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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 5985

Mr BURKE ( Watson Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities ) ( 18:22 ): I will deal with those in reverse order, if that is okay. First of all, the member for Murray has referred to 'exceptional circumstances category D'. I think that is actually a reference to the NDRRA category D, which is not administered by the department of agriculture; it is administered through the Attorney-General's Department. They deal with that, and Agriculture deals with drought relief. So I am not in a position to be able to provide that information today. I am not sure if the Attorney-General's Department have already gone through or if they are later tonight or when they are. I am sure the Attorney-General would be able to provide some assistance on the information that was sought.

The second question goes to the issue of apples. First of all, I think it is important, given the allegations that were just made regarding the New Zealand department of agriculture, to point out that the view reflected there does not represent the position of the Commonwealth. I do have some further information which I will provide. There is a draft report—which, I think, is the report that the member for Murray is referring to—in terms of what the proposed quarantine measures might be. That is, as I say, a draft. It is available on the department's website. It will be available for public comment for a total of 60 days.

Despite some of the scare campaigns that have been about, there are some important facts worth setting out here. First of all, it is a draft report. It does not represent government policy, nor does a draft report change in any way the current restrictions which apply to the importation of New Zealand apples. Secondly, Australia is committed to the operation of a transparent, science-based system of biosecurity. If the opposition, the industry or any other stakeholder can put forward scientific evidence which would support restrictions that are stronger than those proposed in the draft review, they should put that forward. Thirdly, where scientific evidence is put forward during the review, it will be considered prior to the consideration of a final report. Stakeholders with a perspective on the conclusions in the draft can make a submission to the department's biosecurity services group. But just as for any other product, no trade in New Zealand apples may occur unless quarantine measures that appropriately protect Australia and our agricultural producers have been fully complied with.

I will go to the member for Hindmarsh who asked questions concerning importation of pork. Hopefully this will provide some clarity on the record to back up what the member for Hindmarsh had already received directly from the minister. Australia is fortunate to be free from many of the serious pests and diseases that exist in many other countries, and we make no apology about wanting to keep it that way. If New Zealand imports fresh pig meat from other countries for consumption in New Zealand, that is their decision. The fact is that fresh pork from New Zealand is actually not permitted. No fresh pig meat is permitted entry from New Zealand into Australia. If New Zealand want to export fresh pig meat to Australia, it would need to meet strict import requirements established by Australia's final import risk analysis report for pig meat, which was released in February 2004 when the coalition was in government. Australia will not water down its strict science based quarantine and biosecurity system. I hope that provides an answer to the issues that were raised there.

The member for Gippsland refers to Lakes Entrance where he is right: we made many election promises in 2007 in the electorate of Gippsland which were not successful in ousting Peter McGauran and became even less successful by the time the current member for Gippsland was competing in a by-election. But he raises an issue which is of deep concern to people in the seafood industry. (Extension of time granted) We need to remember the extent to which overseas competition is real for the seafood industry. It is extraordinary that, while we export a lot of very high value seafood, a large amount of seafood consumed in homes and in restaurants is in fact imported.

While when you go to the supermarket or to the local fish shop you have country of origin labelling, there is a presumption when people go to restaurants that they will be receiving fresh food and a presumption that most people have, particularly when they are in fishing communities, that what is sold locally is in fact locally caught. It has been a running sore for a long time in terms of not only the economic value but also people feeling a sense of deception when they go to a fishing village or town—whether they go to the local fish and chip shop or they go to the local cafe or restaurant—at the thought that what they might be consuming is in fact imported, and that comes as a very deep shock to most consumers.

The only area at the moment to my knowledge, and as I am advised, where this has been able to be resolved in a very direct way is in the Northern Territory. When it was first introduced in the Northern Territory much of the restaurant industry was quite resistant to having to put the country of origin on the menu. But what ended up happening was they did not just put country of origin, they started to put town of origin, they started to put village of origin and they started to put precisely where something had been caught, because there is no greater selling point for seafood than that it is local. People know that, with the purity of the oceans we have in Australia, there is a purity of product that follows.

This is very much managed by the states. It has been encouraged on many occasions by the Commonwealth. To my knowledge, though, at the moment it is only the Northern Territory which has stepped up to the mark. When I have spoken to anyone in the restaurant trade there who was hesitant when it was first introduced, all of them now acknowledge that what was originally put forward as a restriction is now a selling point for them with their customers.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Defence Portfolio

Proposed expenditure, $24,003,348,000

Debate resumed.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms K Livermore ): The Main Committee will now consider the Veterans' Affairs segment of the Defence portfolio in accordance with the agreed order of consideration. The question is that the proposed expenditure be agreed to.