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Monday, 19 November 2012
Page: 9068

Senator MILNE (TasmaniaLeader of the Australian Greens) (20:26): I thank the minister and I will come back to him to have discussions about that matter because that is one species that I think is going to be particularly vexed in this conversation. It may be extremely beneficial to go there. As to the minister's claim that DAFF has a very strong prosecution unit, my experience of DAFF suggests to me that I would have zero confidence in that—I have to say, Minister: zero confidence. I heard the mention of your background briefing earlier. Where are the successful prosecutions of illegal imports and a whole range of biosecurity matters? One example that I have specific experience of is the breach of the Financial Management Act in relation to a grant that was made to the forest industry under the Tasmanian Community Forest Agreement process. Money left the department with nobody signing off on it. The Auditor-General said it was a breach of the Financial Management Act and it was recommended to DAFF that they prosecute accordingly. The answer was: 'Senator, we lost the paperwork.'

Given that that is my experience, Minister, I have zero confidence in your belief that DAFF has a strong prosecution unit. If that is the best you can do in overseeing, compliance and enforcement of the importation of illegal timber products, then I am sorry because it takes me absolutely nowhere in my level of confidence. Madam Chair, I am disappointed. I will continue the conversation with the minister both through the budget process for the resourcing that will be necessary for enforcement and compliance and in relation to a research project on some of the species that might be particularly vexed concerning timber products. However, given the experience that most people have had with DAFF and its prosecutions, I do not think the level of confidence in this place will be particularly high.