Thursday, 12 November 2020
Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2020-2021; Consideration in Detail
It gives me great pleasure to participate in this consideration in detail debate. I will start by submitting to the minister an enthusiastic declaration: on our side, we have a number of very energetic, passionate and committed advocates for regional Australia who are here today, alongside myself. I have been very fortunate to be given the shadow ministerial responsibility for the agriculture portfolio, and I very much look forward to engaging with the regions on this issue. If it's okay, Minister, we would prefer to submit a range of questions to you without necessarily going through the five, and I would hope that our regional representatives are able to submit quick questions to your good self.
My concern, or the issue that I'm very much focused on—and the minister is fully aware of this—is in relation to biosecurity. Biosecurity does matter and, as we know, particularly through the course of a pandemic. It has been made patently clear through a series of reports, that we need to ensure that the Department of Agriculture and the minister, in particular, are ready to deal with emerging or known biosecurity threats. My question to the minister relates particularly to reports around the prevention of the entry into Australia of African swine flu and the need for the department to review and bring the government's attention to the effect of resourcing levels. We have had the CSIRO report which says that, while the current models have served us well, we need to handle the growing biosecurity threats that the nation faces. My question, given that there is no more sharper time to consider these issues given what we have gone through in terms of the pandemic and the failings around the Ruby Princess and Al Kuwait, is: what has the department and minister done to ensure that biosecurity issues will get their full attention and that the department will be able to manage those in terms of protecting the health of the nation? How can the Australian people be reassured that the minister and department are prioritising biosecurity obligations when the department hasn't, in some instances, even accepted that it has a responsibility for human health as a department?