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NZ apple decision: free trade gone mad.

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Peter Andren MP - Independent Member for Calare

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1 March 2007

NZ apple decision: free trade gone mad

The Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries must use his authority under the Quarantine Act 1908 to overturn Biosecurity Australia’s decision to allow the importation of New Zealand apples, according to Peter Andren, Member for Calare.

“Biosecurity Australia this week rejected growers’ final appeals against the importation of NZ apples due to the risk of fire blight disease to Australia’s orchards, believing the risk of the disease breaking out here is low,” Mr Andren said.

“This is free trade gone mad.

“Our growers know that chlorine dipping, orchard inspections and random post-packing inspection of a sample of imported fruit does not guarantee that fire blight will not take hold here.

“Fire blight has never been eradicated from those countries unfortunate enough to have had an outbreak and it has devastated apple growing areas in the United States.

“Quarantine laws are not trade barriers. They are about keeping our produce disease free. The fact our fruit and veges are disease free is what makes them so sought after in overseas markets.

“Minister Peter McGauran recognised this in his 18 October 2006 press release on improving the risk assessment process: ‘Our quarantine status is a major asset for Australia and one we must protect and safeguard’.

“I call on the Minister to use his authority under Section 8B of the Quarantine Act 1908, which puts him above the Director of Plant and Animal Quarantine and Chief Quarantine officers in the decision making chain, to overturn this decision and uphold our disease-free status.

“Under sections 13(d) and (e), the Governor General can also prohibit the importation of “any substance, article or thing containing, or likely to contain, any disease or pest”.

“The Coalition government should urgently overturn this decision which threatens the competitive advantage our fruit and vege growers have in world markets because of their clean, disease free status,” Mr Andren said.

“Any acceptance of this Biosecurity Australia’s decision would expose the Minister’s alleged defence of Australia’s disease-free status as hollow rhetoric,” he added.

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