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Audit Office report superseded by Budget quarantine initiatives.



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HON WARREN TRUSS MP MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FORESTRY

AFFA01/151WT 7 June 2001

Audit Office report superseded by Budget quarantine initiatives

The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report on Australia's quarantine effectiveness had been overtaken by the huge upgrade in quarantine announced in the recent Federal Budget and the reform of Australia’s import risk assessment process, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Warren Truss said today.

"The Government recently announced funding of almost $600 million to substantially strengthen Australia's quarantine border controls to achieve the best possible quarantine effectiveness, especially at international airports, mail exchanges and cargo facilities," Mr Truss said.

"The ANAO report confirms that there has been an increased effectiveness in quarantine operations across-the-board under the Coalition Government. In 1997, following the independent Nairn Review of Australian quarantine, resources were increased by $76 million, border control resources increased by 53 per cent, and staff numbers increased by two-thirds.

"The recent Budget announcement of nearly $600 million substantially builds on that base.

"All eight recommendations of the ANAO report will be implemented, including introducing more appropriate indicators for gauging the effectiveness of border quarantine.

"Quarantine services were seriously run-down when the Coalition came to Government in 1996. For example, the six mail centres across the country had 10 AQIS staff under Labor. We have substantially boosted that number, and when the build up is complete next year, we will have 190 staff.

"The Federal Government will be building a new international mail centre which will be Sydney's third, and will be substantially rebuilding others as part of a $28 million capital works program for Australia Post.

"AQIS has a focus on the levels of risk posed by items entering the country. For instance, different priorities may be given to people taking airline provided biscuits or sweets off the plane, compared to the priority that might be given to contaminated machinery being unloaded from ships.

"Fruit was the most seized item during the Olympics, and because of disease threats this could pose to our horticulture industry, we take this type of incursion very seriously.

"The report also acknowledged the significant improvements made by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - Australia to the import risk analysis (IRA) process since 1996, but suggested further improvements in transparency in scientific assessment and in communication with stakeholders.

"A formal review of the IRA process is underway. Changes have already been implemented to address the ANAO suggestions on transparency and in relation to the Biosecurity Australia's work program. A new version of the IRA

handbook will be produced later this year.

"This Government has been on the front foot on quarantine because it is so crucial to protecting Australia’s important agricultural industries and our unique environment. The ANAO report confirms that the initiatives already undertaken have been an important improvement and are heading in the right direction."

 

Minister's office: Yvonne Best (02) 6277 7520 or 0418 415 772

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Last updated 8 June 2001

URL: http://www.affa.gov.au/ministers/truss/releases/00/0151wt.html Commonwealth of Australia 2000