Livestock Industry

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (15:18): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Can the minister explain to the house how the state government is supporting South Australia's sheep producers?

The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE (Chaffey—Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development) (15:18): I certainly can, and I thank the member for Hammond for his question. I know how passionate he is about sheep—and wool and red meat, of course. They are the two main products that we are going to talk about.

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Order!

The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE: The Marshall Liberal government is taking action to help grow the state's sheep industry and restore confidence in the sheep meat and wool industries. It is really important to note that the sheep industry is going through a reasonably tough period at the moment with the dry, particularly in the north of our state. What we are going to see over time is initiatives by this government to support our red meat industry, the livestock industry, here in South Australia.

South Australia has long been one of the nation's proud sheep producing states, with livestock production generating revenue of more than $4.8 billion. That is a serious number to put onto the bottom line of our economy. There are 11 million sheep in South Australia; that is 16 per cent of the national sheep flock. Following 20 years of low prices for wool, it is quite pleasing to see that only yesterday we had record wool prices once again. It's great news, not only for wool producers but for what was once the Australian dollar riding on the sheep's back.

Yesterday, I talked about our work to fight wild dogs. Today, as part of our efforts to strengthen the sheep industry, I am pleased to discuss the steps we are taking to reduce regulation of key sheep health diseases to restore power to farmers to manage diseases and the health of their flocks on-farm without unnecessary heavy-handed regulations. We are listening to farmers and we are acting. Animal health experts are helping us make key decisions. The management of the endemic sheep diseases, ovine Johne's disease and footrot, is undergoing significant change in South Australia under the new disease management programs that are being phased in over the coming months.

The changes include the establishment of the new South Australian Ovine Johne's Disease Management Program and modifications to the South Australian Footrot Management Program. These management changes are about less regulation for the sheep industry and are in line with the new national OJD management arrangements announced on 26 June. The aim of the changes is to allow producers to manage disease in line with their individual business priorities with less red tape burden, and the South Australian government has been working closely with the South Australian Sheep Advisory Group and Livestock SA.

The changes are about ensuring that safe trading practices are in place to minimise disease spread. To assist producers in making risk-based decisions, PIRSA, in association with SASAG and Livestock SA, will be providing a range of education and awareness programs and opportunities for all sheep producers here in South Australia. An important element of these changes is that sheep producers who have had their flocks in quarantine—87 properties—will be released from quarantine and able to re-enter the mainstream trading system following an individual property risk assessment.

The changes will also start to free up trade of sheep across the South Australian border, providing additional opportunities for farmers to build their flocks. Feedback on the changes to OJD and footrot management has been well received, and I have had positive conversations with industry about these changes. The sheep producers here in South Australia are being given a priority with this measure, particularly in relation to ovine Johne's disease. It's critically important that we know that we are providing support to the wool industry, the red meat industry and the regions of South Australia, which have been put on the backburner for an extended period of time.

It's also important to note that this government is working with industry. We now have hand-in-hand management programs. We are now looking at reducing red tape and reducing regulation for the betterment of the industry. It's also pleasing to know that now we have the industry coming to the government, coming to me as the minister responsible, wanting to put ideas on the table, wanting to share their knowledge with us so that we can reform the industry for the betterment of South Australia and for the betterment of the economy that surrounds this great livestock industry. Remember hashtag #RegionsMatter.