Budget confidentiality was the reason given by Agriculture and Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor for being coy about the costs of dealing with Mycoplasma bovis cattle disease.
National’s Nathan Guy – Mr O’Connor’s predecessor as Minister of Biosecurity –
recalled him telling Parliament on 14 February that industry hadn’t been approached for financial assistance to deal with the disease. Was he now aware (Mr Guy asked) that industry has been formally approached to fund about $11 million in operation costs?
Mr O’Connor said he was aware of discussions that have taken place and that there are figures on the table.
“They are subject to a Cabinet process, and I’m not in a position to comment on them.”
With just 30 days to go until an eradication decision is reached by the Minister, Mr Guy then asked, what advice had he received on the likely costs of full eradication?
Mr O’Connor said he had seen a number of costs bandied around.
“None have been confirmed, and until we have accurate information on the likelihood, the risks, and the extent of the disease and its possible eradication, I’m not in a position to comment on them. They will be before a Cabinet process,s and we’ll be sharing those decisions with industry so that they buy into what we will be doing.”
Mr Guy then referred to information from the annual review of the Ministry for Primary Industries at a Primary Production Committee and asked what is the Minister’s delegated financial authority in respect of biosecurity?
There’s a vote for primary industries, and within that there are appropriations across a large number of areas and responsibilities, the Minister explained in reply.
These will not change.
“We are having business units, as announced before Christmas. They’ll be set up, they’ll be focused, to achieeve a lot better outcome than had been achieved by the previous Government in the areas of biosecurity and food safety, where that member oversaw a system that you could drive a boat through—a boat full of cars full of marmorated stink bugs.
“We’re going to change that. We have turned them around and we will turn them around.”