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Tuesday, 25 November 2003
Page: 22714

Mr HAASE (2:51 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. Would the minister advise the House how the Australian government is responding to community concerns about quarantine risks associated with border protection?

Mr TRUSS (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) —The honourable member for Kalgoorlie takes a keen interest in northern quarantine, and I thank him for his question. The federal government takes very seriously the importance of protecting our northern borders, especially from the threats that might be posed by the arrival of illegal entry vessels. These vessels may bring significant quarantine risks, including infestations of timber pests such as borers, mosquitoes and the like. The food carried on board could also carry some risks and, of course, the passengers may bring items that give concern in relation to our pristine animal and plant environment.

There is widespread support, particularly among the island communities, for strict quarantine controls. Indeed, many of the island communities are vigorously engaged in the government's northern Australian quarantine strategy and are actively involved in assisting to ensure that no pests and diseases come into those areas. The government has provided $600 million to upgrade quarantine which was sadly neglected and allowed to run down under the previous government. We particularly appreciate the efforts of the Tiwi Islanders, who have demonstrated their interest in quarantine issues.

It is important that there is a recognition of the shared responsibility between the enforcement agencies and the community to deliver good quarantine outcomes. The government recognises that contribution through quarantine awards. I am very pleased to tell the House that the Tiwi Land Council, due to its efforts in quarantine and its enthusiasm for protecting the environment of the Tiwi Islands, has received the regional award for quarantine services in the Northern Territory. Other Northern Australian people have also been recognised: Bruce Lansdown, who runs the Coen Information and Inspection Centre, has been recognised for the work that he does to inform visitors to the north about quarantine issues. I am sure the honourable member will be interested to know that the Shire of Roebourne is to receive the award for Western Australia for its particular role in dealing with the exposure to exotic pests and diseases in the port of Dampier. The government warmly appreciates the role of islanders—for example, the people of the Tiwi Islands, the Torres Strait Islands and other regions—for the keen interest they have taken in quarantine issues. They are helping to protect our borders, and they deserve the commendation and congratulations of the people of Australia on their outstanding efforts.