Plant Health (Pest Affected Plants) Amendment Bill | SPEECH

29Apr

Second Reading

Adjourned debate on second reading.

(Continued from 8 April 2020.)

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart—Minister for Energy and Mining) (11:18): I rise to speak on behalf of my electorate on this bill from the member for Florey, who no doubt has put a lot of consideration into it and is representing her electorate as she sees fit, and we all respect that. However, I do not support this bill and neither does our government. I look forward to hearing the Minister for Primary Industries’ contribution on this bill. He is somebody who knows an enormous amount about this topic not only through his role as minister but also through his role as the member for Chaffey.

The electorate of Chaffey is not the only one affected by incursions of fruit fly and other plant and animal risks. In fact, it would be fair to say that our entire state is affected, although many people do not actually realise this. But the electorate of Chaffey, through its incredibly highly productive citrus, grape, almond and other industries, is very affected. I look forward to hearing the member for Chaffey’s contribution, which will be far more detailed than mine.

On behalf of the electorate of Stuart, let me say that it might seem to people in the city that this is not a particularly important issue, but it actually is. Everybody who wants to be able to consume clean, green, healthy, ideally locally grown produce should have an interest in this. It might also seem a little bit far-fetched to be claiming too great a connection from the electorate of Stuart, but one of our border crossing protection areas is actually in the electorate of Stuart, at Oodla Wirra, on the Barrier Highway, dealing with people coming from New South Wales. This is a very real issue and there are people in the Peterborough area who are particularly concerned about this issue as well: olive growers in that district, among others.

I have great sympathy for the essence of what the member for Florey is putting forward, which is: if you make a genuine mistake, you are not quite aware, it is a small error, it was not a deliberate thing, you are not a bad person trying to do a bad thing, maybe there should be some more leniency. I do have sympathy for that, but the reality is that this is such an important issue that we just cannot take any chances. Our government has been very firm and our minister has been very firm on a zero tolerance approach.

I accept that a zero tolerance approach may well have some unintended consequences, but I think the responsibility to avoid those unintended consequences is not with this parliament and it is not with this government. The responsibility for avoiding those unintended consequences is with the people coming into South Australia and the people crossing between regions in South Australia, informing themselves of the need to do the right thing in this area.

At the moment, in the Adelaide metropolitan area we have five areas affected by outbreaks. Not long ago, the Minister for Primary Industries showed me a map as part of a totally different conversation that showed five areas in the metro area and then a massive exclusion area covering most of the metropolitan area—certainly most of the north and the west and a bit of the south and a bit of the east—surrounding those five areas, which are all adjacent to each other. This has a massive impact for people just with their backyard gardens, which is very important, but more importantly, our commercial producers. We must protect our commercial producers.

If we want to consume locally produced, high-quality produce and if we want to export locally produced high-quality produce interstate and overseas then we need to do everything that we possibly can to protect our growers and our reputation, because this is not something that you can just deal with and say, ‘We had a few rough years with fruit fly or some other type of pest. Yes, it sort of decimated our crops, but we will bounce back.’ It is nothing like that. This is not something that you bounce back from.

That is why when there is an outbreak, when there is an incursion, the government and PIRSA get onto it instantly, as fast as they possibly can. If we let this issue get out of hand, we will suffer the same fate as other states and other nations have around the world. We are relatively advantaged compared with those places that would like to produce in competition with us, but just cannot. We cannot let this go.

Having a person turn up at the border and say, ‘I am sorry, I forgot,’ or, ‘I didn’t know,’ or, ‘I threw out some fruit at the bin down the road, but I didn’t see all of it in my fridge or esky or in a bag in the back seat’ might seem like a small thing, but it is not a small thing. This is not one of those situations where you can say, ‘Look, I just didn’t know, so here it is.’ It is a very thin sliver between, ‘I didn’t know, yes you found it, thank you and here it is,’ to just passing right through with that fruit. It is something that is just not acceptable.

Rather than support this bill, responsibility needs to be taken by people travelling into South Australia from interstate and within South Australia between important producing regions. People must learn these rules, people must understand what they can and cannot do in this area. People need to take responsibility when they cross borders, whether they be intrastate borders or interstate borders, and come into the regions in South Australia that need these protections, and they need to know they cannot bring prohibited items with them into the state.

For those who have travelled across borders many times, as I have, in some places there is a bin, and in some places there is a checking station. There is a range of different ways it can be done, and you will find the same in other states. If you ever go on the ferry to Tasmania you will find one of the most thorough search processes you could imagine, because in that state they consider their primary production to be incredibly important and they want to protect it—just as we do in South Australia.

I am not just talking about this in theory or on behalf of my electorate in a very general way. On a personal level I can tell members that my wife and I, when travelling interstate, once sat on the side of the road at the bin for nearly an hour. My wife had legally and appropriately purchased some potatoes interstate, and she knew that the law was that if she had bought them from a supermarket and had a receipt she could bring them interstate in the original packaging. I said, ‘That’s fantastic, you’re 100 per cent right. The problem is you don’t have the receipt. The potatoes are not coming into South Australia.’ I still suffer from that conversation from time to time.

Mr Pederick interjecting:

The Hon. D.C. VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN: There is nothing I could say in this place that would get me into more strife than I am in already on this topic. I can say that I personally feel very strongly about this issue, so much so that I found myself in the situation I just described.

This is critical. People need to know the rules and people need to follow the rules. There are signs all over the highway, there are pamphlets and brochures and things all over the place. It is something that as a five year old in the back seat of the family car, driving around the place, you picked up on and started to realise, just by looking around and seeing what your parents were doing, that you were not allowed to take some fruit and vegetables and other things across state borders.

You get your driver’s licence and become the person responsible for yourself and others moving around in this way, and it is your responsibility to know what the rules are. It is your responsibility to follow the rules—and it is the government’s responsibility to enforce the rules. As I said, I have sympathy for the efforts of the member for Florey in this area, but I think the topic is so critically important to the livelihood of South Australian producers, to consumers who want to consume local, high-quality produce, and to our economy that we cannot support this bill.