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Wednesday, 27 May 1987
Page: 3397

Mr CUNNINGHAM —Can the Minister for Primary Industry inform the House of the Government's action in relation to the discovery of unacceptable levels of residue in export beef?

Mr KERIN —I must stress to all participants in the Australian meat industry, particularly farmers, the seriousness of the situation. While only a small number of samples are involved, an immediate response has been essential to limit the possibility of the problem developing further. Positive action has been taken by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service to ensure that access to the United States of America and other markets is maintained.

We have increased the sampling levels for beef at industry expense. We are examining the desirability of extending the increased sampling levels to sheep meat. We are tracing the causes of the problem, in co-operation with the States and the Territories as they have responsibility for, control of and distribution of agricultural and veterinary chemicals.

The Commonwealth, through the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, has acted immediately. However, this is only one element of the response that is needed. I have been in touch with my State counterparts who have the constitutional responsibility in this area, to impress on them the need for a joint strategy to resolve the issue. The States must strengthen surveillance, control and education at the farm level and industry must direct its efforts to ensuring that individuals do not abuse the use of chemicals or use treated farm lands or products in such a way that unacceptable levels of residues can get into the food chain. Australia already conducts a national residue survey that gives a high level of assurance, but it is difficult to detect isolated instances of abuse. A major review of the national residue survey program will be undertaken.

I conclude by saying that agricultural and veterinary chemicals are quite safe when used in accordance with directions. Farmers must be made fully aware of the economic consequences of abuse. Producer organisations, the States and those in the meat industry are requested to take strong action to stop abuse.