The Abbott Government’s back down on its attempt to abolish the independent Inspector General of Biosecurity appears complete.
Following strong opposition by Labor and minor parties in the Senate, Barnaby Joyce has been forced to admit that he got it wrong and has introduced amendments to his own legislation to restore the independence and powers to the Inspector-General’s position.
Yesterday in an attempt to avoid embarrassment and under the cover of today’s Budget, Parliamentary Secretary Richard Colbeck provided certain assurances about the Government’s amendments to the Senate including that:
“The Inspector-General will be appointed by the Agriculture Minister and report directly to the Minister, ensuring the position remains independent from regulatory functions of the Department of Agriculture. The Government amendment also provides that the Inspector-General may compel a person to provide information and documents or to answer questions relevant to a review. This is crucial to the Inspector-General's ability to review the performance of functions and the exercise of powers by biosecurity officials. The Director of Biosecurity would also be required to comply with any reasonable request from the Inspector-General for assistance for the purpose of conducting a review”.
Labor’s 2012 Bill had contained these guarantees but lapsed due to the 2013 election.
Labor welcomes Barnaby Joyce’s backflip on re-instating this important role which will ensure a stronger biosecurity framework, but calls on him to provide an explanation as to why he originally tried to remove the independent oversight of the Inspector General.
As a result of the Abbott Government’s back down Labor withdraws its amendments to make way for the passage of the Bill.
TUESDAY, 12 MAY 2015