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Thursday, 27 November 2003
Page: 23214

Mr KATTER (4:49 PM) —I rise to speak about two things. Firstly, I very strongly back up the last speaker from the opposition on the issue of nitrofuran. In North Queensland AQIS is commonly referred to as `acquiesce'. They always correct you if you say AQIS, and they say, `You mean “acquiesce”.' It seems to me that AQIS provides an import facilitation service to the Australian people. When its biosecurity officers were confronted and asked at a meeting in Innisfail what applications had been rejected in the last four years, they were unable to name a single application that had been rejected. They are seriously contemplating allowing bananas into this country from the Philippines, where there are 23 dreadful diseases—none of which we have in Australia—including moko and black sigatoka, which were highlighted in a front-page article of the New Scientist magazine recently as spelling the end to the world banana industry. The banana is a sterile plant that does not have the genetic breadth that other plants have and consequently is unable to be hybridised to deal with these diseases. But we do not have these diseases in Australia and it is vitally important that we keep them out.

The nitrofuran content in the prawns coming into this country is unquestionable. All of the countries that are sending or contemplating sending their product to Australia are well known for having used nitrofuran on a regular basis and, as far as I understand, they are using it at this very point in time. AQIS's contention is that they cannot afford to test for nitrofuran. We cannot afford to test for hundreds of things when we want to export them, but other countries insist that we, as Australians, have to do it if we want to export our product to them. Surely AQIS must have the same sorts of policies that apply throughout the world and must apply them to these people. If they want to send prawns to Australia, the onus lies upon them to do the testing overseas. In the case of many of these products, there is methyl bromide treatment, and this should take place overseas. To allow products such as bananas or grapes into Australia and to do the treatment here is most certainly closing the door well and truly after the horse has bolted.

To further highlight this point, the activities of GBRMPA and various other environmental instrumentalities have resulted in the prawn industry in Australia having been cinctured—like a Chinese woman's foot, it is not allowed to grow; it is all bound up. We expected this industry to be hitting $2,000 million by the year 2000. In its first 15 years of development we felt we should be able to catch up to Thailand, which was doing $2,000 million. But it did not hit $2,000 million, it did not hit $1,000 million, it did not hit $100 million, it did not hit $56 million; our exports of this product were worth around $55 million. In the same period, Thailand's exports rose from $2,000 million to $8,500 million. They are using stuff like nitrofuran with gay abandon and exporting all over the world. We do not want that here. White Spot disease, which did untold damage to the prawn farming industry throughout the Northern Territory and various other parts of Australia, came in through product imported from certain Asian countries.

I will now change subjects dramatically to Roads to Recovery. Next year the Roads to Recovery moneys run out. To bring to the attention of the Australian people just how serious the situation is, I will use the example of the McKinlay Shire, which is based around Julia Creek in the north-western corner of Queensland. This shire has 500 kilometres of sealed roads. One of the roads leads up to Normanton and the Gulf of Carpentaria and another road ultimately leads down to Brisbane. On average, five kilometres of that roadway is replaced per year. That means that, in 100 years time, some of that road will be 100 years old and will not have been replaced. The road is built to last for about 25 years. The road system in this country is simply collapsing. The government has given no guarantee that the Roads to Recovery program will be continued. We cry out for an extension of that program. (Time expired)