The Greens have called on the Government to act on the recommendations of a Senate Committee and establish an independent statutory body to oversee quarantine and biosecurity policy and operations.
The Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee today has handed down a report examining the biosecurity threats posed by imports of Fijian ginger, New Zealand potatoes and Malaysian pineapples.
"Growers are rightly concerned about biosecurity threats, and the Senate Report shows that these concerns are justified. The Committee has found weaknesses in current risk assessments and testing for diseases," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens agriculture spokesperson said today.
"The committee has recommended the creation of a single, independent, statutory authority - separate from the Department of Agriculture - with responsibility for quarantine and biosecurity policy and operations. They have also recommended that the Government ensures Australia's import risk analysis process is consultative, scientifically based, politically independent and transparent,
"Clearly the Government needs to make a far stronger commitment to biosecurity than we've seen in their first six months, during which time front line border compliance jobs have already been lost, making a mockery of the government's other election promise to develop a $20 million biosecurity flying squad.
"On top of this, there are serious concerns that biosecurity issues are being overlooked as part of secretive TPP negotiations. Any agreement that weakens biosecurity poses a serious threat to Australia's agriculture.
"Protecting our crops, animals and native species from invasive pests is crucial to our long term food security, our environmental management and the long term security of the agricultural sector.
"The Greens policy calls for the establishment of a National Biosecurity Commission and National Biosecurity Authority to help protect Australia's agriculture. The Authority, a statutory, independent and expertise-based organisation, would be tasked with the day-to-day management of Australia's national biosecurity system and would advise the Commission, which would be charged with making the key decisions to best protect Australia.
"The Federal Government needs to work with the Department of Agriculture and industry to implement the recommendations of this Inquiry and ensure farmers and growers across Australia are protected," Senator Siewert concluded.