Thursday, 15 February 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Canavan. There continue to be reports of fruit fly sightings outside the Tasmanian exclusion zone. What impact has the Liberal Tasmanian government's decision to rank control and management of fruit fly as a low priority had on the Turnbull government's allocation of biosecurity resources?
I thank Senator Urquhart for her question. The Australian government takes biosecurity very seriously. It's one of the most important investments we make to protect our reputation in agriculture right around the world. That is why we have boosted spending on biosecurity to more than $750 million a year now. In terms of the specific question you asked, my understanding and the advice I have is that the money the Australian government is spending on those services is lower, but it's lower because we're getting the same service for a lower fee. Exactly the same service is being provided with those services in Tasmania but for a lower fee. We try to do that because we get efficiencies—to spend more on biosecurity as well. I note that as a result of this particular detection of fruit fly in some parts of Tasmania the Hodgman government is providing a $2 million industry support package to affected growers, distributors and retailers of fruit. We are also doing what we can to ensure that market access for Tasmanian farmers is maintained as much as possible, as you'd expect us to do. The specific response to fruit fly is primarily a responsibility of the Tasmanian government, but we are assisting them with contacts overseas to ensure that markets are informed of the current situation and that we can maintain market access for Tasmanian agricultural products.
Recent research indicates flies have survived winter in Mildura and could therefore survive Tasmania's winter. Was the ranking of fruit fly as a low priority based on the assumption that flies could not survive Tasmania's winter? If so, what action has the Turnbull government taken to reduce the risks flowing from the Tasmanian Liberal government's error?
I thank Senator Urquhart again for that question. I do reject the characterisation in that question that there was an error on behalf of the Tasmanian government. However, I don't have the specific information about that reprioritisation here, and I'll take that on notice.
Last Thursday the minister was asked what representations the Tasmanian Liberal government had made to the Turnbull government in relation to the biosecurity emergency taking place in Tasmania. Given the minister has had a week to check, have any such representations been made? If so, in what form and when were they made?
Senator Urquhart, I don't have timings with me, but I've sought advice and my understanding is that the Australian government has been contact with officials, particularly around the market access issues that I raised earlier.