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Alarm bells ring again as banana assessment remains uncorrected.



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Gavan O'Connor MP MEMBER FOR CORIO SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES

20 April 2004

ALARM BELLS RING AGAIN AS BANANA ASSESSMENT REMAINS UNCORRECTED.

The failure of the Howard Government to release an amended Philippines banana Import Risk Analysis despite an error in the original assessment being identified and corrected over a month ago raises further concerns about the integrity of the whole process.

Biosecurity Australia released a statement on 17 March conceding that an error had been discovered in the calculations it relied upon to assess the risk of importing the fruit.

In that statement Biosecurity Australia stated that the error had been corrected and its impact on the level of risk associated with the imports had been referred to the Import Risk Assessment Team for advice on what changes might be required to the quarantine measures contained in the draft report released in February.

I am advised that the expert team met two weeks ago, considered the implications of this mistake and provided advice to Biosecurity Australia.

But the Government is yet to release an amended risk analysis.

The Government also continues to deny the industry and other stakeholders access to key data relating to the risks associated with the importation of Philippine bananas.

I am concerned that there is ongoing disagreement within the expert team, and also between the team and Biosecurity Australia, about the integrity of the science the Government is relying on to approve these imports.

It is vital that the basis for that disagreement both within the team and between the team and Biosecurity Australia is fully disclosed.

It is also vital that all data used by Biosecurity Australia in this risk assessment is released as a matter of urgency.

This risk assessment process must be open and transparent, based on science and should not be influenced by political pressure through the World Trade Organisation or any other trade fora.

Contact Gavan O’Connor on 0418 518 528 Bernie Eades on 0419 664 016