Mention giant panda snails to a kid (or a writer) and they’ll have a far more whimsical idea in their mind that a biosecurity officer will. Unfortunately, the reality of giant panda snails, and other such pests, is far from whimsical. And, while Australia needs to be protected from harmful bio-threats, we also need to ensure any legislation passed is fair for the humans who might be affected.
Draft biosecurity bill released by Tasmanian government
Public consultation has just ended on a bill proposed by the Tasmanian government which contains revisions to the state’s biosecurity framework. In one of the longest sentences ever constructed, the bill claims to:
“Protect and enhance Tasmania’s biosecurity status for the benefit of Tasmania’s industries, environment and public well-being, health, amenity and safety through a timely, effective and proportionate biosecurity management system that operates across the biosecurity continuum, is founded on evidence-based risk assessment and facilitates and promotes shared responsibility.”
It also purports to adhere to the 2013-2017 Tasmanian Biosecurity Strategy which demands:
- Appropriate levels of protection;
- Least-restrictive sanitary and phytosanitary measures;
- Evidence-based risk analysis;
- Regional difference in risk status;
- Risk-based resource allocation;
- Cost-benefit decision-making on control and eradication;
- Whole-of-government approach to biosecurity;
- Shared responsibilities.
Why some farmers are already expressing concern
The part about “cost benefit decision-making on control and eradication” is a worry in the minds of many farmers. Because it carries the implication that if it’s going to be more cost-effective for the government to simply wipe out your crop than test the lot of it for contaminants, then they have that right.
As we saw in Western Australia with the tomato potato psyllid outbreak, to lose an entire crop is a devastating blow for any producer, regardless of the field you’re in. And it’s not just farmers who’ll be affected by the new legislation. Beekeepers, fruit growers, nurseries, the coffee industry and seafood industries will all be impacted.
Chairwoman of of the Primary Industries Biosecurity Action Alliance (PIBAA), Dixie Emmerton, explained to the ABC:
“There are some changes that may create abilities to undertake actions where they may not be scientifically based and they may not be skilled to actually do those things. The impact to our small farmers could be quite serious, and quite serious to our communities.”
While the bill is still in draft form, the time frame for submission has ended with the government providing a 42 day period (from 21 April – 2 June 2017) for people to traverse the 311 page document and tender their responses.