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Equine Influenza Levy Legislation Deferred

Tuesday, 11th March 2008

Australian Racing Board chief executive Andrew Harding commended Federal Agricultural Minister Tony Burke for yesterday's announcement "that he is deferring passage of the Federal Governments' proposed levy legislation until after the Callinan Inquiry". Harding noted: "This is a sensible outcome & Tony Burke is to be congratulated. We had previously agreed with former Minister Peter McGauran that the industry would not be saddled with the bill for cleaning up Equine Influenza if it was shown that AQIS (Australian Quarantine) was culpable. The current Minister has been excellent at approaching things with an open mind & as soon as the ARB pointed out our concerns about the role of AQIS in causing the outbreak, he announced immediately that he would await the findings of the Callinan Inquiry before even contemplating introducing a levy to recover the $100 million plus costs of the EI eradication program. Today he has gone one step further & announced that voting on the legislation itself will be deferred until after Ian Callinan provides his report in late April." Harding added: "The ARB has represented the industry at the Callinan Inquiry over the past 3 months & is currently preparing a submission on what we believe his findings should be. This will include both our views on what was deficient this time & our recommendations on what needs to be done in the future." Harding summed up: "The Minister's approach to assessing matters that affect the racing industry cannot be faulted. Last month it was his decision to extend the CHAPS scheme, something that looked like Mission Impossible getting past the Government's razor gang on new expenditure; but he heard the industry's needs, assessed the facts & made his call. Today's announcement is in the same category."

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