Legislative Council: Tuesday, June 14, 2022


Question Time

Fruit Fly

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI (Leader of the Opposition) (14:28): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development a question about fruit fly eradication.

Leave granted.

The Hon. N.J. CENTOFANTI: Keeping South Australia fruit fly free must remain a top priority to protect the state's $1.3 billion horticultural industry. The Malinauskas Labor government's 2022-23 state budget allocated $13 million for fruit fly eradication response in 2022-23—down from $33 million last year—and nothing in the remaining out years through to 2025-26.

In an ABC article online on 6 June 2022 titled, 'Riverland growers lose access to Adelaide as fruit fly outbreaks continue', in response to recent outbreaks in the Riverland that have resulted in restricted access to Adelaide markets, and the budget allocated to deal with the pest, the Minister for Primary Industries is quoted as saying, 'If there are further outbreaks then we will access money to address those'.

My question to the minister is: can the minister inform the chamber what funding source will be accessed to provide future fruit fly eradication response once the $13 million allocated for fruit fly eradication response in the 2022-23 budget is exhausted?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:29): I thank the member for her question. The short answer is that I will use exactly the same funding sources as the previous Liberal government did. The reality is, and I have certainly stated it publicly if not in this place, that as there are further outbreaks that is when further funding is sought. I am advised that the $13 million that has been allocated in the current state budget is sufficient to address the current outbreaks through till the end of the period.

We are dedicated to trying to eradicate fruit fly in the Riverland and, indeed, in South Australia. The pest-free area is a valuable competitive advantage, particularly for international markets. The $1.3 billion horticulture industry is of incredible importance to our state, and that, of course, is why it's very important that, despite the wish to score political points, we don't make fruit fly a political football. It's really important that we have a bipartisan approach to this, and that's certainly the approach that I took when I was in opposition.

It's important to recognise and acknowledge the importance of the industry. It's important to recognise and acknowledge the very hard work that all the stakeholders in this very difficult challenge have been putting in. That includes my department, it includes the Riverland Fruit Fly Committee and it includes the many industry members who have been involved in the eradication efforts and in consultation around the best way forward.

It's incredibly important that we actually work together on this, because this is an issue not just for fruit growers and this is an issue not just for the Riverland; this is an issue for our state. It's important for our state economy and it's important for the many thousands of people who work within the horticulture industry and the indirect jobs that flow from it.

So my question could perhaps be—if I were to ask questions; of course I am answering them here—were similar questions asked of the previous minister in the Liberal government about the way the funding was established? Is it only now that there is some implied problem with reacting to outbreaks by going to seek the funding needed to address them?

This is exactly the same process—exactly the same process—in terms of accessing funding that was used by the former Liberal government. They have dealt with fruit fly for two years prior to the change of government. They accessed funding by going back to DTF if and when more funding was required to address these eradication attempts. That is exactly what I have been doing and exactly what I will continue to do.