Fruit Fly

Mr PEDERICK (Hammond) (14:46): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Can the minister update the house on the successful eradication of fruit fly from the Riverland?

The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE (Chaffey—Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development) (14:47): I certainly can, and I thank the member for Hammond for his very important question. It's good news. Some people like good news; those on the other side often don't. But what I can say is that the horticulture sector here in South Australia, particularly in the Riverland, is jumping for joy.

Mr Hughes interjecting:

The SPEAKER: The member for Giles is warned.

The Hon. T.J. WHETSTONE: We have seen that the quarantine restrictions have been lifted on the recent Queensland fruit fly outbreak. That outbreak was announced on 7 December and, sadly, we had a number of extensions of that incursion in the Loxton area. We have seen Biosecurity SA, working in collaboration with industry, government and the community, doing an outstanding job—and they have done an outstanding job. There were multiple detections, and what we have seen over that time is a collaboration. Industry and government came together with an extension officer, who came as a liaison between the industry and the public, making sure that things rolled along smoothly and that the transition from the outbreak to the eradication was seamlessly implemented. And I think it was.

Along the way, we saw a zero tolerance approach being implemented. That was done as an emergency response to the outbreak. We had seen, over a number of months prior to the last season, a build-up of flies in the area. The coordinated approach has seen more than 50 staff on the ground. They collected 37,000 kilograms of fruit, as well as keeping backyards hygienically clean and going onto orchards, making sure that we did everything that we could, including putting out organic baits—by and large, the SITplus facility at Port Augusta. I thank the member for Stuart for his cooperation and help.

What I would say is that this is a first—and I pay homage to this project. For the first time, the Riverland saw a release of the sterile flies. Of the 16 million sterile flies, I was able to release two million. We have seen a successful campaign and it's been an outstanding success.

The zero tolerance, as I said, was about enforcing the fines that a previous government didn't enforce. We have enforced them. We have turned trucks around at the border, making sure that they understand that we mean business when it comes to protecting a $1.2 billion industry here in South Australia in horticulture, making sure that we have a clean, green reputation, making sure that our fruit fly status is upheld. It is critically important now going into those protocol markets.

What I can say—the breaking news—is that the USA have just announced that they will now re-recognise our pest-free status. That is a giant leap of faith in the horticulture sector, particularly in the Riverland. That now means that what we are seeing is that growers are having more money put back into their pocket and they are not having to cold sterilise. The protocol markets domestically are now recognising the area of freedom. They, too, recognise our area of freedom. That means that the protocol markets don't have to have the fruit cold sterilised.

These are the processes that have been put in place, enacted by a government that has been serious about the eradication of fruit fly. What I can say is that fruit will now go to the US not having to be treated. It will go into the protocol markets not being treated. What that means is fresher fruit and longer shelf life. A better piece of Riverland citrus will now be on the shelves because it is fruit fly free and #RegionsMatter.