[Sitting date: 27 June 2012. Volume:681;Page:3419. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
Hon DAMIEN O’CONNOR (Labour—West Coast - Tasman) to the
Minister for Primary Industries: What were the total line-by-line savings in Vote Biosecurity in Budget 2009 and Budget 2010?
Hon DAVID CARTER (Minister for Primary Industries)
: The 2009 Budget presented savings of $1.384 million in 2009-10, $854,000 in 2010-11, $688,000 in 2011-12, and $610,000 in 2012-13. The 2010 Budget presented savings of $2.635 million in 2010-11, $2.27 million in 2011-12, $2.275 million in 2012-13, and $2.75 million in years 2013-14.
Hon Damien O’Connor: If, as his front-line staff claim, staff shortages led to the Queensland fruit fly incursion, does the Minister agree that the $2 million, or thereabouts, in savings made in 2009 from cutting staff was a case of false economy, given that the fruit fly response so far has cost $1.4 million?
Hon DAVID CARTER: The member is wrong to claim there has been a cut in biosecurity spending. What I have just said to the member is that the total savings presented in 2009 were $3.56 million, and in 2010 were $9.45 million—a total of $12.99 million. However, the member must take into account spending on new initiatives in Budget 2009 and Budget 2010, and that new initiative spending totalled a total of $35.528 million. The net increase of expenditure for Vote Biosecurity over the
two Budgets is, in fact, $22.537 million. The member needs to learn how to read Budget documents.
Hon Damien O’Connor: In reference to a new initiative, does the Minister agree with his own biosecurity staff that the direct exit policy allows passengers from Australia to be “let out the door with just a basic check, relying on honesty”, and that this is putting our entire economy at risk?
Hon DAVID CARTER: No, I do not agree at all with a letter from a few biosecurity staff. The member again needs to realise that the organisation is in the midst of wage contract negotiations. It is not surprising that staff may make these sorts of allegations.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Does the Minister admit that he misled industry groups in giving assurances that detector dogs would provide the final check on passengers, given that there have never been detector dogs in Hamilton or Rotorua, and there has been none at Wellington since October, and only one to cover Dunedin and Queenstown?
Hon DAVID CARTER: No. At no time was there ever an assurance that there would be dogs operating at every international airport 24/7. The dogs are but one aspect of the biosecurity system. That member continues to do serious harm to the biosecurity system when he continues to criticise not only the people who operate it extremely well but the system itself.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Is the Minister aware that, according to his own front-line biosecurity staff, the media have been misled by biosecurity officials about the interception of goods at Auckland Airport; if so, what action is he going to take to address this?
Hon DAVID CARTER: I am aware of an anonymous letter “To whom it may concern” that is claimed to be from a few biosecurity staff. That letter, in my opinion, is full of inaccuracies.
Hon Damien O’Connor: Does the Minister’s own letter dated 13 June in response to a constituent, stating that there will be more dogs and inspectors on the front line in time for the peak summer season, incorporate a message for all fruit flies and for all pests and diseases that until that time the border is clear and open?
Hon DAVID CARTER: We have certainly got a large dog-training programme under way, because that member’s previous Government did not put the resources into training detector dogs. We have also advertised for 40 new staff, 35 of those to be at Auckland Airport and five of those to be at Wellington Airport.