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Quarantine review needed now.

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21 July 2006


A comprehensive independent review of Australia’s quarantine system is long overdue.

The call yesterday by the New South Wales Farmers’ Association and the New South Wales Government for a Senate Inquiry into the quarantine system is welcome and is deserving of support.

A Senate Inquiry would be a good first step but, for a number of years now, Labor has been calling for a comprehensive, independent review of our quarantine arrangements of the type carried out more than a decade ago by Professor Nairn.

Serious flaws in the performance of Biosecurity Australia (BA) and the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) have been exposed by farmers, industry groups, the Labor Opposition, the Auditor Office, Senate Committees and even by Government Senators.

The performance of our quarantine agencies has been called into question through a series of incidents such as: • The Brazilian beef found at the Wagga Wagga tip that, in the worst case, could have potentially exposed Australia to foot and mouth disease,

• The serious scientific flaws found in the draft import risk assessment for bananas, • The ‘Marnic affair’ exposed in the recent Senate Estimates hearings which detailed numerous instances poor practice by Australia’s quarantine authorities that potentially could leave the Commonwealth and taxpayers with a substantial

compensation liability, • The introduction of citrus canker to the Emerald region of Queensland and the subsequent mismanagement by AQIS of the investigation as to how it got there in the first place.

In a report issued late last year, the Auditor National Audit Office outlined weaknesses in the way BA undertakes Import Risk Assessments and also exposed the fact that 88% of containers entering Australia are not subject to any form of internal inspection and that AQIS has no idea how many prohibited items enter Australia in this way.

A comprehensive review of Australia’s quarantine arrangements is needed now.

Contact Bernie Eades on 0419 664 016