TFGA has advocated for better resourced biosecurity for years

TOO IMPORTANT: TFGA executive director Peter Skillern called for both parties to stop playing politics with biosecurity.
TOO IMPORTANT: TFGA executive director Peter Skillern called for both parties to stop playing politics with biosecurity.

Over the past two weeks we have seen commitments around biosecurity from the state’s two major parties.

Both policies have indicated a significant increase in funding to this critical area for both agriculture and the Tasmanian economy.

The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association has been advocating for more than two years for a well-resourced, effective and efficient biosecurity system.

As a matter of priority, we must reassure our markets of our professionalism and capacity to deal with biosecurity incursions...

Peter Skillern

The promised funding from both major parties is welcomed, and irrespective of who wins the election should see staffing increase, but biosecurity is not just about staffing.

It’s about procedures, policies and incursion incident responses.

In the past two years we have seen two major incursions into terrestrial agriculture – blueberry rust and now fruit fly.

We have been openly critical of the way that the blueberry rust incursion was handled, and currently have a raft of questions that remain unanswered in relation to the fruit fly outbreak.

While communication has been much better this time around, there are still questions that need to be answered about how this occurred, when this occurred, and how the incident control has unfolded.

It is imperative that the broader community understand the risk and impact that fruit fly could have on our vital fruit and vegetable industries.

That said, it is also the community who have recognised and reported the initial four incursions, and it is the community that is now wearing the cost of this biosecurity breach.

We must protect our markets at all costs and that requires the complete eradication of fruit fly from Tasmania and a robust monitoring system that is second to none.

As a matter of priority, we must reassure our markets of our professionalism and capacity to deal with biosecurity incursions however or wherever they may occur.

In this vein political parties need to not only commit to biosecurity, but need to resist the urge to play politics in this sphere.

On another note, readers will recall that I proposed in this column in October that Tasmania should remove itself from the mainland power grid for the purposes of formulating better prices for Tasmanian businesses, farms and the broader community.

I said at the time, an innovative government should utilise this opportunity to stimulate the Tasmanian economy, and provide nearly 100 per cent renewable power at the most economical prices in Australia.

The recent announcement by the Liberal Party to this effect confirms that good policies can come from the community – all it takes is for political parties to listen to the people.

Peter Skillern is the Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association chief executive.