03 JULY 2014: KAP Leader and Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter has put a question with notice to the Minister of Agriculture in relation to the importation of grapes from California. Grapevines throughout the California, USA grape growing regions are known to have been affected by the Red Blotch Virus.

Mr Katter has questioned the lack of action taken by the government in relation to this issue, which could see large scale consequences to the crops of Australian growers.

“Would the Minister please explain why imports of grapes from California have not been halted?” Mr Katter said.

Australian officials have made a judgment call on Red Blotch virus, and concluded that it would not affect Australian growers.

“The Government was warned again and again, that if they allowed imported prawns into Australia, we would get the diseases in, the Government ignored these warnings and low and behold – the disease spread into Australia.

“The AQIS senior management in Canberra would have to be the most irresponsible people in this country. Citrus Canker, Fire Blight, Black Sigatoka, all diseases rampant in Australia, because of the criminal irresponsibility of AQIS senior management.

“They have given import licenses for Foot and Mouth Disease from Brazil and the same thing will happen with the Red Blotch virus if the imports are not halted” Mr Katter said.

Red Blotch virus is a new virus of unknown consequences, and it appears this has been overlooked when assessing the risk the importation of these grapes holds to biosecurity, not to mention the costs involved in containing the problem.

“Each of these outbreaks cost this nation upwards of $100m and there are many more outbreaks that are utterly irresponsible. The Government is not protecting this nation, they sacrifice the biosecurity of this nation, plant and flora on the altar of their new god – Free Trade” Mr Katter said.

Mr Katter is unsure why the importation of grapes has not been halted and wants the Government to guarantee that Australia’s grape growing industry is not at risk from this disease, nor any other farming industry.

Question with notice to the Minister for Agriculture:

Given the serious biosecurity threat to Australia’s grape industry from ‘Red Blotch’ disease as a result of Australia importing grapes from California, would the Minister please explain why imports of grapes from California have not been halted until every guarantee can be made that Australia’s grape industry is not at risk from this disease?