An Australian draft national Biosecurity Bill proposing changes to the country’s biosecurity laws has sparked controversy amongst the fresh produce industry who say it will not aid appeals on decisions regarding food imports.
At a Senate Committee hearing in Sydney last week, a Queensland group Growcom representative Rachel Mackenzie stated that the bill will not fix the outstanding issues of the current system that is intended to protect Australian produce from pests and diseases.
"There doesn't seem to be any mechanism for industry to appeal an import risk assessment based on the science," she told ABC News. "So we can appeal based on the proces and say that DAFF didn't follow the process appropriately but at no point can we say, 'Actually we don't agree with the science and we want it to be looked at by a group of independent scientists'. They've actually removed from the legislation the Eminent Scientists Group."
According to Mackenzie, a recent decision concerning fresh de-crowned Malaysian pineapple imports presents a case where the industry wanted to appeal the science that formed the basis of a given decision but were unable to.
"We had some very senior researchers who are experts in pineapple disease who were able to say that they were concerned about some pest and disease issues,” she told the ABC. “We provided that to DAFF and they said that they didn't think it was valid and there was no mechanism for us to review and say we need it to be looked at by somebody independent."
Mackenzie believes the bill will entrust too much power in a new biosecurity director within the Federal Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
She also expressed praise for the Senate Committee hearing and hopes that the current problems regarding the bill are resolved before another draft is released.