SUBJECTS: Senate Inquiry into independence of APVMA, Migrant settlement in regions.
TIM SHAW: In light of concerns over the use of glyphosate, the Australian Labor Party is calling for a Senate Inquiry. It says it’s critical that Australians have confidence in the regulation of agricultural chemicals and animal medicines and particularly in the independence of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary and Medicines Authority. Now the APVMA, controversially moved out of Canberra, and what - sent off to where? Armidale, oh yeah. Why did they do that? Well that was Deputy Prime Minister of the day Barnaby Joyce, the then leader of the National Party. Very clear that Joel Fitzgibbon the Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry wasn’t happy about that decision. He is also Shadow Minister for Rural and Regional Australia and he knows how important it is that these kind of agencies are delivering the services that regional and rural Australians demand and need. I’m pleased to say Joel Fitzgibbon is on the line. Good morning.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: Great to be with you Tim.
SHAW: Senate inquiry, tell us why.
FITZGIBBON: Well we will initiate the Senate Inquiry and I have no doubt we will have the support of other Senators to do so and arguably the APVMA is amongst our most critical regulators in this country. I mean it takes care of our human health and it makes sure that the chemical sprays used on the food we produce is safe when we consume that food. It makes sure that the veterinary products our vets use on our companion animals is safe for our companion animals. It makes sure that we maintain our integrity as an exporter of our food in those Asian markets where they expect our food to be clean and green so this is a critical entity and we want to make sure that people have ongoing confidence in the authority’s ability to do that work and the Four Corners program last night will no doubt have the effect of undermining people’s confidence in its ability to do that work and of course I am very, very strongly of the belief that the forced relocation of the APVMA to Barnaby Joyce’s electorate is undermining that capacity.
SHAW: Alright I want to get clear on this, now there was a part in the program that said National Party and the Australian Labor Party had received financial benefit from organisations that are lobby groups, allegedly CropLife and others, they say no, it is not cash donations for political favour, we support events that particularly Labor or the Nationals are running. How linked is the lobby industry, particularly with association to Monsanto and Bayer and what disclosures we got out of the Four Corners program about glyphosate, also known as RoundUp, how concerned are you there is allegations that hundreds and hundreds of tests have not necessarily been as independent as they should have been?
FITZGIBBON: Political donations are part of our democratic landscape Tim, and in recent years the Labor Party has been calling for a number of policy reforms to tidy that system up, including of course addressing foreign donations. But I think the more important charge here was the suggestion that, because it is the industry itself that funds the operation of the APVMA, therefore the APVMA doesn’t really have independence from the people submitting their chemicals to them for consideration. And I do think that is an issue we need to reflect upon within the Senate Inquiry.
SHAW: I think you are right too about food safety, particularly in regard to companion animals. Just a quick one, new migrants to be forced to live outside Sydney and Melbourne. Does Labor support the idea of a visa around a five year requirement that if you come to Australia, you will live where we tell you but it won’t be in Sydney or Melbourne? What is Labor’s policy view there?
FITZGIBBON: No detail again Tim on this story put out there this morning. We have enormous workforce shortage issues out there in regional Australia, in horticulture in particular. Made worse by this Government’s backpacker tax, which is driving backpackers away. But these programs can work when the communities want to be engaged in the program, where we have the infrastructure to support the new arrivals, where we have got good health and education systems so they want to stay in the regions. Because we can’t make them stay in the regions – they have to want to be there. So we need to be able to provide them facilities, the community needs to want them to be there and they need to be welcomed into the local communities and of course we have got to get migrant settlement programs et cetera right, properly resourced, visa programs which this Government has been cutting resources to in recent years.
SHAW: Always a pleasure to speak with you, thank you for being there this morning Joel Fitzgibbon.
FITZGIBBON: Good on you Tim.