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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 852

Mr ROBERT (Fadden) (16:39): In January this year we had an outbreak of white spot disease on the Gold Coast, which devastated the local prawn industry. The prawn industry at the Logan River on the GC produces about 25 per cent of the annual production in Australia. Whilst the cause is not definitely known, what I do know is that the disease did not start on any of our farms. No-one had been to Asia where the disease first broke out in 1992 in China. No product had been imported from there. Our farmers are the victims.

Minister Joyce rapidly closed the borders and in early January banned all green prawn importations. This was the right decision, considering that, I am led to believe, 73 import consignments had tested positive for white spot between May and December 2016, which is unacceptable. A $1.74 million assistance package has already been provided, with up to $400,000 in direct funding for the affected farmers, but the impact will be in the millions and tens of millions of dollars.

We are working hard to make sure Australia can be free of white spot. What is needed next is a structural adjustment package to assist these farmers to adjust the way they produce prawns, as they cannot farm in the same way again. Likewise, the import ban on green prawns must remain at our borders and should only be lifted when we have a strict compliance framework for any imports. This government will support our farmers on the Gold Coast.