Double standards in quarantine arrangements threaten the viability of Victoria’s apple and pear industry.
The Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie met industry representatives in Canberra today to hear their concerns over Biosecurity Australia’s recent decision to allow New Zealand apples into Australia without quarantine restriction.
“Our border security has been sacrificed to New Zealand interests,” Senator McKenzie said.
“Coinciding with the visit recently to New Zealand by Prime Minister Gillard was the announcement that New Zealand apples would be allowed into Australia without being subjected to the same quarantine measures that apply to exports of Australian-produced apples.
“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.
Victoria produces about 30 percent of Australia’s apples and 90 percent of pears.
“The interests of New Zealand growers are apparently more important to the Australian government than the communities of Shepparton, the Goulburn Valley, Harcourt, Yarra Valley, West Gippsland, the state’s North East and Bacchus Marsh.
“We have AQIS inspectors on the ground in China checking fruit that destined for Australia, but in New Zealand no such arrangements are in place.
“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 said that in recent years the budgets for quarantine, biosecurity and customs have been slashed, with quarantine and biosecurity losing almost $36 million and 125 jobs while Customs was stripped of $58 million.
“The Coalition is so concerned with the slack state of quarantine and biosecurity arrangements for fruit coming into Australia that it has put forward a Bill which makes a permit to import apples a disallowable instrument,” she said.
Senator McKenzie intends to actively represent the interests of the apple and pear industry. As well as the meeting in Canberra today, she is organising meetings with Apple and Pear Australia in Melbourne.