Debate resumed from 25 May; motion of Ms ALLAN (Minister for Public Transport).
Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) – When the debate was interrupted for the adjournment last night I was concluding my comments about the traceability of sheep in Australia the need to improve the systems around that and the fact that we do have an electronic system that has been in place for cattle for probably 15 years or more now. There is a paper-based system there for sheep and in my view over time with industry support and with government assistance to cover the cost there needs to be a move to electronic identification of sheep as well to make sure we have that very good traceability in case of a biosecurity outbreak particularly around something like foot-and-mouth disease.
In my contribution last night I went through in detail the issues around the movement of sheep in the UK and the fact that it was sheep and the movement of sheep that actually spread the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001 that led to disastrous effects for the industry there particularly for the people and the economy of the UK.
While saying we need the traceability of sheep in that form there are also significant management benefits for sheep producers and we have seen some very good examples of businesses and families using electronic identification of sheep for management decisions. The de Fegely family in Ararat would be a very good example where they are using that particular technology for management decisions that are helping their business.
It is not going to be the large commercial farmers where there is likely to be a disease outbreak in the future. The real threat in these sorts of circumstances is more around hobby farmers and smaller farmers closer to urban areas. The mob-based system probably works well for the larger operators but not necessarily as well for the smaller hobby farmers and those that might come and go from the livestock industry. So we need to have a system that is there for all livestock producers regardless of the scale of those businesses because as I said I think there is a risk that it will be a smaller farmer that possibly does not necessarily identify what may or may not be happening with their flock and may not necessarily have the appropriate paperwork the appropriate property identification code – the PIC number – and those sorts of things into the future.
In finishing off on the legislation I note we all know how important biosecurity is to Australia and can I actually commend the now Deputy Prime Minister for what he did with Johnny Depp’s dogs.
Honourable members interjecting.
Mr WALSH – People laugh on the other side. I think it has sent a very strong message to the rest of the world that our biosecurity borders are not negotiable. It does not matter if you are a multimillionaire film star and you have your own private jet if you want to bring your two dogs Pistol and Boo into Australia exactly the same rules apply to you in Australia as anyone else. That was a really good message to send through. And I noticed last night or the night before that Johnny Depp was still doing TV shows in the UK complaining about Barnaby Joyce and making I think uninformed and rude comments about Mr Joyce at the time.
It is actually working in Australia’s favour that this issue is still being talked about. I think we have had the best free advertising campaign ever that says that Australia’s biosecurity rules are non-negotiable. It has been great. Everyone now knows through social media and the mainstream media that if you bring a dog into Australia or do something wrong to breach Australia’s biosecurity the law will apply to you no matter who you are. As Barnaby said of the video that Johnny Depp and Amber Heard had to do as an apology as part of their conviction by a Queensland court if that was his best acting ability I wonder why anyone ever pays Johnny Depp to do it. If that was his best acting ability it was very very poor. Barnaby made a comment at a function I was recently at. He said to me that Johnny Depp looked like a kidnap victim who was making a video to try to get let out of that particular situation. He looked so guilty over what he had actually done in that particular issue.
When we talk about biosecurity and the things that this bill does it is important to remember that our biosecurity laws in Australia are non-negotiable. We have a responsibility whichever side of the house we sit on to make sure we maintain a disease-free status in a whole range of areas. We are very fortunate in one way because we are an island country. We have our national borders and we have a lot of sea surrounding us. There are the risks of threats from Papua New Guinea and Indonesia which are relatively close by sea. There are a number of significant diseases in those countries and there is always the risk that they can be brought across by people who want to breach our biosecurity laws but in general being an island state helps us.
To finish off I say ‘Well done Barnaby Joyce’. It does not matter who they are the rules apply to them and I think you did a fantastic job in promoting to the rest of the world that our biosecurity is non-negotiable. The opposition is not opposing this particular piece of legislation. As I said there are not many pages and there is not a large number of clauses but there are things in it that are very important to industries that are worth billions and billions of dollars to Australia.