House of Representative speech - White Spot biosecurity - Wednesday, 24 May 2017

In Senate estimates this morning we learnt more about the seriousness of the outbreak of white spot disease in the Australian prawn sector, a failing which is costing farmers tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars. 

We also learnt more about the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources' failings on this issue. His department first took action on the outbreak of this dreaded disease in March 2016, but the minister knew nothing about it until almost 12 months later.

This is the most serious breach of our biosecurity system in decades. Our key competitive advantage as an exporter is our reputation as a provider of clean, green, safe produce; therefore, there is nothing more important for an agriculture minister than ensuring that regime is the strongest it can possibly be.

The minister for agriculture was pretty quick to run to the cameras as soon as he heard about Johnny Depp's dogs. He saw political opportunity in Johnny Depp's dogs—an issue which had already been adequately handled by the department—but when it comes to this serious biosecurity breach, which is so impacting on prawn farmers in this country, Barnaby Joyce is nowhere to be seen. He is completely missing in action. There is no run to the cameras; there is only silence from the minister.

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