House debates

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Questions without Notice


2:58 pm

Photo of Michael McCormackMichael McCormack (Riverina, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia. Will the minister please outline how the Morrison-Joyce government's sustained investment in biosecurity services and new technologies ensures Australia has one of the most effective biosecurity systems in the world and how this allows our farmers—the best in the world—to maintain production levels and attain premiums for their product in international markets?

Photo of David LittleproudDavid Littleproud (Maranoa, National Party, Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Riverina for his question. He knows better than anyone the importance of strong biosecurity systems and penalties, not just in protecting agricultural production—which, for the first time in our nation's history, will hit over $70 billion this year—but also in protecting the over 330,000 Australians who are employed in agriculture. As the threats are starting to evolve, as they're sweeping across the globe, across Asia and now into South-East Asia, literally blowing in, we are making sure that our borders are strong, not just through technology but also through more boots on the ground and more paws on the ground. We are penalising those that want to flout our biosecurity laws. I'm proud to say that over the last two budgets, since October last year, over a billion dollars has been pumped into biosecurity to make sure we are protecting them. And I'm saying today that we're proud to announce 96 new biosecurity officers that will go to ports and airports in major capital cities around the country as we reopen from COVID-19, to ensure that we have that protection. We're also putting more dogs and more scientists to make sure that we can identify these pests, these risks, to Australian agriculture immediately so that we can have a detailed response as quickly as we possibly can. But the technology piece is so important as well. We, for the first time, will have 3D X-ray scanners in all of our Australia Post facilities. The 144 million parcels that go through Australia Post every year will now go through a 3D X-ray scanner with artificial intelligence that will be able to identify organic matter, plant matter, so that we can intercept those risks to Australia straightaway.

I'm proud to say we also have a partnership with New Zealand—a world first. For anyone who leaves New Zealand, we will now use that technology on people's bags. We will know what's in their bag before it gets to Australia, and we will match that with their declaration cards to ensure that they are being honest and they are declaring the threats that may be posed to Australian agriculture. And, if we're able to prove this up, this is technology that can be adopted around the world for other ports that will send passengers into Australia. This is an important step in building the capacity and capability of our biosecurity systems.

We're saying to those who want to import into this country that they also have a role to play. We're trying to be more efficient at our ports. We'll go from around five million containers a year to over 8½ million by the end of the decade. But we're saying to them that, with that and in terms of giving them some more opportunity to self-assess, there comes responsibility. If you flout the laws as an importer, those penalties have been increased from just over $400,000 to over $1 million. And, if it's serious, you'll not only pay that, you will be at Her Majesty's pleasure for up to 10 years. We're also saying to those who come into this country that if you do not declare that self-declaration in a proper manner you will pay a penalty from $444 up to $2,064. And I'm proud to say that we have cancelled 14 visas of those that have gone and tried to cut corners. We do not apologise, and they are not welcome back for another three years. (Time expired)