Another day, another Abbott Government back-flip. This time the embarrassment sits squarely with Barnaby Joyce as he today circulated amendments against his own Biosecurity Bills.
This move only occurred in response to Labor amendments circulated earlier today to establish the statutory position of the Inspector-General of Biosecurity.
However, the Government’s new plan to only partially restore the powers of the Inspector-General of Biosecurity does not go far enough.
When I asked the Minister for Agriculture in Question Time yesterday why he had reduced the independent oversight of biosecurity and claimed it was red tape reduction, Barnaby Joyce trivialised my concerns:
“I am not quite sure about the ‘effectively remove’, but we still have an inspector general. We still have one. His name is Bond – not James Bond; it is Michael Bond. He is still here. I checked his health this morning. He is happy, smiling and continuing on with his job”.
House of Representatives Hansard 23 February 2015
We have seen Minister Joyce claim that “Labor was continuing to revel in innuendo, falsehoods and conspiracy theories, including the ludicrous claim that the role had been abolished” yet today we have seen the Minister move his own amendment to ensure that the administrative position is formally established in legislation.
Minister Joyce again is making no sense with his comments or action stating in a medial release that “You can’t save something that is being made even more secure and embedded into the nation’s biosecurity arsenal.” [11 March 2015]
The Government’s original Biosecurity Bills would have dramatically undermined the power, independence and security of tenure of the Inspector-General of Biosecurity.
We can only claim to have a world’s-best biosecurity system if it includes the establishment of the statutory position of the Inspector-General of Biosecurity with all the powers the position had under Labor’s original Bill.
Labor’s amendments will fully restore the statutory position of the Inspector-General consistent with the recommendations of the Beale Review.
Barnaby Joyce has further work to do on the Government’s amendments.