Jul 2018

Don't come the raw prawn with me! Katter calls out Ag Minister as white spot continues to decimate

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5 July 2018: KAP Leader and the Federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter is absolutely furious that white spot disease (WSD) has been detected again in Queensland supermarket green prawns and is livid that the Federal Government’s so-called ‘tough’ new import restrictions are failing to prevent the highly destructive disease from continuing to make it onto Australian supermarket shelves.

Mr Katter has previously warned the Government that WSD could wipe out both the inshore commercial and recreational fisheries.

Mr Katter’s comments follow media reports this week that infected prawns are continuing to be sold in Queensland supermarkets. A special investigation by ABC ‘s Four Corners revealed how some ruthless seafood importers have been evading Australia’s biosecurity restrictions to make a profit. The program also featured Sunshine Coast Professor Wayne Knibb who tested prawns from 10 retail outlets and found that about one third had been or were infected by the virus.

Mr Katter said, “To allow green prawns – whether there was corruption involved or not – the mortal sin was allowing them in.

“Those in Canberra who walk around professing Australia’s ‘clean green image’ are the same people who are allowing every single food product or animal product into the country. If you do that, then of course you must eventually have the diseases that other countries have!

“Thanks to the ALP and LNP Governments, like any fundamentalist, you go to extremes. And the fundamentalist free marketeers have done more damage to this country than any person or belief system that has ever come into this country.” It’s estimated that the white spot outbreak in 2016 cost prawn farmers and associated industries around $400 million. Despite the infected green prawns being marked as safe to consume, the critical risk lies in the threat that the disease could decimate Australia’s entire fisheries, in particular, the Great Barrier Reef should it make its way north.

Mr Katter’s frustration stems from the fact that he previously warned the Agriculture Ministers (past and present) in Parliament about the risk of a biosecurity disaster, most recently asking the Minister for Agriculture, David Littleproud, if the Government would consider permanently suspending the importation of raw foreign prawns. A transcript of the full question and answer can be found below.

This week Mr Katter said, “In the reply from the current Agriculture Minister (to our Question with Notice) I asked the Minister to stop the import of raw green prawns immediately, and he replied that we might offend the countries we trade with so we sacrifice our industries in Australia on the order of grovelling to human sacrifice to chimera of global trade.

“It was only intervention by the PM himself that saved the banana industry. Did we lose any trade with the countries that wanted to bring the bananas in? No, we did not.

“So Canberra plays the free trade game and the rest of the world laughs at Canberra. Except, we Australians are now looking down the gun barrel of the disaster of white spot going onto the Great Barrier Reef and the untold collateral damage to the prawn industry of Australia – the fresh prawn and prawn farm market industries.

“And they were told again and again; it was a subject of my fury. Anyone who knew anything about it said that if you import the prawns; you will get white spot.

“I just pray that we see some industry groups get together and sue individually and collectively the Ministers, the Government and the public servants that have been responsible for the grossest irresponsibility. They stand up there with the Byzantine traitor who opened the gate to allow the Ottoman Turks into Constantinople, the greatest city and centre of Christianity in Europe.

“You are right up there with them.“


Background – Question with Notice
Date Tuesday, 8 May 2018
Prawn Industries
Mr Katter asked the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, in writing, on 26 February 2018:
1. Is he aware that both the farmed and wild caught prawn industries in South East Queensland have been decimated in the last two years by white spot disease, an exotic disease fatal to prawns and other crustaceans transmitted by diseased, low quality imported raw prawns being used by recreational anglers for bait in local waterways.
2. Is he aware that the Queensland Government is now spending millions on advertising the risk to recreational fishing that the pathogens in these prawns present and that this initiative will not connect with many in the fishing fraternity—it really is only a matter of when, not if, other fisheries are affected.
3. Is he aware that this disease, if not eradicated totally (and banning imported product is the logical first step), has the potential to wipe out both the inshore commercial and recreational fisheries.
4. Are our local commercial and recreational fishing industries not worthy of the same protection from this exotic scourge that the banana industry received after cyclones Larry (2006) and Yasi (2011) decimated the local banana industry and there was a strong push from retailers to import foreign bananas but biosecurity risks, concerns and issues ensured that banana imports never went ahead.
5. Will the Australian Government consider permanently suspending the importation of raw foreign prawns and associated raw prawn products in light of the biosecurity disaster currently emerging in South East Queensland;if not, why not.
Mr Littleproud: The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:
1. I am aware of the impact the white spot disease (WSD) outbreak had on farmed and wild caught prawn industries in south-east Queensland. However, the cause of the outbreak has not been determined, and a number of plausible pathways exist. It is possible that the cause of the outbreak may never be known.
2. I am aware the Queensland Government has employed a communications campaign regarding the use of imported prawns as bait. The cost of this campaign and its effectiveness is a matter for the Queensland Government.
3. I am aware of the potential impact of WSD if it becomes an established disease. Enhanced import conditions have been put in place and future import conditions will be considered through the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources review of import conditions for prawns and prawn products, which is currently underway.
4. It is important that the biosecurity risks associated with imports are appropriately managed, regardless of the commodity being imported to ensure that our unique biosecurity status is maintained. It is important to note that the biosecurity risk posed by the importation of different commodities is assessed and managed in different ways, as they face unique risk factors.
5. Our two-way trading relationships are vital for Australian producers who rely on selling their products overseas and the government has an obligation to allow agricultural imports, where the science says it is safe to do so.
Trade cannot be stopped without a valid reason, as this would inevitably lead to reciprocal actions from other countries. This would be undesirable for a nation like Australia that relies on selling its agricultural products overseas. However, it is important that the biosecurity risks associated with imports are appropriately managed.
Imports of uncooked prawns and prawn meat are only allowed under stringent import conditions that manage the biosecurity risk associated with this product. Future import conditions will be considered through the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources review of import conditions for prawns and prawn products, which is currently underway.

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