Federal budget confirms national biosecurity reform

Posted by Josette Dunn on 14th May 2010

Peak horticulture body Growcom welcomed confirmation by the Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke at the Rural Press Club’s Post-Budget breakfast of some progress on national biosecurity reform and of a fresh approach to national drought policy.

Growcom Chairman John Bishop said he welcomed the Minister’s commitment to the continuation of reforms to national biosecurity policy and the announcement of an additional $20 million in the budget to enhance biosecurity operations within AQIS.

Mr Bishop acknowledged the reforms of the export certification services which were begun last year.

“Any measures which bring about less red tape for exporters without loss of a stringent focus on biosecurity measures required by our overseas markets have to be applauded,” Mr Bishop said.

Mr Bishop also welcomed the pilot of national drought reform measures in Western Australia which will run from 1 July 2010 until 30 June 2011 with bipartisan support from both sides of politics.

He said it was reassuring to see that the federal budget included $400 million to maintain the current regime for those people still in Exceptional Circumstances declared regions and that at the end of these declarations drought assistance would be reviewed under the old rules while the trial was going ahead.

Mr Bishop said the organisation had been calling for many year for a proactive approach to national drought policy which rewarded growers who prepared for drought and it was pleasing to hear Mr Burke agreed with that position.

“The government has grasped the fundamental need to move from reactive (crisis management) to proactive (risk management) national drought policy. Growcom will be watching closely to ensure the needs of irrigated horticulture are adequately addressed in the pilot,” Mr Bishop said.

“Drought for horticulture growers boils down to a shortage of irrigation water. The people who have been arguably the worst hit in the current drought have been irrigators, particularly those with orchards or vineyards.

“It is pleasing that the government will assist growers to put in place measures to prepare for future droughts and downturns, rather than wait for growers to get into crisis and offer interest rate subsidies which may see no overall improvement in an enterprise’s ultimate fate.”

He also welcomed the fact that the government had recognised the flow-on effect of downturns on regional towns with the announcement under the pilot of assistance determined by local needs and offered in partnership with local governments.

Mr Bishop said that Growcom was seeking further details about the $2.042 million allocated in the federal budget last night to be spent over five years for ‘enhanced and amalgamated mediation services’ for the mandatory Horticulture Code of Conduct, shared with the Franchising Code of Conduct, the Oilcode and the Produce and Grocery Industry Code of Conduct.