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Fire blight could follow horse flu.

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MEDIA RELEASE FF/38. Monday September 3, 2007

FIRE BLIGHT COULD FOLLOW HORSE FLU Fire blight could be introduced to Australia just as easily as horse flu was, Family First leader Steve Fielding warned today.

The Victorian Senator said the outbreak of horse flu reinforces concerns the Federal Government’s quarantine standards may not be strict enough to prevent an outbreak of fire blight next year when apples are imported from New Zealand, which has been ravaged by the bacterial disease.

Family First has criticised the government’s decision to risk Australia’s $450 million apple and pear industry, and hundreds of thousands of growers’ livelihoods, by allowing potentially infected apples into Australia.

“Unlike horse flu, fire blight is permanent,” Senator Fielding said. “Horse flu has wreaked havoc on the racing industry and the livelihoods of thousands of families. Yet, in time horses will recover and the industry will return to normal.

“But once Australia has fire blight we will never get rid of the disease. It will destroy our apple and pear industry for good.

“Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran is at a loss to explain how horse flu got through Australia’s controls. Yet he has admitted there is a possibility fire blight could be introduced. It is no wonder the apple and pear industry has lost confidence in the Government’s ability to protect their livelihoods.”

Mystery surrounds the spread of fire blight. Scientists can only confirm how nine out of the 48 countries with fire blight were infected with the disease.

Family First supports Apple and Pear Australia, which wants a tougher inspection regime, and shares growers’ fears that biosecurity controls will not protect them.

“I hope the Federal Government has learned from its mistake with horse flu and will not risk this vital industry worth $450 million to Australia and so much more to farming families,” Senator Fielding said.

For media enquiries phone Regional Media Advisor Heidi McIvor on 0432 454 437