SUBJECT/S: Government abolishing National Produce Monitoring Scheme; Hansard

JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE AND RURAL AFFAIRS:  Well the revelations this morning that the Government has abolished the National Produce Monitoring Scheme will send a shiver up the spine of every Australian consumer of fresh produce.  In the wake of the berries contamination scare, Australian consumers are looking for reassurance that the food they are eating is safe and yet the Government, as a savings measure, has abolished a scheme designed to fill an identified gap, a gap which could lead to people consuming fresh produce that has a higher residue of chemicals than is accepted.  Barnaby Joyce needs to be doing much better than describing this as a savings scheme.  I would have thought that food safety would be the last place the Government would go looking for a savings. This of course comes on the back of “Hansard-gate”, it wasn’t good enough for Barnaby Joyce yesterday to avoid the questions I put to him.  He needs to tell us what was said and what took place in that meeting between him and Dr Grimes.  It is very clear, based on Dr Grimes own words, that the meeting was very much about Barnaby’s changes to his Hansard and what he’d told the House of Representatives.  It is time for him to fess up.

JOURNALIST:  How important is that monitoring service for issues like frozen berries?  Can you just specify [inaudible]

FITZGIBBON:  Well there are a number of systems, this was a system put in place to run a 5 year program to test residues on smaller amounts of produce: small farms; produce that is typically bought at market gardens, for example.  Now it was important enough for SCOPI, the COAG Committee, to agree on the funding program and on the data testing and yet one year into the program, as a savings measure, this Abbott Government has decided to abolish the program.

JOURNALIST:  But did it test anything coming from overseas?

FITZGIBBON:  No it was a domestic program to ensure that the much needed chemicals our farmers use, aren’t being used in a way that might pose a food threat.  Generally in Australia we have very very high standards but we need to know it is working.  What really concerns me as I understand it is that the Government hasn’t released the data collected in the first year of the survey.  Now I am not into conspiracy theories, but some people might be asking whether the data collected has somehow influenced the Government’s decision to abolish the program.  Thank you.

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