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Tuesday, 19 March 1985
Page: 419

Senator COLLARD(6.13) —As honourable senators can see, there is unanimity on both sides of the House about the worth of this Quarantine Amendment Bill. I thank Senator Tate for his remarks and for mentioning and naming the senators on the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources who took part in the reference and who came up with the recommendations. I recall with affection former Senator Andrew Thomas who spent a great deal of time on this when he was Chairman of that Committee. He and I became Whips in this chamber. We overlook quite often the great work of Senate committees and it was fitting that Senator Tate mentioned that Committee. I thank him for that.

As has been indicated, the Bill does two things. Basically, it increases some penalties and transfers some sections from the Department of Health to the Department of Primary Industry. As my colleague Senator Peter Baume indicated, Australia is in many ways a lucky country, not the least because it is an island continent and as such has been immune from many of the diseases that affect both plant and animal life in other countries around the world. It has developed its own unique flora and fauna. The introduction of other plants or fauna could be quite catastrophic. I mention that this has happened, albeit quite innocently, with plants that were brought in by the early settlers. Lantana, to mention one, was brought in as a hedge. I spent many days, weeks and months in the paddock, trying to clear lantana, before 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T came in. I could quite cheerfully have throttled those early settlers who wanted a nice garden hedge.

Senator Button —You should have stayed there.

Senator COLLARD —There are times when I wish I had stayed there. I am instancing just one case where, with the best wills and intentions, people brought in plants which thrived in our climate. Cactus is another example which literally wiped out almost the whole of our pastoral industry in Queensland. It became so thick that cattle could not even move through it. Another example which has been brought in in recent times and which is now causing great concern in the pastoral lands of Queensland-it was brought in innocently-is the parthenium weed. Very few of the hormone sprays, which can control such things as noogoora burr, groundsel and lantana, can control parthenium weed. Thus, for the plant life alone there is great need for adequate quarantine facilities. There is also a great need for the protection of our animal life, our great flocks and herds. Foot and mouth disease and bluetongue are constantly on the minds of our pastoralists who fear that such diseases may come into the country and be let loose. Those diseases are so close to our shores. Quite often there are outbreaks of foot and mouth disease in Indonesia. I was part of a parliamentary delegation to Indonesia. I saw the co-operation between the Indonesian authorities and our own authorities in recognising and isolating that disease in Indonesia. The entry of such a disease would have a disastrous effect on us. One of the reasons we can export so much beef on the world market is that most people realise that Australia is free of foot and mouth disease.

The point was made by Senator Baume and Senator Tate that people move around the world in great numbers and with great rapidity. The last foot and mouth disease outbreak in Great Britain was, I think, eventually traced to tinned meat from the Argentine. People who go through our immigration and quarantine checks when they enter this country wonder why our authorities are so strict. But it is so easy to bring in a disease which would have disastrous effects on our primary industries. Many people who come from Europe like to bring in genuine salami or something like that and they wonder why they get into trouble. As I indicated, the last outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Britain was traced to tinned meat from the Argentine.

We are also quite worried that the screw worm fly is already in Papua New Guinea. We must watch very carefully that it does not start to come down the Torres Strait island chain and through to Cape York. That would cause a tremendous amount of problems if it broke out in our herds in north Queensland. Another disease that we overlook too easily but which concerns many people is the possible outbreak of rabies. This could quite easily be introduced by people who move around the South Pacific in their yachts or motor launches. They quite often have their pets or animals, particularly dogs, on board. Although when they come into Australian waters they are supposed to enter Australia at certain ports where there are quarantine checks and facilities, they often do not do that. It is a constant cause of concern to me. We know what devastation rabies could cause amongst our animals and human beings. It would be well nigh impossible to exterminate it because of the feral animals that we have which could carry that disease. It would be impossible to eradicate the disease.

It gives me great pleasure to support this Bill. It is good that it has the support of both sides of the Parliament. Obviously, the Department or Primary Industry is very conscious of the need for adequate quarantine services. There is a two-way effect. Now that the Cocos Islands establishment is operating, it means that we can bring new strains of stock into our country. Indeed, I was present in Townsville, north Queensland, when the first flight of new Brahman blood was brought in via the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. I was there with many of the beef producers who came to receive their cattle. Those cattle are already amongst the great herds in Queensland. As everybody has mentioned, this Bill is important and I have no doubt that everybody will mention the importance of quarantine to our great nation. If any of those diseases break out in Australia, they will have a devastating effect. Forty per cent of our balance of payments is still due to the exports of our primary industries. For many reasons we cannot afford to slacken one little bit in our efforts in this regard.