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Monday, 27 February 2012
Page: 1847

Mr FORREST (Mallee) (20:19): I rise in support of this resolution, not just because I am the representative of an extensive citrus region in Sunraysia and the whole of the Murray valley all the way down to Koondrook but because for some time now I have been very concerned that Biosecurity Australia and its policing agency, the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service, seem to be preoccupied with controlling the quality of our exports. That is a noble objective and one which I support. Australia has a really excellent reputation around the world for producing clean and lean and green. My citrus growers are very proud of that record. The member for Throsby made some good points. But I wonder if he has confidence in them. That is what this resolution is about. I quote point 2 of the resolution:

…calls on the Government to instruct the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service to increase the testing on imported juice concentrate to ensure Carbendazim is not present at levels which risk public health.

That is the point that the member for Barker and I are making. We do not have confidence.

The Americans, who have a much more extensive testing program of orange juice concentrate than we have in Australia, have reacted. Given the risk that Carbendazim poses to human health, I would have thought that the government would have made this a priority and instructed AQIS to increase the percentage of imported orange juice concentrate that they test. It is not good enough, given the risk to public health. There have been extensive health warnings made about this product. We are talking about birth defects, genetic defects and male infertility—this last has been proven in laboratory animals. We need to be absolutely confident. We have seen some tragedies in human history in recent time, such as with thalidomide. We should not take a risk. This resolution strongly urges the government to instruct AQIS to do their job with the products that are coming into Australia. It is just not good enough to assume that the level of risk is not high. It is extremely high. I urge the member for Throsby to use his influence, in addition to the contribution he has made to this debate, to ensure that point (2) of this resolution is observed and adhered to.

In January 2010 the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority restricted the horticultural and turf uses of Carbendazim—there is a risk in the use of turf, which is not consumed by humans—based on new data indicating that maximum residue limits for some food crops and potential public exposure to treated turf might not meet new health standards. Turf is not consumed by humans, but it is just that someone might lie on it or touch it or be involved in laying it in a new garden. Surely alarm bells should be ringing. This is a fungicide to be very wary of if it is sufficient to cause that reaction. As a result, we are now seeing new label instructions removing all uses including post-harvest dipping of Carbendazim for grapes, melons, citrus fruit, custard apples, mangoes, stone fruit, cherries and turf—which is not even consumed by humans. Many of these products, except for the tropical ones, are produced in my electorate—melons, citrus fruit and stone fruit definitely are.

All these things have not been done for nothing. There is tremendous suspicion about this fungicide. Point (2) of this resolution should be supported by government members so that we can be confident and sure. I ask government members to give it their support.