House debates

Wednesday, 16 June 2021


Biosecurity Amendment (Strengthening Penalties) Bill 2021; Second Reading

4:43 pm

Photo of Rebekha SharkieRebekha Sharkie (Mayo, Centre Alliance) Share this | Hansard source

I rise in support of the Biosecurity Amendment (Strengthening Penalties) Bill 2021 and wish to take the opportunity to speak about the importance of the bill to the agricultural businesses in, and in fact the whole of, my electorate of Mayo. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are 2,168 agricultural, forestry and fishery businesses in Mayo, making it the second-largest business sector in my electorate. The livelihoods of business owners, employees and those indirectly related to tourism and support services rely on a legislative framework to protect their interests—one that provides sufficient and robust deterrence by way of penalties to discourage individuals and organisations from putting the sector at risk.

As a country, we enjoy the natural protection that our island nation provides us, but it requires diligence, education and constant work to prevent inadvertent or deliberate attempts to bring potentially harmful products into Australia, putting at risk the disease-free status of much of our agricultural production.

Any member who's watched an episode of Border Security will realise that the battle to keep biosecurity threats out of Australia is real and ongoing. I thank the many men and women who work in those frontline roles for their tireless work and, I would also say, for their patience. It amazes me what people attempt to bring into our nation. They tick the declaration card to say that they have nothing in their baggage. Then border security opens up their baggage and pulls out all manner of things that they should not be bringing into our nation. We can't watch that show any more at home; it makes everyone too furious. However, border security is just the tip of the iceberg for the workforce involved in securing our agricultural industry. Our biosecurity officers outside of domestic and commercial points of entries—the scientists, in-field officers, state border patrols and departmental staff—all play a significant role in ensuring the biosecurity risk is limited.

Many businesses in my home state of South Australia benefit from the premium value that disease-free status brings to their products. They have achieved great success in securing international market access, as well as supplying the domestic market with high-quality product. South Australia is an exception on several fronts. It is phylloxera free. The phylloxera is like an aphid, and it destroys grapevines. It's as simple as that. It was responsible for decimating up to 70 per cent of Europe's vineyards at the end of the 19th century, and it is regarded as the world's worst grape pest. Mayo is home to six wine regions, as Deputy Speaker Georganas knows, producing some of the best wines in the world. In South Australia, wine exports are valued at around $2 billion and account for 70 per cent of the total value of Australia's wine exports. The wine industry directly employs more than 8,400 people in South Australia, and it's one of our most important tourism drivers.

Kangaroo Island is a beautiful island oasis in Mayo, and it's home to our famous Ligurian bees. Kangaroo Island has the last genetically pure population of the Ligurian honey bee, and it is about as far from Italy as a bee or a person can physically get. The natural isolation and strict biosecurity maintained their genetic purity. The history of these bees and the wonderful foresight of their apiarists are unique. The bees were first imported to South Australia from Bologna, Italy by the South Australian Chamber of Manufactures and brought to Kangaroo Island in 1881. In 1885, just four years later, Kangaroo Island was declared a bee sanctuary. Consequently, the genetic purity of the Ligurian bee was secured, and Kangaroo Island is now the oldest bee sanctuary in the world. We all recognise the importance of bees. Without them, horticulture ceases to exist. In the context of the Ligurian bee, any biosecurity breach would not only put the bee at risk but also destroy the world's purest genetic strain in this historically important sanctuary.

South Australia's other exception is our fruit-fly-free status. Unfortunately, this is a fight we are potentially on the cusp of losing, with several localised outbreaks in recent months. Incredibly, in 2021 more than 10,600 vehicles were inspected at border points and nearly one in 10 motorists were caught flouting strict state fruit-fly laws. A total of 1,839 kilograms of fresh produce was seized and 944 fines were issued. The impact on our horticultural sector would be devastating without this intervention, and it reinforces the need, I believe, for an irradiation facility in our state. I've long advocated to government for an irradiation facility. I see it as an insurance policy so these crucial export markets are not lost in the event of a significant fruit-fly outbreak in our horticultural regions. Despite the valiant efforts of frontline staff, no-one can guarantee a fruit fly incursion will not occur. We need to be prepared for such an event. An irradiation facility, I think, would be an essential weapon in the arsenal available to protect the industry and its markets and reputation. When we talk about state borders, it is in a state context, and we need to do more to educate returning South Australians and visitors about the need to adopt better biosecurity behaviour.

What is important is recognising the value of our agricultural sector—the jobs it creates, the export opportunities it realises, the tourism attraction to our regions and the international reputation of a nation that produces high-quality, high-value product. All members in this House, I believe, recognise the economic and social value of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and we must do all we can as legislators to protect them and the livelihoods they provide. Deterrence and enforcements work. Strengthening penalties, increasing the deterrents and increasing the protection for all Australians is so incredibly vital. I support this bill.


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