Minister under fire from Member

MEMBER for the Southern Downs Lawrence Springborg has blasted Tim Mulherin for his response (or lack thereof) to the question put to him about New Zealand apple imports in May.

Mr Springborg asked the minister if he was satisfied with Biosecurity Australia’s (BA) report outlining New Zealand’s standard orchard practices were good enough guidelines for apples imports from across the Tasman.

Mr Springborg said the minister’s answer was nothing but a wishy-washy way of saying not much at all.

Mr Mulherin said he had been advised the BA report had addressed concerns regarding fireblight and other potential diseases.

“That’s exactly the answer I wasn’t looking for,” Mr Springborg said.

He said he had expected such an answer but was still disappointed.

“It’s very unfortunate he has given the question such a predictable answer,” he said.

“To me standard orchard practices doesn’t mean anything.”

He said the State Government and its minister seemed to be pandering to the wishes of the Federal Government.

“He is just a mouthpiece for the apologies of the Federal Government, he is supposed to be protecting the interests of the state.”

When the Daily News initially approached the minister’s office asking him to explain what the standard orchard practices were; we were told it was a question for BA.

When the Daily News clarified we wanted Mr Mulherin’s opinion of what he understood those practices to be, he again replied it would be best to talk to BA. When Mr Mulherin was asked to further explain the answer he gave to Mr Springborg’s question, he fobbed it off as a Federal Government issue.

“Responsibility for regulating the importation of international produce rests with the Australian Government through Senator Joe Ludwig MP, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry,” he said. “His department, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), is responsible for the Australian Government’s biosecurity policy, and relevant risk management measures, through its agency Biosecurity Australia.

“The Queensland Government through Biosecurity Queensland, a service of the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI), contributed along with other jurisdictions to DAFF’s import risk assessment for New Zealand apples, by providing scientific and technical opinion regarding pest risks and risk mitigation.”

Mr Springborg said he couldn’t understand how other countries like Japan could enforce strict quarantine standards yet Australia couldn’t.

“How come the Japanese government will do the most they can to protect there farmers and orchardists and yet the government here has favoured free trade at any cost?” he said.

“If this disease gets through it will devastate our industry.

“It doesn’t matter how good these are (the orchard practices) if they get this wrong at all my apple and pears growers go to the wall while Julia Gillard gets to go back to the Lodge.”

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