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Wednesday, 30 May 2012
Page: 6405

Mr MITCHELL (McEwen) (12:40): Australia is uniquely isolated and positioned, which has provided us with natural protection from destructive pests and diseases. This has allowed Australian farmers to be recognised as amongst the most productive in the world, producing safe, high-quality food and contributing $155 billion, or 12 per cent, of GDP. However, with the rapid and expansive growth in the movement of people and goods between countries and regions, we must continually work to combat biosecurity threats. Failure to adequately protect Australia's biosecurity could result not only in a decline in productivity but also in the potential for an entire industry to come to a halt if there is a serious pest or disease outbreak like the one that we witnessed in the United Kingdom—one which could threaten the health of Australian people and our environment, livestock and livelihoods.

We know that the Gillard government recognises the significant threats posed by pests and diseases and, unlike the former Howard government, is choosing not to ignore the problem. Instead, the Labor government has invested more than $1.6 billion in biosecurity to safeguard our agricultural industry, not just correcting the mistakes of the coalition but also implementing a smarter, more sophisticated, biosecurity system.

The biosecurity reforms are based upon the recommendations of the Beale review, which we talked about recently, and which has recommended the risk based analysis of biosecurity. These reforms have included the establishment of the Biosecurity Advisory Council; the appointment of an Interim Inspector General of Biosecurity; and continuing to work towards a more flexible and risk based biosecurity framework. These reforms were developed in consultation with state and territory governments and industries, ensuring that the biosecurity system meets their needs and provides the most effective protection for all Australians.

The Gillard government's biosecurity reforms will increase the efficiency of our productivity. This biosecurity framework not only protects the efficiency of our agriculture from destructive animal and pest plants and diseases but also ensures Australia remains a reputable trading partner. This is essential, as Australian agricultural, fisheries and forestry sectors export commodities to the value of $36.2 billion, and our biosecurity remains a key strength in maintaining market access. My question is: how will the Gillard government continue to invest in biosecurity for Australia?