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Science will decide NZ apple request.

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Home | Media Releases DAFF04/292WT - 13 October 2004

Science will decide NZ apple request

Australian Agriculture Minister Warren Truss says he has assured his New Zealand counterpart that any decision on a request to import apples into Australia from that country would be made on the basis of science at arms length from the political process.

Mr Truss took a call from NZ Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton yesterday about Australia’s current ban on imports of NZ apples.

“Trade and political concerns will not be allowed to influence quarantine decisions under The Coalition Government,” Mr Truss said.

“I have given the New Zealand Government the same assurances that I have given Australian farmers — that sound science will be the basis for quarantine advice provided by Biosecurity Australia and subsequent import decisions made by the statutory office of Director of Quarantine.

“The Coalition Government takes quarantine and border protection seriously, and imports are only ever permitted if, after an exhaustive examination, Australian scientists are satisfied that appropriate quarantine measures can be implemented to protect Australia’s farmers, and unique native plants and animals, from pests and diseases.

“The Coalition’s election policy is clear. The re-elected Coalition Government will maintain a science-based import risk assessment (IRA) process and further increase the integrity and independence of Biosecurity Australia.

“Biosecurity Australia will be established as a prescribed agency, giving it financial independence from Australian Government departments.

“And the IRA framework, as set out in the IRA handbook, will be set in regulation.”

The new prescribed agency will manage the work of the risk assessment panels already

under way. It will scientifically examine all IRAs currently under development (including NZ apples) and will re-issue these IRAs for public comment and consultation. These changes may slow down some of the final decisions, but they will not soften the emphasis on sound science in addressing the issues.

“The new arrangements will give all stakeholders, including New Zealand, the opportunity to comment afresh on IRAs already under way, illustrating the transparency and rigour of Australia’s science-based quarantine policy,” Mr Truss said.

“High levels of science-based quarantine intervention at our borders are essential to ensure and protect Australia’s unique pest and disease free status and to enable continued access to world markets for our own products.”

Further media inquiries:

Minister Truss' office: Tim Langmead - 02 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433

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