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Quarantine Tasmania cuts put agricultural exports at risk

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An anonymous lobby group wrote to Tasmanian media this week alleging proposed cuts to Quarantine Tasmania’s budget could total $700,000, putting millions of dollars of agriculture at risk. Friends of Quarantine Australia (FOQA) said the cuts include a 25 percent reduction in checks of incoming air travellers, outsourcing the fruit fly trapping program and the loss of eight quarantine officers. A spokesman for Primary Industries Minister Bryan Green said he could not confirm the FOQA allegations until a budget decision was made, although the Tasmanian Government has previously said it would not rule out cuts to quarantine services. Deputy Opposition Leader Jeremy Rockliff said if the allegations were true, they would cause significant damage to the export agriculture-reliant economy. "A cut of this magnitude would fly in the face of any food bowl initiative," he said, in reference to the government’s bid to turn the southern state into the nation’s food bowl. Rockliff has previously said cuts would tell trading partners the government doesn’t take biosecurity seriously. "It sends a weaker message to them which puts our export markets in jeopardy." The warning follows the discovery of two fruit flies in North Tasmania in February, which caused China to ban imports of Tasmanian apples until the end of this month. Greens spokeswoman Cassy O’Connor said the fruit fly finds represent a significant threat, both to the Tasmanian agricultural sector and Australia’s regional economies. "I know the government makes a significant investment in biosecurity but what we need to do is make sure that money is being targeted in the right places."

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