Issue 7: Review of the Export Control Act

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Agricultural exports are primarily regulated through the Export Control Act 1982, the Australian Meat and Livestock Industry Act 1997, and several supporting legislative instruments that set conditions that must be met to export certain goods.

The Export Control Act provides the legal basis for the regulation of exports and enables the department to set conditions that must be met to export certain goods from Australia. These conditions include standards for preparing, packaging and handling goods, transportation and registration of export establishments.

Australia’s regulation of organic exports under the Export Control Act is unique in that it is based on parameters of quality of production and not sanitary/phytosanitary concerns.

Every organic product exported from Australia requires a government certificate irrespective of the importing country requirements. Under the Export Control Act, all product to be exported that is organic is a ‘prescribed good’ and therefore requires a government certificate before it can leave the country.

In the absence of specific domestic regulation for organic production, the export regulation of organics has become the default domestic regulation of the sector. This was not the intention or purpose of an export regulatory system.

Where conformity assessment requirements are in place there is no market access to be gained by Australian certification. For example, to export to the US, producers need to meet the requirements of both the National Standard (to export from Australia) and the US government requirements (to enter the US). Australian certification bears no weight and has no relationship to the ability of the product to enter the US in this instance. In addition, Australia’s manual certification process can delay the export process.

A further issue is the requirement for government certificates when there are no importing country requirements to meet. A review of the certificates issued in the first three months of 2016 indicates that Australian organics products now reach more than 50 markets, many of which do not have importing government requirements for organic product.

The Export Control Act is subject to a sunset clause, such that it will expire after 30 June 2020. The Government is about to commence a review of the Act to determine what action it should take (if any). Given the different treatment applied to organic exports in the Act, the Government will undertake a separate review process specific to the organic industry. The review is expected to report by no later than 30 June 2018.

The review will take the form of a regulation impact assessment, set out in the Australian Government Guide to Regulation, which prescribes methods for measuring the benefits and costs of the regulation and sets questions which need to be answered to justify a regulation:

  • What is the policy problem you are trying to solve?
  • Why is government action needed?
  • What policy options are you considering?
  • What is the likely net benefit of each option?
  • Who will you consult and how will you consult them?
  • What is the best option from those you have considered?
  • How will you implement and evaluate your chosen option?

They key period for influencing the review will be over the next few months before December 2017. The Government expects that the organic industry will lodge a submission and participate in consultation sessions.

Key issues

  1. If the Export Control Act were to cease, what would be the implications for the organic industry?
  2. Do the benefits of the Export Control Act and associated regulations outweigh the costs of regulation?
  3. Should the organic industry consider self-regulation, or is Government regulation of critical importance?
  4. What are the key messages that the organic industry should give to Government as part of this review?
  5. How should the organic industry participate in the review?

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