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New agreement protects and secures plant industries.

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DAFF05/061WT - 17 March 2005

New agreement protects and secures plant industries

The Australian Government has agreed to sign on to a new cost-sharing agreement to help maintain Australia's freedom from many of the world's major plant pests and diseases, Agriculture Minister Warren Truss announced today.

Mr Truss said the new Governments/Industry Cost Sharing Agreement for Emergency Plant Pest Responses developed by Plant Health Australia would help protect the health and well-being of Australia's plant industries and enhance our export reputation.

"The agreement means that the costs associated with eradicating an emergency plant pest will be split equitably between industry and government and, for the first time, provides for compensation to those affected who meet their reporting obligations," he said.

"A list of 78 emergency plant pests has been drawn up and categorised into four groups reflecting their potential impact on matters such as public health, the environment, public amenities, regional and national economies, and trade and market access.

"The categorisation involved an independent and expert scientific assessment of the threats each pest poses, with a different cost-sharing formula applied to each of the four categories. There is also a mechanism to handle pests that are not yet on the list."

Mr Truss said that the growing scope and diversity of international trade, increases in international visitors, mail and cargo heightened concern about pest incursions.

"As a trading nation, Australia can not maintain a zero risk policy as it would mean no exporting and no tourism, but we do have the world's largest dedicated quarantine presence at our borders to act as the invisible fence protecting our nation," he said.

"Australia's plant industries make a significant contribution to rural and regional communities across the country, and contribute $18.2 billion a year to the national economy and generate $13.9 billion in export earnings," he said.

"It is vital that we are able to tackle a plant pest incursion quickly, effectively and in a manner that is both cost-effective and reassuring to Australian farmers and for our trading partners," he said.

Mr Truss called on State governments to now embrace this agreement and sign on quickly so that it will be in place should a new pest outbreak occur.

"The South Australian Government has already agreed to sign and it is time for other States to also join this historic agreement.

"The new agreement replaces arrangements that have been in place since 1977, and will, for the first time, give industry an active role in responding

to pest incursions if they occur.

"It will also help minimise the socio-economic consequences to particular Australian industries and communities by limiting or preventing production losses, trade disruptions, public health concerns or environmental damage," he said.

The Grains Council of Australia, CANEGROWERS, the Australian Banana Growers' Council and Apple and Pear Australia Limited have already signed the agreement.

Ten other industry members have indicated their intent to sign shortly.

They represent the bee, citrus, cotton, macadamia, mango, rice, nursery and garden, strawberries, summer fruit and tropical fruit industries.

Mr Truss commended Plant Health Australia for its work in developing the new agreement, particularly its extensive consultation process with major stakeholders.

Further media inquiries:

Minister Truss' office: Kylie Butler - 02 6277 7520 or 0417 652 488