Critical weaknesses in the Weatherill Labor Government’s fruit fly strategy have been exposed with the horticultural pest passing through quarantine roadblocks, and now detected in the Riverland.
With food producers still recovering economically from the drought and faced with challenging commodity prices, Shadow Agriculture Minister David Ridgway said a fruit fly outbreak in the Riverland could have widespread impacts across South Australia’s food industries.
Mr Ridgway said the detection of the pest in the Riverland proved the Weatherill Labor Government’s recent announcements regarding fruit fly protection were nothing more than policy on the run.
“Since 2010 there has been a huge increase in the risk of Queensland fruit fly to the Riverland,” said Mr Ridgway.
“But instead of providing further measures to prevent fruit flies entering South Australia, the Weatherill Labor Government proposed to wind back resources.
“It was not until the Weatherill Labor Government became aware of fruit fly detections in South Australia that it decided to act. It has failed to protect this State from this destructive pest.
“The Weatherill Labor Government has focused its efforts reacting to outbreaks, rather than preventing them.”
Liberal Member for Chaffey Tim Whetstone said an outbreak would halt the movement of fresh produce within 15 kilometres of the detection site and put vital export markets that rely on the State’s fruit fly free-status at risk.
“The Weatherill Labor Government has explored every opportunity to cost recover and cut the fruit fly program,” Mr Whetstone said.
“Labor proposed to cut the nightshift at the Yamba quarantine station in 2010, only for this decision to be reversed after strong opposition from industry and the State Liberals.
“Random roadblock figures have demonstrated that large numbers of people are illegally carrying produce into the region, but instead of being fined, they have simply been let off with a warning.”
Mr Whetstone said industries have been working hard with China for recognition of the Riverland’s fruit fly free status and outbreak would be a major setback in these important negotiations.