will occur over the next few years and there will be further opportunities for stakeholders to be involved and comment on proposed changes to legislation. More information will be published when available.

Why we have export legislation

Agricultural export legislation enables the department to oversee the export supply chain and provide assurance to Australia’s trading partners that their specific requirements for exported goods have been met. This assurance underpins Australia’s reputation as a reliable supplier of quality products and has helped us capture and maintain overseas markets.

The current legislation​ consists of:

  • 21 Acts including
    • the Export Control Act 1982
    • the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act 1997
  • over 40 pieces of delegated legislation (which includes regulations, orders and declarations).

The legislation sets out the requirements, conditions and controls that govern how products can be exported. It also provides the legal basis for enforcing the legislation.

Reform of current export legislation

The agricultural export legislation has worked well during its long history, but it’s vital to review the legislation and update if needed to continue to support our farmers and exporters. 

As required under the Legislative Instruments Act 2003, the current pieces of delegated legislation will sunset (cease to be law) on 1 April 2020 and must be reviewed to ensure they are fit for purpose, necessary and relevant before they are remade.

The government has taken advantage of this timing to undertake a two-stage reform of the legislation involving:

  1. a review, in consultation with stakeholders, to identify potential improvements
  2. developing and implementing the improvements to export legislation.

Stage 1—review and stakeholder consultation

Stage 1 took place between July and September 2015. It consisted of internal analysis and consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, including trading partners, industry representatives, exporters and producers.

Consultation included the release of a discussion paper, a call for public submissions, and stakeholder workshops in all states and territories.

The department analysed comments from submissions and discussions and this informed the government’s consideration on how agricultural export regulation could be improved.

Trade-specific issues and importing country requirements themselves were not considered as these are matters for our trading partners to decide on and are subject to negotiation between governments.

The review found that while the legislation has served our exporters well over the last 30 years, there is scope to make improvements to enable exporters to meet future importing country requirements and seize future opportunities.

Continuing to modernise t​he framework will mean our farmers and exporters are supported by contemporary, flexible, and efficient legislation that can respond to a range of situations into the future.

Further information about the discussion paper, the submissions received and the views expressed during the consultations can be found at Agricultural Export Regulation Review discussion paper, consultation and submissions.

Stage 2—development and implementation of improvements

Stage 2 of the reform has commenced. This includes making a number of improvements to the legislation, including:

  • a simpler legislative structure that is easy to understand and administer which can flexibly respond to a range of situations and contemporary issues (including changing importing country requirements)
  • a broader range of monitoring, investigation and enforcement powers to deal with breaches or acts of non-compliance (including infringement notices, enforceable undertakings, civil penalties, and greater penalties for aggravated conduct)
  • clearer provisions for the performance of verification activities (such as audits and inspections) across the supply chain
  • clearer requirements relating to the appointment and obligations of authorised officers who perform functions and exercise powers under the legislation.

The improvements will reduce regulatory burden on businesses and individuals because the legislation will be easier to use and will enable improved processes.

The changes to legislation will not compromise the government’s commitment to provide strong certification assurance, meet importing country requirements, or fulfil international trade obligations.

The improved legislation will continue to allow for government and industry to work together in managing the export process, noting our commitment to meeting importing country requirements is paramount.

The improvements will minimise unnecessary regulation and allow exporters to take full advantage of free trade agreements and the increased investment in reducing barriers to trade which is being delivered through the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

Incorporating related reforms

Certain parts of the agricultural export system are currently the subject of separate reforms, including:

  • the comprehensive reform of our cost recovery arrangements
  • reforms to livestock export certification
  • reforms to allocation and administration of quotas.

The outcomes of these reforms will be included in the improved agricultural export legislation.

Next steps and timing

Improving the legislation will be a significant exercise and will take place over the next couple of years. This will allow time for further consultation and for implementation activities to occur before April 2020, when the delegated legislation will cease.

The department will continue to engage with industry and other stakeholders (including trading partners) throughout the development of the improved legislation.

Getting involved

Engagement and consultation will be on ongoing priority. Industry will be asked to contribute throughout the development of the legislation to ensure it supports exporters and can be fully adopted.

We will provide updates at key milestones throughout the improvement process.

If you have questions, information or views you would like to share, you can email Export Regulation Review or call 1800 900 090.

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