Yesterday's find of an apple midge and leaf litter in one of the first apple consignments from New Zealand is evidence that the risk of disease and insect incursion is high and requires an increase in the reach of the inspection service, Greens Deputy Leader, Christine Milne said today.
"Although swooping on a small amount of leaf matter and a single apple leaf curling midge among the first consignments may be touted as a victory for AQIS, I am deeply concerned about what may have passed undiscovered in other consignments.
"Such a find so early in the trade does not augur well for the future.
"The current practice of inspecting just 600 pieces of fruit from each consignment holding up to 140,000 apples or pears is inadequate leaving the majority of the consignment uninspected.
"The onus is now on AQIS to implement a more stringent monitoring system for incoming produce that goes far beyond the current practice and requires inspection of cartons as well as fruit.
"I am therefore calling on the government to significantly improve inspection services and inspect at least 600 cartons in addition to the fruit.
"The presence of leaf litter and an insect on fruit has vindicated Australian apple and pear growers who for decades have warned against the dangers of importing produce from countries with diseases and pests not present in Australia.
"While Tasmanian growers wait anxiously for a decision on New Zealand apples entering the state, they are now seeing what will transpire should the decision go against them. The fact remains that allowing New Zealand apples into Australia will lead to unwelcome pests and diseases, including Fire Blight.
"The World Trade Organisation has made it clear that Australia must open its doors to New Zealand apples and pears, so now it is up to our state and federal governments to implement every possible measure aimed at keeping pests and disease away from our shores."