Interview with Mel Bush, Mornings, ABC Radio Hobart
MEL BUSH, HOST: Australia is about to allow apple imports from the Pacific Northwest in the US and that's a cause for concern from local apple growers. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry's review identified 20 quarantine pests which will have to be managed. Tim Ayres is the Federal Assistant Minister for Trade and Manufacturing. Mr Ayers. Good morning. Why are we allowing these apples in?
TIM AYRES, ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TRADE AND ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR MANUFACTURING: Well, it would be illogical, wouldn't it, if Australia, as a great trading nation, with a fight on our hands all around the world, fighting for agricultural access for our exports from Australia into these big economies, if we didn't follow the rules on apple imports. Now, I can just tell you that there is a very small amount of apple imports that make their way into Australia. There's about - the industry's worth about half a billion dollars. There's about $5 million worth of apples that come in from around the world.
BUSH: However, Tasmanian growers, they're very concerned. Yesterday on the Country Hour, Tasmanian growers said it could lead to half of them leaving the industry. Is there going to be any assistance for them if that occurs?
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TRADE AND MANUFACTURING: Well, what we're going to do is there is two big things that we've got to make sure that we follow through here. The first one is making sure that we continue to apply our very strict biosecurity rules to apple imports from anywhere around the world. Now, this is a key point here. Only three states in the United States are the subject of this ruling. We are going to apply the same rules that we apply to apples from New Zealand or any other country. The Australian apple industry is very strong. One of its key strengths is its disease-free status, and we are going to apply the same strict rules -
BUSH: And I appreciate that - I do appreciate that Tim Ayres, but if I can just get back to the question, if you don't mind. Is there going to be any assistance for those growers who leave the industry being affected by these imports?
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TRADE AND MANUFACTURING: Growers will not leave the industry as a result of this ruling. We have a very strong apple sector. It is protected by strong biosecurity rules and the preferences of Australian consumers. There's a tiny percentage of overseas apples in the market. This won't make much of a difference. What we don't do effectively as a country is export apples. We only export 1 to 2 per cent of our apples overseas. We've got to get better as a country at value adding to our fruit and vegetables, and we've got to get better at marketing our fruit and vegetables to the world. I am very confident that as a result of this ruling, there will be very few, very little will change. But what it is, it's a reminder that our biosecurity rules are really important, and we've got to get better as an industry, as a country, as a sector in fighting for access to overseas markets for our apple growers and the rest of our ag sector.
BUSH: Very quickly, we've got mere seconds to go. Minister, Tasmanian mine operators they're telling us that they're struggling to get the machinery they need. What are you doing to help the mining manufacturing sector at the moment, please Minister?
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TRADE AND MANUFACTURING: Yeah. There are big challenges in supply chains in this sector, particularly those supply chains that go into China for mining manufacturing, for mining engineering here. We are focused on diversifying our trade approach, at lifting Australia up the value chain with $15 billion that the Albanese Labor Government has committed to the National Reconstruction Fund. And part of that fund will be focused on mining and mining engineering and creating good jobs, decent jobs in regional areas like Tasmania’s north.
BUSH: Tim Ayres thank you. We're running out of time.
ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TRADE AND MANUFACTURING: Thanks, no worries, Mel.
BUSH: I appreciate your time on the program.