The Abbott Government must explain why it is abolishing the position of Inspector General for Biosecurity, in light of the imported berry contamination.

Barnaby Joyce has introduced legislation into the Parliament that will see the position abolished, with the interim-Inspector General’s contract expiring on 1 July this year.

Following this week’s extremely concerning berry contamination, Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce should reverse their decision to abolish the position of Inspector General for Biosecurity immediately.

Abolishing this critical position is incredibly reckless – Australia’s biosecurity systems must be as secure as possible.

Tony Abbott and Barnaby Joyce are putting their determination to cut services and important supervisory bodies ahead of the health and well-being of Australians.

Established by the former Labor Government in July 2013, the Inspector General provides independent oversight and is able to independently investigate any failings within the biosecurity system through a statutory office.

It is the independent cop on the beat with broad audit and review powers – under the Abbott Government’s legislation before the Parliament, Barnaby Joyce is handed effective responsibility for biosecurity issues, rather than the independent authority. 

Australians will be alarmed at this development, given Minister Joyce was clearly unable to answer questions from the media today about the Hepatitis A outbreak this morning.

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  • Gillian Quinn
    commented 2015-02-19 23:37:07 +1100
    Yes we do need a solid Biosecurity Agency. Self regulation when importing foods does not always result in positive outcomes. I imagine that Abbott’s argument is that there is overlap and duplication with state agencies like SafeFood Queensland who look after food production and food processing in the state, with emphasis on eggs, meat, dairy and seafood. Then the argument will continue, there is AQIS, which ensures that nothing bad gets into the country. Perhaps instead of cutting a service, there needs to be rationalisation and a good look at how food safety and food quality is managed in Australia. All the services are disjointed and yes there is overlap and there are holes.
    The hole we uncovered in the berry outbreak of Hep A is that AQIS is interested in pesticide levels and does not, it seems, have any interet in food poisoning pathogens.

    The importer should have obtained a Certificate of Analysis for the berry shipment. That is supplied by the exporter in China and the tests that were performed are stated by the Aussie importer. So, did they ask for Hep A to be tested for? Of course not, because there is no record of Hep A in berry shipments from China previously.

    But maybe a Biosecurity Agency would monitor and research the incidence of Hep A and other pathogens in Chinese grown foods? Then they could recommend that Hep A be added to the C of A. Yes it is a difficult and expensive test, but it can be done.

    Together with FSANZ, Biosecurity should provide up to date information to growers, processors and importers in order to keep food grown here or imported from countries who have high incidences of food borne disease eg China, USA. Unless someone in authority recommends that Hep A be added to a C of A, or that there are outbreaks of certain food borne pathogens in certain countries or areas, no one will know to add them to the C of A so they will be tested for, before the product is shipped.

    It is about research, monitoring, communication and timely advice. We don’t need Biosecurity scrapped, just streamlined with good connections with AQIS and the SafeFood agencies in each state.
  • Marion Poke
    commented 2015-02-19 17:03:08 +1100
    This govt of buffoons are wrecking this country and all the safeguards we had in place for defence against incidents like this latest.. frozen fruit that gets fed to children and the elderly as “healthy” food is only fit for the tip.
    Should NEVER have been allowed in and this govt is removing even more safeguards..
    We should be able to charge them for treasonable acts
  • Tim Bateson
    commented 2015-02-18 17:44:58 +1100
    Why are people still surprised by this shite? Abbott and his billionaire mates won’t quite be satisfied until every consumer safeguard, every union and every single community based initiative is dead and buried. Their Tea Party bullshit has been transplanted here by right wing corporate interest groups and the LNP are so corrupt they’re happy to propagate the Libertarian garbage just to line their own pockets.