JUSTINE KEAY, MEMBER FOR BRADDON: Thank you very much for coming. I’m Justine Keay, I’m the Federal Member for Braddon. I’m really pleased to be joined here today by Federal colleague, Joel Fitzgibbon the Shadow Minister for Agriculture and also Rebecca White, our Labor Leader and the next Premier of Tasmania and our State Shadow Minister for Agriculture and the Member for Braddon, Shane Broad. We are here at the Brandsema Farm which is in the fruit fly zone and I would like to thank Marcus and Elly for having us here. First of all, I would really like to thank the community and what they have been doing, the role they have been playing in such an extraordinary time here on the North West Coast because it is a shared responsibility, biosecurity. I would also like to pay my thoughts and thanks to the businesses and the growers here in this region for adapting to such extraordinary protocols. I would also like to thank the biosecurity staff who have been working so hard dealing with such a stressful time. But I will not be thanking the State Liberal and Federal Coalition Governments because they have let these growers down.
I just want to reflect on the visit I had as Deputy Chair of the Agriculture and Water Resources Committee of Parliament, a trip to New Zealand where biosecurity hits you in the face. As a visitor you go there and you know that Government has biosecurity as such a high priority and you feel obligated to be responsible in that way. That doesn’t seem to be the case in Tasmania where the Government has slashed money out of biosecurity and a Federal Government that really has not done anything for biosecurity here. I would like to hand over to Joel now to say a few words.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: Thanks Justine. I thank Justine both for her energetic advocacy in the Parliament this week on behalf of the growers and Tasmania more generally and for insisting we come down here today after a long week in Parliament to learn firsthand the devastating impact of the incursion of fruit fly. When you think about it, our biosecurity goes to our food security. Therefore there are few things more important than the protection of our status as a relatively clean, green and safe producer of food in this country. Our national security is important too and it is almost exclusively the domain of the Commonwealth Government. But biosecurity is a shared responsibility between the Commonwealth and the States. It only works effectively and it can only meet our aspirations on that front if the Commonwealth and the States are working together in a coordinated way and making sure the shared resources are going in the right areas. That clearly hasn’t been the case here. We should not be dealing with this issue today and I don’t believe we would be dealing with it if Malcolm Turnbull had shown some leadership and Will Hodgman had shown some leadership and had been working together to protect the special status of Tasmania.
So today I’m announcing a Federal Labor Government would commit $2 million to help the Tasmanian Government clean up this mess and to ensure this doesn’t happen in the future. Almost more importantly I don’t just come with a promise of financial assistance. Financial assistance is needed, because the Hodgman Government has been cutting biosecurity funding here in Tasmania, but I come here to say if Labor was in Government, we would be restoring that national approach. We would be embracing the recommendations of the latest report on the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity, embracing its recommendations to ensure that in the future. We would show the leadership in Canberra required to make sure instances like this don’t occur in the future. I thank Rebecca White and Shane Broad for also making contact with me this week. They have been very exercised by the problems here. They want to make sure no stone is unturned in addressing the problem and making sure it doesn’t happen again. I think what We’re delivering today will go some way toward helping growers and all those affected in the economy including all those workers who depend on the sector. It can only work if the Commonwealth and the States are working together and that’s what I intend to do if I have the opportunity to become Australia’s Agriculture Minister.
REBECCA WHITE, TASMANIAN LEADER OF OPPOSITION: Thank you very much Joel. It has been very important that we restore confidence in our farming and agriculture sector here in biosecurity Tasmania. The incursion of fruit fly has had a devastating impact on our growers and has restricted access to markets. We need to rebuild Biosecurity Tasmania after the cuts inflicted by the Hodgman Government - $1 million when they first came to office. That has impacted on our ability to protect the reputation of the Tasmanian brand which is built upon us being disease free. That gives us access to those important markets and grows our economy. That is why Labor will commit an additional $3.7 million to Biosecurity Tasmania. This will help us employ 20 more staff at Biosecurity Tasmania and give us the ability to have a focus on preventing these kinds of incursions in our State by planning and making sure we work constructively both with the Federal Government and with our growers in the industry here in Tasmania. To have an approach that is properly funded, properly resourced, and gives Biosecurity Tasmania the staff they need to continue to protect the reputation and that brand quality that Tasmania is so well known for. I will ask Shane Broad to outline the details of that $3.7 million commitment.
SHANE BROAD, TASMANIAN SHADOW MINISTER FOR PRIMARY INDUSTRIES: This Government has a shocking record on biosecurity – they should hang their heads in shame. Since they slashed $1 million from the biosecurity budget we have seen POMS, we have seen Myrtle Rust, last year we saw Blueberry Rust and now we have seen Fruit Fly. So we need a new government to turn that around and that is why we will reinvest in biosecurity. We need to stop these pests and diseases at the border but then we also need to prepare. There are other diseases that could come into the State we need to be ready for. That is why we are also focussing on preparedness. Diseases like phylloxera in grapes and tomato potato psyllid could massively impact our potato industry. We need to number one - prevent these from coming in; and number two – if in the event that they do, that we are prepared, that we are war-gamed, that we have our processes in place so that we can quickly eradicate biosecurity problem. What we have seen with this Government’s shocking record, slashing $1 million, is short-term savings for long-term costs. We need to turn that around.
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