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Cheap grab for cash gambles industry billions, lives

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Hon Bob Katter MP Member for Kennedy

Federal Leader

For further information, please contact Narelle Hine on 0427 129 626

It's the principle of it



Cheap grab for cash gambles industry billions, lives

TUESDAY 24 July 2012: KAP Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter has condemned the Qld Government for putting the vulnerable North at an unforseen level of biosecurity risk with its shock decision to axe a $17m laboratory at Townsville.

Mr Katter said 20 staff at the existing Oonoonba laboratory who had been promised jobs at the world-class new facility at James Cook University were yesterday given a choice between relocating to Brisbane or redundancies.

“It seems to me that very seldom does a day goes by when I do not get further bad news from the coalface, but this government is taking stupidity to a new level with this sort of indiscriminate cost-cutting,” said Mr Katter.

“They are destroying our agriculture industries and gambling with our lives by taking away our vital frontline defences from a region at greatest risk of biosecurity incursions.

“It beggars belief that they would shift responsibility for guarding our remote north thousands of kilometres south to Brisbane when JCU has a proven track record of being a leader in this field and is located at the frontline of the Australia-Asia-Pacific region.

“Australia is already a major security risk with the invasion of infectious diseases such as multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and bat-borne viruses, which risk not only our agricultural industries and regional economy but also people’s lives.

“But we have never been more vulnerable thanks to the major parties’ obsession with putting free trade ahead of Australian jobs and the nation’s biosecurity - look no further than the latest push to bring in Malaysian pineapples and New Zealand potatoes despite the known disease risks.

“We already have citrus canker, which cost the state of Queensland and other parts of Australia nearly $100 million; the papaya fruit fly outbreak, which cost $120 million; the black sigatoka banana disease, which cost us over $100 million; and, of course, swine flu.

“The Townsville facility was to provide a high-containment lab for rapid and accurate diagnosis of diseases such as anthrax, foot-and-mouth disease, avian influenza and hendra virus.

“Are we really expected to believe that we can rely on Brisbane to wait for the rapid results of sophisticated tests that are crucial during outbreaks?

“It’s time to stop playing Russian roulette with Australian agriculture and Australian lives.”