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Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee
09/02/2016
Estimates
AGRICULTURE AND WATER RESOURCES PORTFOLIO
Plant Health Australia

Plant Health Australia

[17:26]

CHAIR: We will move to Plant Health Australia.

Senator STERLE: Mr Fraser, can you provide the committee with an update on how you will undertake to improve coordination among your multiple stakeholders to tackle the issues of plant biosecurity and management of fruit fly?

Mr Fraser : We have been working around fruit fly for quite a long time. You will probably be aware that we released a national fruit fly strategy in 2008. There have been a range of programs in place since then. More recently, we have been able to secure some funding going forward for three years from a number of parties, including state and territory governments, the federal government and HIA.

At the moment we are trying to establish a fruit fly council. There has been one meeting in December. The next meeting is next week. One of the topics on that agenda will be the make-up of the council. We have an interim arrangement at the moment. We have to make sure that we get the balance right between growers, peak bodies, funders, researchers and so on. Over the last few weeks we have developed a position description. We have interviewed for a manager for the fruit fly council. Those interviews were concluded yesterday and we are negotiating with a couple of people to see who might be able to take that role forward.

Senator STERLE: How long before you get the council announced, do you think?

Mr Fraser : I am hoping that we can make those final decisions next week.

Senator STERLE: We will wait and see how that goes. What were the main reasons why Plant Health Australia decided not to proceed with relocation with AHA?

Mr Fraser : It was not cost beneficial.

Senator STERLE: Cost beneficial to you guys, obviously.

Mr Fraser : I am sorry; I did not understand the question.

Senator STERLE: Did you say it was not cost beneficial?

Mr Fraser : That is right. It was not cost sensible for PHA to do that.

Senator STERLE: How far out of the ballpark was it? You do not have to tell me to the cents.

Mr Fraser : It was significant. It has not affected our working relationship with Animal Health Australia. We still cooperate on a wide range of programs focused principally on growers and their adoption of biosecurity practices and a lot of communication activities, as well as work around the two emergency response deeds.

Senator STERLE: What did it entail? Was it you guys moving to them, them coming to you or finding a new building altogether?

Mr Fraser : Finding a new place. We looked at all the options. At the end of the day, even though we thought the environment around Canberra would be conducive to finding a cost beneficial location, we just could not find something that was suitable.

Senator STERLE: Who is the bigger beast—you guys or the animals?

Mr Fraser : We are about the same size in terms of personnel. AHA's budget is a bit larger than ours.

Senator STERLE: Righto.

Mr Fraser : If you give me more money, that would be fine.

Senator STERLE: Talk to the parliamentary secretary next to you; she will sort it out for you. You did the fruit fly thing, didn't you?

Senator Ruston: Exactly. Stop your whingeing.

Senator STERLE: There you go. If you are out for some more, go tap Barnaby. Good luck! Has Plant Health Australia signed a new lease?

Mr Fraser : No. We have been negotiating with it. We have been able to get some reductions in our lease costs through that negotiation and I am hoping that will be finalised, again in the next few days.

Senator STERLE: So are you able to tell us that you could possibly stay in the same premises?

Mr Fraser : Yes, we are staying in the same premises.

Senator STERLE: You are definitely staying.

Mr Fraser : Yes.

Senator STERLE: But you have not negotiated that lease yet?

Mr Fraser : It has been negotiated over the last three or four months. There were some things we needed done around the building in a general sense. We wanted those things done before we would commit to a new lease. At the same time we took the opportunity to reduce the lease costs.

Senator STERLE: Good. Has Plant Health Australia been approached by the government to facilitate any of the white paper initiatives, particularly around biosecurity and traceability?

Mr Fraser : Not to the best of my knowledge, but there could be other conversations going on within the business.

Senator STERLE: Take it on notice; if there is any change, you will be able to tell us. That, Chair, is me wrapped up.

Senator EDWARDS: Do you want to say anything about contaminated lettuces—fresh produce and all that?

Mr Quinlivan : No. That is not really a plant issue; that is more of either an exports—

Senator EDWARDS: This is the issue with Coles?

Mr Quinlivan : Yes. It is either an exports issue, if we are exporting, which, effectively, we are, or it is an issue about—

Senator EDWARDS: Thanks, that is great. We are good.

CHAIR: We move to Animal Health Australia.