Home' Grower : February 2012 Contents Stand-off over
The South Australian Grower -- February 2012
Sen Nick Xenophon, pictured with CEO of the Adelaide Produce Market Angelo
Demasi, says the states need to "fill the gap" left by the Federal Government's
failure to defend strict quarantine laws.
INDEPENDENT Senator Nick Xenophon wants the Federal
Parliment to 'revisit' his Quarantine Amendment
(Disallowing Permits) Bill 2011.
Adjourned in November during its second reading when
time lapsed, the proposed legislation -- if passed -- would
require Biosecurity Australia to table a declaration of risk
analysis of any product it approved for importation.
The bill received support from Senators Barnaby Joyce
(Nationals) and Christine Milne (Greens), with a raft of
government members -- two from Tasmania -- saying it
would be unworkable and act to disadvantage trade.
But the 'dilemma' for parliament debating issues of
quarantine and trade, when considering proposed
Bans fraught with danger
AUSTRALIAN apple growers would
have to base a case for exclusion of
New Zealand fruit on a strong
regulatory system "with science on
its side", according to the Dean of
Law at University of Adelaide John
He said Section 92 of the
Constitution guaranteed free trade
between states and that would
always be a major obstacle to
overcome against imported products
arriving at a major port for ongoing
"If NZ apples are landed in Sydney
and Coles or Woolworths decide to
send them to another state, it would
be very difficult to prevent their entry
just by imposing a blanket ban," Prof
"The reasons (to stop their
importation) would have to be
appropriate, based on the health of
orchards (or similar).
"A regulatory scheme that's 'real'
would need to be in place."
Prof Williams said "the least
intrusive way" of doing this could be
defining reasons why imported apples
were a danger if allowed near
orchards in the growing regions --
supported by science -- rather than
attempting to restrict access to city
"I suspect the very science
presented to exclude apples is the
same as that used to let them in," he
"As soon as it starts to look like
what it is -- preventing competition --
there's a problem."
Prof Williams said the argument of
NZ growers would no doubt be that a
licence had been granted by the
Federal Government allowing them to
import apples to Australia -- following
interpretation of the WTO ruling -- and
that Commonwealth laws overrode
those of the states where there was
legislation to protect Australia's agriculture, was left to
president of the powerful Rural Affairs and Transport
Committee, Sen Bill Heffernan.
"This bill presents the chamber and the parliament with a
dilemma, because there are instances in trade where politics
has got in the road of good judgment and maybe we need to
think about a last-resort tool to prevent something stupid
happening because of political intervention," he said.
"The danger with this bill is that if we present ourselves
to the rest of the world as being prepared to use politics,
instead of science, then we open up the era of game-
playing -- and I think we would easily lose that game ....
New Zealand do not have a substantial pear industry
because they have fireblight. We have a huge pear industry,
and that is the reason they do not have one. You cannot buy
a New Zealand pear, because fireblight is now endemic.
"There is no protection scheme in Australia. When we
started off with the science on this we had a final import
risk analysis of the importation of NZ apples which said:
'We accept that under this import risk analysis fireblight
will enter Australia if we let the apples in.'
"That is what the analysis said, using the best of
science. It went on to say 'But we don't think it will get
out into the orchards.'
"There was a precautionary principle behind that -- and
there is no politics in this; it has been difficult for
everyone, and I gave my own mob, when we were in
government, as hard a time as anyone ... now we have
switched to risk management.
"With NZ apples, we have done away with the
biosecurity provisions in our trade arrangements and
moved to farm management practices.
"When the committee that I chair was going to NZ -- and
when I eventually told them what to do -- they were told
we could not go and have a look at NZ farm management
practices because there is too much human failure in farm
management practices. Every farm has a different
practice and there are rorts built into the system now."
By PETER BRADY
THE firm stand being taken by Tasmania
against the importation of New Zealand
apples has left the Federal Government with
two major headaches.
Having watched Biosecurity Australia officials sub-
jected to gr uelling interrogation last year at a Senate
inquiry and putting on a brave face as major produce
markets around the country made it clear they would
reject fruit from across the Tasman, Trade Minister
Craig Emerson now faces the prospect of a High
Court challenge and a threat to Australian exports.
While he says NZ can only retaliate if free trade
rules are broken, industry obser vers say Mr
Emerson knows that is tantamount to what is hap-
And chief executive of Pip Fr uit NZ Peter Beaven
refuses to budge on what he believes is clear cut:
the buck stops with the Federal Government.
"The Australian government must meet its inter-
national (World Trade Organisation) obligations,"
"They have to have a conversation with the
Tasmanian government ... the onus is on them."
Mr Beaven said NZ growers were disappointed
that Tasmania was allowed to flout a WTO ruling
to allow their apples into Australia.
He said Apple and Pear Australia submissions
that had attempted to prove widespread risk of
fireblight infestation had been rejected by an
expert WTO panel.
"But from a trade perspective, the Tasmanian
government is taking a very narrow view," Mr
"A huge amount of produce comes into NZ
from Australia ... and pre-clearance inspections are
absolutely standard for a whole lot of produce
across the Tasman.
"There is absolutely no difference, whether it's
kiwifr uit, grapes, Australian pears (to NZ), it's the
same across a full range of produce."
Tasmanian growers, however, remain committed
to a state government decision to ban NZ apples,
regardless of any threats to trade relations.
Fruit Growers Tasmania business development
manager Lucy Gregg publicly backed the state's
Primary Industries Minister Bryan Green's deci-
sion. She said NZ should understand Tasmania's
position because it also relied heavily on horticul-
"This does raise the issue, from a federal perspec-
tive, of regional harmonisation within quarantine
Science takes 'back seat' to policies,
dubious farm management practices
Greater implications for Aust agriculture
APAL supports 'legal' protest
NZ defends vineyard practice
AT A GLANCE
Maybe SA should revisit exclusion
zones (a policy of former
Agriculture Minister Michael
O'Brien) ... and if Tasmania can
make a case, they should pursue it
Biosecurity risks significant: APAL
PRECISION - QUALITY - TRADITION
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