Mr PASIN (Barker) (16:45): Mr Speaker, you know that I’ve often spoken in this place about the Riverland and its citrus industry. It’s an industry worth $1.3 billion per year to the South Australian economy and it will be instrumental nationally if we are to meet agriculture’s aim of $100 billion by 2030. Part of the reason for this success is that the Riverland was declared a regulated, pest-free area more than 20 years ago. This pest-free area status means that produce from the Riverland can be shipped directly to international markets who recognise this PFA status without the need for disinfestation treatments for fruit fly, reducing costs and delays for producers and exporters right across the supply chain. It’s estimated that $4.2 million is saved in a normal year in the citrus industry in South Australia by avoiding the need for cold and chemical treatments.
Riverland citrus is exported to premium international markets like the US, Thailand, Japan and New Zealand. These markets would not be accessible without additional treatments if South Australia didn’t have it fruit fly-free status. South Australia is the only mainland state recognised as being free from Queensland fruit fly and Mediterranean fruit fly. Mediterranean fruit fly—or medfly as it is commonly known—is a serious horticultural pest in Western Australia. Queensland fruit fly, of course, as the name suggests, is endemic in the eastern states. South Australia sits between Qfly in the eastern states and medfly in the west.
Our local industry has done an amazing job to maintain the pest-free status. Nevertheless, we’re not without our outbreak. Unfortunately, the industry in the Riverland is facing a second season of fruit fly restriction that cost industry hundreds of thousands of dollars. There are currently five outbreaks in the Riverland and 11 outbreaks in Adelaide. Some growers are reporting losses of up to $300,000 in terms of extra costs of treatment and lost markets, while the state government has spent $22 million fighting the outbreaks. It’s in the national interest to protect South Australia from medfly from the west and Qfly from the east to ensure not only that our local industry in South Australia is protected but also that South Australia acts as a buffer between these two and their respective endemic flies.
The South Australian industry and government have carried the burden of this issue for a long time, both protecting the industry from outbreaks and eradicating the pest when outbreaks occur. Phytosanitary measures that are undertaken to protect South Australia from fruit fly include maintaining and monitoring a surveillance network of thousands of traps across the state with over 100,000 visits to those traps by inspectors; biosecurity control measures; numerous quarantine stations; regularly serviced quarantine bins; random roadblocks; and regular audits of certified businesses importing fruit fly host produce into the state. We also of course have the National Sterile Insect Technology Facility, a world-leading national sterile insect technology, SIT, facility in Port Augusta.
South Australia is leading the charge in the fight against fruit fly. We’ve done a good job to date but we need a much more coordinated approach. In fact, we need a national approach to fruit fly and national recognition of the importance of protecting South Australia, the buffer state, from fruit fly. Protecting our biosecurity status protects on-farm returns, access to overseas markets and our biodiversity, generating real, significant benefits for the Australian agricultural industry, regional communities and, of course, the environment.
Effective management of fruit fly is essential to gaining and maintaining access to premium markets for Australian horticultural products and relies on cooperation between all levels of government and the industry and research institutions—including, of course, the states. This isn’t just a South Australian problem.
Let’s stop the spread of Qfly. Let’s stop the spread of Medfly. We can win this fight, but only if we pull together to fight the pest on a national scale. We need a coordinated approach to fruit fly management, with all stakeholders committed to a national strategy because this is, quite frankly, an issue of national importance.