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Minister challenged on chook import plan

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Senator John Woodley Australian Democrats Spokesman for Rural Australia

31 O ctober, 1996 M E D IA R E L E A S E 96/723

M inister challenged on chock im port plan

Primary Industries Minister John Anderson's proposal to lift import bans on cooked chicken meat has received a major setback in a critical Senate report, according to the Democrats.

The unanimous report was produced following an inquiry into the import plan conducted by the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee.

Democrats’ Senator and Committee member, John Woodley commended the inquiry's report, which has cross-party support and was tabled in the Senate today.

In a major blow to the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, the report recommends that quarantine decisions be taken from AQIS and responsibility transferred to the Minister.

The report is critical of the AQIS recommendation to allow imported cooked chicken meat, which exposes domestic poultry and native birds to Newcastle disease. The report says:

"The major areas of doubt appear to be a lack of specific knowledge about the behaviour of Newcastle disease virus in chicken is likely this will remain as a point of contention unless AQIS produces incontrovertible evidence.”

The report expressed surprise that AQIS has apparently not conducted any trials of commercial treatment of cooked chicken for Newcastle disease, or visited Thai chicken plants where meat for import would be processed.

The report says: “The Committee finds It difficult to understand how AQIS could properly conduct its risk assessment without such visits.”

The report also recommends a new tariff on imported chicken to allow the Australian poultry Industry to adjust to changed trading conditions if imports are allowed.

Senator Woodley said his one concern was that the report assumed that imports must go ahead under the provisions of World Trade Organisation legislation adopted last year.

“The Democrats voted against the WTO legislation and the Democrats do not accept that there Is a need to import chicken meat at all," he said.

Senator Woodley said if Australia was forced to import chicken meat, there would be serious repercussions for the domestic poultry industry.

“The WTO framework is not a way of making free trade accessible, but a prison within which many of our Industries are languishing - and that is true of the chicken meat industry.'’ 1

Call Senator Woodley on 06 277 3728 OR 0419 025 150 or . Vivienne Wynter on 07 3862 9255 or 0419 029 728