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Thursday, 17 June 2010
Page: 5836

Mr JOHN COBB (11:34 AM) —I appreciate the opportunity to question the minister. Minister, I have a series of questions. Firstly, can you guarantee that funding for agricultural research will not be cut as a result of the Productivity Commission review of RDCs? Can you also guarantee that primary producers and industry will continue to have a full say on what research is undertaken, without fear of government interference? By that, I do not mean that the government does not have individuals on the various bodies to have their say as everybody else does. Can you confirm whether the Department of Climate Change, Energy Efficiency and Water has complaints lodged about work undertaken by any of the RDCs? Is it routine for any other department to comment or have input into the performance reviews of any of the RDCs, because the information we have is they have been making comments about what our various agricultural bodies have been looking into.

On the issue of quarantine, has the minister seen a copy of the World Trade Organisation’s final ruling on the New Zealand apples dispute? If so, is there a good reason why it has not been released? Are media reports to the effect that the Minister for Trade has had a copy of it for some three weeks correct? For obvious reasons, we need to know what is in it and when it will be released and why it hasn’t been. If, as rumoured, it is an adverse finding on Australia’s biosecurity, will the government be appealing against that ruling and could you tell us to what extent we entered into the disputes committee’s procedure?

On the issue of China, why has the import risk assessment, the IRA, failed to assess the impact of the Chinese fruit fly? I cannot pronounce the first word, but the second one is Suzuki. What action have we taken? There are reasons why the industry has not looked into it—it has not come up until recently—but are we doing research into the ability of pears and apples to carry it as a host? Irrespective of this current analysis, will we be looking further into its ability to affect us and its ability to be carried, whether it is via America or anywhere else? It is a very pertinent question, particularly given the fact that they have an application currently before us, as you are well aware, which I understand is in the final throes of analysis by the relevant committee. Could you tell us where that is at? Would it be true to say that, as things stand, Chinese and New Zealand apples could be coming to Australia within the next six months?