11 July 2011
The Nationals claim double standards in quarantine arrangements threaten the viability of Victoria’s apple and pear industry.
Victorian Senator Bridget McKenzie has met industry representatives in Canberra to hear their concerns over Biosecurity Australia’s recent decision to allow New Zealand apples into Australia without quarantine restriction, before claiming Australia’s border security had been sacrificed to New Zealand interests.
“In her recent address to the New Zealand parliament, Prime Minister Gillard indicated the government planned to allow the importation of New Zealand apples into Australia despite the very real risk of fire blight.
“The disease fire blight has contaminated the New Zealand apple industry, but to date has been kept out of Australia. The outcome of an outbreak in Australia would be catastrophic for rural communities that rely on apple production for their livelihoods,’’ Senator McKenzie said.
Victoria produces about 30 per cent of Australia’s apples and 90 per cent of pears. Senator McKenzie said the interests of New Zealand growers were apparently ”more important to the Australian government” than the communities of Harcourt, Shepparton, Stanley, Bright, Bacchus Marsh, the Yarra Valley and Drouin and Warragul in West Gippsland.
“We have AQIS inspectors on the ground in China checking fruit that’s destined for Australia, but in New Zealand apples can come across the Tasman without any checks.
“This government has trivialised the concerns of our apple and pear communities. It has a track-record of ignoring rural industries and allowing New Zealand apples to be sold in Australia without proper quarantine measures is another example of that.”
Senator McKenzie also said that Federal budgets for biosecurity and customs had been slashed, losing almost $36 million and 125 jobs, making the job of safeguarding local agricultural industries against external pests and diseases much harder.