National Farmers' Federation

Varroa mite decision requires response

Today the National Farmers’ Federation Horticulture Council is calling on the Albanese Government to respond to the decision to stop the Varroa Mite eradication effort with a clear commitment to conclude its review of the legality of levying containerised cargo under international law before the end of the year.

Council Chair Jolyon Burnett said while a funding increase for biosecurity activities was welcomed as part of the last Federal budget, it is abundantly clear more support for the biosecurity system will be required.

“The Varroa Mite cat is now out of the bag in Australia, and there’s no putting it back in. This is devastating for the apiarists who are now faced with living with a pest that has fundamentally changed the beekeeping industry wherever it has been endemic overseas,” he said.

“It’s also going to have significant impacts on the commercial horticulture industry and many unforeseen consequences for the wider agricultural industry and food supply.

“But we should be under no illusion this incursion will be the last. We have no time to spare in investing in our system, to keep other threats out of the country and to prepare for the next emergency response.

“The most comprehensive review of our biosecurity system and its funding arrangements was led by eminent Australian scientist Wendy Craik and reported back in 2017. One of its leading recommendations on funding was the creation of a charge on containerised cargo arriving by sea as a primary risk creator for our biosecurity system.

“It’s a recommendation the last Coalition Government committed to before buckling, presumably under pressure from importing industries.

“It’s now a recommendation the current Albanese Government is at risk of kicking down the road or dodging altogether.

“By all means test its consistency with international obligations, but if its good enough for Wendy Craik to recommend and the last government agree to, then we can’t see why a review shouldn’t be finished before the end of 2023.

“Any lack of urgency from government to review the cargo charge will be compared unfavourably by farmers with the government’s rush to design and impose a new biosecurity levy on industry from July next year.”