The closure of the Coen biosecurity center by Queensland Labor member for Cook, Cynthia Lui, has left primary producers vulnerable to biosecurity threats. Farmers, who provide high-quality produce at competitive prices, are already struggling due to low financial returns and increasing production costs. The Labor party’s demand for an additional $50 million from farmers to cover biosecurity costs is seen as a cash grab that does not prioritize the protection of the industry.
The closure of the Coen biosecurity center, situated in Cape York Peninsula, has significant implications for North Queensland and the rest of the state. The center was the only land-based checkpoint for exotic plant and animal diseases in the northern region. It conducted regular checks on vehicles traveling southbound, which often led to the discovery of potential biosecurity risks. Tourists, who may unknowingly carry pathogens or insects in their produce, were also monitored at the center. Additionally, the center played a crucial role in identifying illegal immigrants crossing the Torres Strait from Papua New Guinea or Indonesian territory.
Without the presence of the biosecurity center, North Queensland is now vulnerable to the introduction of diseases and pests from neighboring countries. For example, the screw worm fly from Papua New Guinea poses a threat to the northern cattle industry and can also infect humans and domestic animals. The red-banded mango caterpillar, found in Southeast Asia, could devastate the local mango industry if not properly monitored and controlled.
The closure of the Coen biosecurity center reflects a larger issue of bureaucratic mismanagement and lack of coordination between state and federal governments. The Labor party’s decision to shut down the center demonstrates a disregard for the importance of biosecurity in protecting Australia’s food supply.
Furthermore, the federal government’s proposal to impose a new biosecurity levy on primary producers has received criticism. The levy, set to collect approximately $50 million per year, is seen as an unnecessary burden on farmers already struggling with low returns and rising production costs. The government’s plan to shift the financial responsibility for biosecurity onto producers does not prioritize the protection and sustainability of the agriculture, fisheries, and forestry industries.
In order to address these concerns, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry has opened submissions for feedback on the proposed biosecurity levy. The department aims to create a fair and practical system that minimizes the financial burden on all parties involved. However, it remains to be seen whether the government will listen to the concerns of farmers and find a solution that supports the industry while ensuring effective biosecurity measures.
Overall, the closure of the Coen biosecurity center and the proposed biosecurity levy highlight the challenges faced by primary producers in Australia. The agricultural industry plays a vital role in providing high-quality produce, but it operates within a market system that often leaves farmers financially vulnerable. It is crucial for governments to prioritize the protection of the industry through effective and practical biosecurity measures, rather than burdening farmers with additional costs.