The Nationals’ Senator for Victoria, Bridget McKenzie is mustering support from Federal and State politicians of every political stripe for the State’s apple and pear growers.
At a weekend meeting with local growers at the Harcourt Co-Op Cool stores, Senator McKenzie was briefed on the risk of fire blight being introduced to Australia by the importation of apples from New Zealand.
The delegation of growers was led by Mr Trevor Peeler, Chairman of the Harcourt Apple Growers Association and Mr John Wilson, general manager of Fruit Growers Victoria.
The growers stressed that they had no quarrel with competition from New Zealand apples – their objections were based on the danger that fire blight posed for apple orchards, and more particularly, the pear industry.
The name fire blight relates to the way that the disease leaves fruit with blackened pustules, similar to the damage caused by exposure to naked flames.
Senator McKenzie said there is no cure for fire blight, and not one of the 49 countries whose horticultural industries have been infected has been successful in eradicating it.
“Fire blight damages apple trees and ruins the fruit, but it is even more devastating in pear orchards,” Senator McKenzie said.
“As well as losing an infected crop, orchardists have to rip out trees and find the finance for expensive re-plantings. This risk is on top of over 10 years of drought.”
The Nationals Shadow Minister for Agriculture, John Cobb, has moved an amendment to quarantine legislation which would force a review of the science behind the Federal Government’s decision to allow the apple imports.
“Following questions in the Senate the indications are that the decision to allow the importation of these suspect apples was made by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, during a visit to New Zealand, without adequate consultation with Bio-Security Australia“ Senator McKenzie said.
“The Cobb amendment, if it gets support from all sides in Parliament, will correct that oversight”
Senator McKenzie has accepted an invitation to speak at a National Apple Rally in Shepparton on July 28th.