Biosecurity and Quarantine
Mr NEVILLE NEWELL (Tweed—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.06 p.m.]: I move:
That this House:
(1) supports a rigorous, science-based quarantine system that protects our farmers and related industries from the threat of exotic disease; and(2) condemns the Federal Government for its appalling track record on import risk assessments, which could put the economic viability of our farmers at risk.This motion is urgent because our biosecurity is being put at risk. Biosecurity is our primary industries' greatest asset. Tough biosecurity and quarantine helps to ensure freedom from exotic diseases and pests, and allows our farmers to enjoy lucrative international trade opportunities. Indeed, judging by the Federal Government's approach to reviewing import risk assessment across a range of agricultural products, it would be easy to think that that is not the case. We just saw The Nationals vote against debating this motion, let alone supporting it. They are not prepared to stand up for what the Federal Government is doing, and they are not prepared to support producers in their electorates. It is a real tragedy that The Nationals are not prepared to debate this issue.
The latest threat from potentially weakened quarantine restrictions applies to the State's banana industry. Like the Australian Banana Growers Council, I was alarmed to learn about the importation of 11 tonnes of frozen, peeled bananas from Vietnam. The New South Wales banana industry produces some 43,000 tonnes of bananas per year. It appears that the Federal Government has dropped the ball and put at risk Australia's $400 million banana industry. In doing so it has also threatened the future of towns in rural and regional New South Wales that rely on the banana industry. Again, it appears that the greatest threat to our robust quarantine system is the Federal Government and BioSecurity Australia. It is no secret that if exotic diseases are introduced into Australia they have the ability to devastate our primary industries.
For example, fire blight alone is endemic in more than 40 countries, including New Zealand, where it caused an estimated $10 million in losses in the Hawkes Bay region in 1998. It is estimated that if fire blight is introduced into Australia it has the potential to cut pear production by some 50 per cent and apple production by 20 per cent, costing New South Wales some $141 million. It is clear that quarantine matters. The Australian Banana Growers Council was taken by surprise by the large volume of frozen bananas brought into Australia from Vietnam. The concerns of banana growers are justified. For a long time the New South Wales Government has supported the State's agricultural industries when it comes to the importation of agricultural produce, and the banana industry is the latest. Banana Growers Council Imports Committee Chairman Len Collins had this to say about the Vietnamese bananas:
Bananas are susceptible to a range of diseases which are managed by strict quarantine controls.
The Australian Banana Growers Council is disappointed it was not consulted or informed by Australian Quarantine Inspection Service officials about the Vietnamese import arrangement before this product arrived on our shores.
At this stage, ABGC understands that the bananas have been washed, peeled, steamed to 95 degrees C, then frozen to -20 degrees.
However, Mr Collins said:
We would like to see the science that has been relied upon in developing these protocols so we can be satisfied that they are sufficient to manage the risks and that the protocols are being adhered to.
It is clear that Mr Collins shares the concerns of the State Government on this matter, even though frozen bananas are a low-value item, and the treated product poses little pest risk compared with fresh bananas. I am prepared to concede that. What the banana industry needs is a Federal government it can trust and have confidence in. The Australian banana industry is still recovering from Cyclone Larry, during which plantings were destroyed and livelihoods wrecked, and the Federal Government is back to its bad import risk assessment habits while an industry struggles.
How can consumers have confidence when the banana industry itself is concerned about these imports and the Commonwealth's system? Consumers and industry alike deserve to be confident in the system that controls our imports, and the quarantine borders that protect our local farmers and the communities that depend on a healthy agriculture sector in New South Wales. The industry deserves answers from the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service [AQIS] about what disease and pest assessment was undertaken on the Vietnamese bananas, where the bananas were treated and what the protocols were.
Banana products previously imported into New South Wales include baked or fried chips; cooked, boiled or dried banana; pulped and pureed banana; and sliced cooked, boiled or dried banana. The countries New South Wales is importing from include Indonesia, Philippines, Ecuador, Thailand, India, Vietnam, Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Fiji, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, United Kingdom and the United States of America. The list is long, and import permits must provide the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service with the specific details of the processing method to address the quarantine concerns.
Typically, these conditions require the product to be peeled, sterilised, frozen and imported for further processing. The permits must be accompanied by documentation attesting to the processing method and inspected on arrival for compliance with prescribed treatments. The industry is calling for details from AQIS about the type of pest and disease risk assessment that has been done and what steps were being taken to ensure the exporter complied with treatment protocols. The Federal Government has already been forced to withdraw and rework the banana import risk assessment [IRA] in the past because major flaws were revealed in the scientific modelling used. Our farmers deserve an assurance that the security of our industries will be protected against exotic diseases and that there will be no softening on biosecurity policy.
The State Government has been no slouch in revealing the flaws in the Commonwealth's import risk assessment process. It has been proactive in working with the industry to have problems addressed. In 2004 it convened an emergency summit with key agricultural producers to discuss the latest threat from weakened quarantine restrictions. That group was made up of representatives from Apple and Pear Australia Ltd, Australian Pork Ltd, the Australian Chicken Meat Federation, Australian Egg Corporation Ltd, Riverina Citrus, Bananas New South Wales, and the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries. Overall, the group was appalled by Federal Coalition plans to boost imports of uncooked chicken meat, egg products, citrus, limes and table grapes. As a result, it backed calls for an overhaul of the existing import risk assessment process.
Back then, our agricultural industries expressed major concerns that their industries could be exposed to devastating disease if quarantine restrictions were watered down. We all have a common interest in wanting to protect Australia's relatively disease-free reputation, the livelihoods of producers, and the profitability of local agricultural industries. The apple, banana and pork industries have been lobbying the Federal Government for some time. The Federal Government and Biosecurity Australia's track record here is not enviable, to say the least. The New South Wales apple industry has expressed concern about major flaws in the import risk assessment process. It found 46 fundamental errors in its draft IRA proposal. That is how sloppily the Federal Government is working to protect our industries.
The Nationals opposite should be ashamed they are not attacking their Federal colleagues in Canberra or imploring their Federal colleagues to strengthen Biosecurity Australia to ensure our farmers are protected. Just as they voted against having this debate seven minutes ago, they are not prepared to stand up for their agricultural industries. The North Coast has pork and bananas, the whole lot, and members representing that area are interjecting and still pretending they are prepared to stand up for their industries when they obviously will not. These are extensive value-adding industries for the whole of New South Wales, taking a product and turning it into a higher-value product.
All those industries will be put at risk by the relaxation and further downgrading of Biosecurity Australia. It has all come about because The Nationals in Canberra and The Nationals opposite are prepared to allow those sorts of things to happen. One only has to go back to what John Howard told the farmers after Cyclone Larry, that there would not be any imports, that he would protect them until they are back on their feet and then we would have some imports.
Mr Andrew Fraser: You are a liar!
Mr NEVILLE NEWELL: I am quoting from the newspaper reports. The Herald Sun, an austere paper that is published weekly and is always reliable, reported:
Mr Howard told growers in north Queensland that he would not allow imports of fresh bananas until the industry got back on its feet.
Banana growers in the north are worried about that. Our growers in the Tweed, Richmond and Coffs Harbour are also concerned about that because of the threat that statement contains. In other words, Mr Howard is not prepared to back the industry. In Canberra Mr Vaile is certainly not prepared to back The Nationals—or, more to the point, buck the Liberal Party—and that is what we want to see The Nationals opposite do. They should get out there and fight for these industries. They were dragged in here at the last minute to vote, on behalf of the Liberal Party, against debating this motion, because the Leader of the Opposition would have looked a bit silly if they did not support him. They backed him but they are not prepared to back the farmers. [Time expired.]
Mr ANDREW FRASER (Coffs Harbour) [4.16 p.m.]: At the outset I move:
That the motion be amended by omitting all words after "disease".
We have an absolute interest in ensuring that bananas and all other produce that leave this country are in A1 condition. We have the same concern that any produce that comes into this country is in the same condition. The honourable member for Tweed has misled the House. The Australian Banana Growers Council said it believed that pulp importation was not a breach of the Prime Minister's commitment given to the growers in Innisfail. It put that in a media release, but Napping Neville from Tweed would have this House and people who read Hansard believe differently. Why does he not back the farmers? He should tell us what he has done with regard to private native forestry, native vegetation, and all the other problems that farmers on the North Coast and right across New South Wales have had to put up with because of his Government. The honourable member referred to newspaper articles. I will refer to an article in the Tweed Weekly which states:
When a Daily News journalist asked Labor Leader Kim Beazley last Friday why Richmond MP Justine Elliot sits behind him in Federal Parliament, the Bomber's unexpected response was: "she doesn't fall asleep."
Mr Beazley's swipe confirmed Mr Newell is a major discomfiture to the Labor Party locally and is seen by the Elliot camp as the principal stumbling block to her retaining her seat at the Federal poll due in late 2007.
That is Napping Neville Newell, the man who sleeps in question time. They have done some polling up there—
Mr Gerard Martin: Point of order: I ask that you to direct the honourable member for Coffs Harbour to comply with the standing orders. He should refer to members of this House by their electorate.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr John Mills): Order! I am sure the honourable member for Coffs Harbour will do that, because he often takes the same point of order himself.
Mr ANDREW FRASER: The honourable member for Bathurst interjects. He was known as the banana when he came in here—he came in here straight and green, and he is going to go out at the next election bent and yellow. The Nationals support the general thrust of part one of this motion. The National Party and the Coalition support a scientifically based quarantine system to protect our farms and related industries from the threat of exotic disease. This motion is nothing more than a beat-up by the honourable member for Tweed to try to get himself a headline, acting on a Federal issue in a State Parliament. Yet when it came to cattle going through border quarantine in relation to ticks, where was Napping Neville? The honourable member for Lismore will put on the record where he was. How many people such as the farmers in the Bellingen area in my electorate had their farms quarantined because of the inaction of the honourable member in relation to the tick gates and the inspection service on the border? He is a hypocrite.
After the bananas in northern Queensland were tragically destroyed, the Prime Minister gave the farmers a guarantee that he would not allow the importation of fresh bananas—and he has not. I would guess that the honourable member for Tweed pops into the foyer to buy himself a bit of banana bread. People would not be able to afford banana bread if it was made from fresh bananas. There is a market-driven reason for the fruit to be brought into the country. As the honourable member for Tweed stated, the pulp is heated to 95 degrees and the fruit has no skin. Diseases that are carried on bananas are black sigatoka and moko. They are carried on the leaves or on the skin. The imported bananas have been skinned, heated to 95 degrees, and then snap frozen to minus 20 degrees.
I enjoy the support of my fellow North Coast members on this issue, because they do not act in the hypocritical manner in which Government members act on this issue. I would say there has been a bit of polling up in Tweed. The honourable member for Tweed knows that he is gone; Geoff Provest will be the member come 25 March next year. The honourable member lacks the support of the electorate. As I said, even his Federal colleague will not have anything to do with him. He cannot show us a photo of himself and Justine Elliot together. Such a photo does not exist. Why? Because she is embarrassed about his representation of his constituents, who are also her constituents, in the Tweed. He is an embarrassment to her, to his electorate and to the Labor Party.
Mr Gerard Martin: You are an embarrassment to the Parliament. You are on the record for the worst act ever in this Chamber.
Mr ANDREW FRASER: Sit down, green banana.
Mr Gerard Martin: You have not changed; you are still a bully. You should go back to your anger management courses.
Mr ANDREW FRASER: Have you been to the bar again? You stay away from the bar at lunchtime.
Mr ACTING-SPEAKER (Mr John Mills): Order! There is too much interjection and crosstalk. The honourable member for Coffs Harbour will direct his remarks through the Chair and the honourable member for Bathurst will cease interjecting. He can seek the call later if he wishes.
Mr ANDREW FRASER: The honourable member for Bathurst is known as Bundy bear because of his drinking habits around this place. It is quite disgusting. At both Federal and State level The Nationals support the strongest possible quarantine measures for bananas.
Mr Neville Newell: But the Liberal Party will bring them in.
Mr ANDREW FRASER: And members of the Liberal Party, our Coalition colleagues, also support those measures. I support the banana growers, such as Nicky Singh, in Coffs Harbour. He is a hardworking banana grower. The Labor Party intends to drive a highway through and ruin his farm. What is it going to do to the Indian banana growers north of Woolgoolga, and the blueberry growers? These hardworking Australians are trying to make some money. They work exceptionally well. Yet Napping Neville, Roozendaal, and their mates are going to drive an eight-lane highway through the most arable land on the coast. Did the Labor Party consult them? No, it did not. Napping Neville should explain to those people his support for them. He should explain to the cattle producers in his area his inaction in relation to the tick gates. He should explain to the people in Bellingen who were quarantined for more than 12 months because of ticks that he and his Government created the problem. He and his fellow members on the Government side are nothing but hypocrites.
The National Party, the State Liberal Party and the Federal Coalition support the strongest quarantining measures that can be had in regard to any produce. The honourable member for Tweed cast aspersions about some of the foodstuffs coming into this country, but we must remember that Australia is a net exporter, be it of grain or beef. The majority of our primary produce goes overseas. If we wish to continue exporting we must import some goods that we do not produce. I suggest to members opposite that the reason this pulp entered the country in the first place—it has probably been coming in for years—was the need for banana pulp in cooking. You cannot slip down to the banana barrow in Martin Place and buy a frozen pulp banana from Vietnam. This product goes straight into cooking. Any suggestions to the contrary are mischievous at best, and lies at worst.
It was a quiet media day on Sunday so this story was thrown up. The early-morning media did not know how to run with the story. But we will know how to run with Labor's record in this House and what it has done to farmers. We will tell the people in the seats of the so-called Country Labor members what they have done for agriculture and what they have done to support their farmers—absolutely nothing, from native vegetation through to the tick control measures that I mentioned, through to private property forestry. The Government would not support our right-to-farm bill. It also would not support our cross-border commission bill, which the honourable member for Tweed of all people should have supported. We will be reminding his voters of that. It will be good to see the back of him come 25 March next year.
Mr STEVE WHAN (Monaro) [4.26 p.m.]: It is a pleasure to support the motion moved by the honourable member for Tweed today. He is a strong representative of the area he represents in this place. It was great to hear him put such a cogent and well-argued case for better protection for banana growers. It was a pity to hear the honourable member who represents the Big Banana sell out the banana growers of northern New South Wales. We have heard quite a bit on banana growers. I turn to another industry that fits in with the motion, yet another industry that the Federal Government has failed to protect from the potential for disease. The honourable member for Coffs Harbour stated that we are a net exporter of agricultural products. That is right. One of the reasons for that, and one of the reasons we are able to make so much money from exports, is the world's confidence in the disease-free status of Australian exports.
That is why we must protect our disease-free status in so many areas through effective quarantine. Most Australians would agree 100 per cent with a strict regime of quarantine. The Federal Government has spent a lot on the advertising of quarantine laws. But, unfortunately, behind the scenes it makes deals with overseas importers to water down quarantine protections. This is happening with chicken meat. On average, Australians each consume about 33 kilograms of chicken meat per annum, which is roughly equivalent to the consumption of red meat. On 2 September I was shocked to see in the Sydney Morning Herald a story about imported chicken meat posing a significant risk. The article, titled "Alarm over bacteria in imported chicken", read:
Highly antibiotic-resistant bacteria rarely seen in Australia could be spread if a proposal to relax a ban on chicken meat takes effect.
That article was based on information that provided further reason for alarm. The Commonwealth Government is contemplating relaxing provisions relating to a number of industries. Import risk assessments [IRAs] have been undertaken in a number of areas. However, many people in the agricultural community do not have much confidence in the results. The Commonwealth Government accepted an IRA conducted in the pork industry, despite a CSIRO study that found there was a 95 per cent to 99 per cent risk of an exotic disease outbreak in Australia within 10 years if the scheme were adopted. The Commonwealth Government was willing to keep going with its plans because it believed it was more important to allow these imports rather than to protect our status as one of the few nations in the world that can export many high-quality primary products because of its strict quarantine laws.
This is not the first time a motion along these lines has been moved in this place. However, whenever such a motion is moved, The Nationals back the Commonwealth Government. That has happened again today. The Nationals have indicated that they are willing to accept one half of the motion, but not the half that calls on the Commonwealth Government to do the right thing by primary producers. This is another disgraceful example of The Nationals' fading ability to stand up for country New South Wales.
An article in the 3 September edition of the Sunday Telegraph by Glen Milne deals with the importation of bananas, to which the honourable member for Tweed referred. The honourable member for Coffs Harbour, the member representing the Big Banana, is quoted as saying that everything would be fine because the bananas were heated to 95 degrees. The article points out that the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service was relying on the word of the company in Vietnam and not independently verifying what it said. That goes to the heart of the problem in this place: The fading Nationals will not back genuine motions designed to protect Australian farmers. It is no wonder that The Nationals' representation in this place has fallen from 20 seats to 12. It is no wonder that The Nationals candidate standing against me in the electorate of Monaro will not call himself a Nationals candidate; he calls himself a Coalition candidate. He is embarrassed to be a member of The Nationals, as all Nationals members opposite should be.
Mr THOMAS GEORGE (Lismore) [4.31 p.m.]: I support the honourable member for Coffs Harbour's amendment, which seeks to omit all words after "disease". I am proud to speak up for Australian industry and about the threats posed by imported bananas. Australia relies heavily on domestic banana supply, and my electorate relies heavily on the banana industry. Unlike many honourable members, I can say that I cut my teeth on bananas. I also worked in the fruit and vegetable industry for a long time, and I am proud to have done so.
I reassure the banana growers that there are no plans to allow the immediate importation of fresh bananas to Australia from any source. The Australian Banana Growers Council stated on 3 September that pulp importation is not in breach of the Prime Minister's commitment given to growers at Innisfail after cyclone Larry, which clearly related to the ongoing risk assessment being conducted on fresh green bananas imported from the Philippines. Such imports have been coming into Australia for more than a decade. I remind honourable members opposite that a large number of processed products were brought into Australia while their party was in power federally. That was a long time ago, and honourable members opposite cannot remember back that far.
The honourable member for Tweed is interjecting. Where was he when we debated the right to farm bill, which was introduced by the honourable member for Ballina to protect our farmers in the Northern Rivers region?
The honourable member for Bathurst can interject; he should stay out of it. He is slippery enough without getting into the banana debate. Where was the honourable member for Tweed when we debated the legislation dealing with the cross-border commission? He is clearly on the record as voting against both pieces of legislation. The only consistency on the part of the honourable members opposite who purport to represent the country regions of this State is that every day the House sits they want to debate Federal issues. Why? They want to turn their backs on the farmers of this State; they do not represent them.
I placed a question on notice about the tick quarantine situation, which involves the honourable member for Tweed's electorate. I asked whether any properties had been quarantined as a result of cattle going through the spray race at the border. What was the answer from the Minister for Primary Industries? It was "Yes." The honourable member for Tweed should tell all the farmers that he and I represent in the north of the State how he is protecting them. His answers demonstrate that he has been asleep—Napping Neville. The article in the Tweed Weekly reads:
Mr Beazley's swipe confirmed that Mr Newell is a major discomfiture to the Labor Party locally and is seen by the Elliot camp as the principal stumbling block to her retaining the seat at the Federal poll due in late 2007.
Mr GERARD MARTIN (Bathurst) [4.36 p.m.]: I am pleased to support my colleague the honourable member for Tweed in this debate, and I am delighted to follow the honourable member for Lismore, because he makes everyone look good. I congratulate the Minister for Primary Industries on his efforts on this issue. He has consistently called on the Federal Coalition to protect vital quarantine restrictions, and he continues to throw his support behind our growers, who seem to face a never-ending battle on these issues. It is about time the Howard Government stopped ignoring the legitimate concerns of our horticultural producers. It is also about time this tired and inexperienced Opposition did something constructive on the issue and lobbied its Federal counterparts for a better deal. Honourable members should make no mistake: our horticultural producers will not allow their fears to be ignored or continually swept under the carpet.
The New South Wales apple industry continues to hold grave concerns about flaws that become evident in the import risk assessment [IRA] process. In fact, Apple and Pear Australia Ltd raised concerns about the scientific integrity of the IRA process in 2004. Apple and Pear Australia found a staggering 46 fundamental errors in the draft IRA on apples provided by Biosecurity Australia. That included underestimating the risk of fire blight being imported on New Zealand apples. I know the honourable member for Orange is concerned about that issue. It is inconceivable, yet unfortunately true, that the risk of fire blight entering Australia is three times higher than that estimated by Biosecurity Australia.
At the time, Apple and Pear Australia Ltd Chairman Darral Ashton told national radio that he was stunned when the same scientists who found serious flaws in the draft banana IRA pointed out a list of inconsistencies in the scientific modelling used for the draft apples IRA. That is why the honourable member for Tweed has so appropriately brought to the attention of the House the lack of probity in these issues, particularly given what is happening on the ground in Vietnam.
Our horticultural industries deserve to have confidence in the system and in the people who make these critical decisions. Quite frankly, they deserve a better deal. But, despite the overwhelming evidence, the Howard Government and the tired old New South Wales Opposition have never acknowledged these flaws in the data behind proposals for the importation of more pig meat, bananas and New Zealand apples. They are all in the mix and all very important. We have to make sure that we have the utmost integrity in biosecurity measures and quarantine processes in this country. There was some talk about the previous Federal Government. Well, it certainly had all the protocols on the table, but the protocols are certainly slipping under the current Federal regime.
The Federal Government has not stepped forward to address these flaws in the system. Everyone acknowledges the failure, but the Federal Government is ducking and weaving. A lot of the problem can be attributed to a lack of leadership in The Nationals at a Federal level, particularly that of Mark Vaile. I believe that even his Coalition colleagues are working to destabilise him. Quarantine controls provide critical protection from disease for our local agricultural industries, including the highly contagious fire blight in apples. I know that because apples are very much part of the economy in my electorate. If Opposition members wonder why I have a bias towards apples and not bananas, that is why. I acknowledge the impost on bananas. I paid $2 each for bananas in Martin Place this morning on my way to Parliament House.
These are all critical decisions that have a major impact on regional and rural communities. That is what Government members are concerned about. For example, in Batlow in the State's south and Orange in the electorate of the honourable member opposite the local economies rely on strong and prosperous horticultural industries. They must be underpinned by a security system that is not fiddled with and that has the utmost integrity. We heard from the honourable member for Lismore. He is obviously having a bad hair day. He spent all afternoon asleep and had to be woken up to count the last division.
Mr Thomas George: Point of order: My point of order relates to relevance under Standing Order 138. The honourable member should come back to the substance of the debate.
Madam ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Marie Andrews): Order! I am sure the honourable member will do so.
Mr GERARD MARTIN: It is all over. That was a timely interjection. [Time expired.]
Mr NEVILLE NEWELL (Tweed—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.41 p.m.], in reply: This has been an interesting debate. It was interesting to hear the views put forward by Coalition members in their attempt to justify their position. In some ways it was a little sad to hear what they had to say. I thank the honourable member for Coffs Harbour, the honourable member for Lismore, the honourable member for Monaro and the honourable member for Bathurst for their contributions to the debate. I appreciate that Opposition members had to put forward a certain view, but it saddened me a little to hear the words they used. I acknowledge the contributions from the honourable member for Monaro and the honourable member for Bathurst, who understand the issues and the role of Biosecurity Australia in protecting the State's agricultural industries, both export industries and domestic. The notion of exotic diseases being introduced into this country and putting our industries at risk—
Mr Andrew Fraser: Which ones?
Madam ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Marie Andrews): Order! The honourable member for Coffs Harbour has contributed to the debate. The honourable member for Tweed has the call.
Mr NEVILLE NEWELL: Many industries are under threat from these diseases. Whilst it is the export industries that are involved here, they maintain their markets overseas because of the status of Australian industries. It is important that we do not threaten them. As well as the impact of the disease, we are also under threat of losing export markets if our protocols are relaxed or, even worse, not enforced. Although the honourable member for Coffs Harbour got very personal in his contribution_if I could refer to it as such_I do not know that I have much to say in response. However, I should reply to one comment he made. He appeared to take umbrage at the fact that the banana growers or primary producers were able to get a little bit of a windfall out of Cyclone Larry because of the higher prices for their products. I do not back away from that.
Mr Andrew Fraser: Point of order: The standing orders provide for clarification when one member misquotes another. Under no circumstances did I comment in my contribution on the fact that I do not agree with the windfall—
Madam ACTING-SPEAKER (Ms Marie Andrews): Order! That is a point of clarification rather than a point of order. The honourable member for Tweed may continue.
Mr NEVILLE NEWELL: The Opposition is prepared to support a policy of imports but it is not prepared to follow the protocols put in place by the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service [AQIS] or the protocols required by other countries. They will not tell the poor banana growers exactly what they are doing in Vietnam. In other words, they are quite happy to see the prices depressed by the Liberals simply to look after city folk and because of John Howard's concern that higher food prices would jack up inflation and cause an interest rate rise. I think that is what it was all about, but I cannot understand why The Nationals continually go along with the Liberal Party on these issues.
I also point out that the honourable member for Lismore indicated that he was quite prepared to speak up for Australian industries. I am glad that he is prepared to do that. However, he went on almost immediately to quote from what I think was The Nationals policy, because of the correlation with what John Howard said in North Queensland_that he would not allow imports of fresh bananas until the industry got back on its feet. The honourable member for Lismore said he would not support "immediate" imports of fresh bananas. In other words, the Coalition has flagged its intention to go along with the Liberal Party policy of allowing imports to keep prices down, to gut the price that local producers receive. I find it sad that the party opposite_the former Country Party_is now prepared to roll along with the Liberal Party and do nothing for their farmers.
The producers of apples, pears, chicken, pork and bananas are all suffering because of their concern that Biosecurity Australia will not give them the protocols that the exporter in Vietnam with 11 tonnes of banana product was able to go through. They cannot even guarantee that any protocols have been put in place. The expression "third world" has been used lately by the Leader of The Nationals to describe my electorate. However, he is quite happy to support imports of bananas from Third World countries without protocols being followed. [Time expired.]
Motion agreed to.