David Littleproud accuses state counterparts of ‘failing’ farmers on biosecurity funding transparency

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeCountryman
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud.
Camera IconFederal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud. Credit: TheWest

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has lashed a handful of state government agriculture ministers for reportedly failing to “open up the books” on biosecurity funding.

Mr Littleproud issued a scathing assessment of the WA, Queensland, New South Wales and Victorian agriculture ministers this week, saying they had failed to demonstrate a genuine commitment to biosecurity and were not being transparent.

He labelled WA Agriculture Minister “all spin and no detail”, despite WA Labor announcing a $15.1 million in April to fund 22 new full-time biosecurity jobs and bolster early warning systems and emergency response efforts.

WA was one of four states that pushed the Federal Government to have biosecurity put on the agenda of the recent agriculture ministers' meeting agenda.

Mr Littleproud said at the meeting, federal, state and territory agriculture ministers had agreed to maintain or increase biosecurity funding at 2016-17 levels “in real terms” and provide details of spending from 2015-16 to 2020-21.

He said WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan had “muddied the waters” and failed to demonstrate a genuine commitment to biosecurity in WA despite criticising the Federal Government’s biosecurity procedures late last year.

“This is about transparency, letting the people of WA and rest of the country know about her commitment to biosecurity,” Mr Littleproud said.

“Instead of finding reasons not to comply with what they signed up to, Minister MacTiernan should do the right thing.”

Ms MacTiernan in December claimed the Federal Government had “dropped the ball” and failed to invest in strengthening Australian borders against biosecurity threats.

She this week said Mr Littleproud had ignored a letter she had sent requesting clarity on spending categories to help states and territories “compare spending levels” equally.

“I wrote to Minister Littleproud in June agreeing to provide expenditure figures but seeking to establish clear biosecurity spending categories that each state and territory could report on, so we could easily compare spending levels,” she said.

“He never responded to my letter. A few weeks ago, our agency finally received some more information from the Federal agency on this.”

Ms MacTiernan said the State Government was “completely committed” to transparency and disappointed Mr Littleproud

“The biggest threat we face continues to come from international pests, which are the responsibility of the Commonwealth,” she said.

“Most of our biosecurity efforts — like the ongoing Polyphagous shot hole borer and red imported fire ant responses — have come in from overseas, and left to the State to manage.”

She urged Mr Littleproud to “work co-operatively” the WA Government, rather than “throwing stones”.

“The standard of leadership we are seeing from the Federal Government is sadly lacking,” she said.

“Instead of building strong relationship with States and territories, David Littleproud fires off juvenile, combative press releases. We were not the only state on the receiving end.”

Australia’s biosecurity is a shared responsibility between federal and state governments but has been a contentious issue in recent years, with Mr Littleproud and Ms MacTiernan also trading barbs over funding for the $11 million extension of to WA’s State Barrier Fence.

Mr Littleproud said the information provided by the States would help the create a national biosecurity plan.

Grain Producers Australia and Plant Health Australia this month launched a new online biosecurity hub for growers to access industry-specific tools and resources.

Visit farmbiosecurity.com.au/industry/grains/

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