I thought that Australia’s quarantine laws on imported food were about avoiding disease. But perhaps I was naive. The opposition leader Tony Abbott comments here.
He said it was imperative food quarantine laws were not relaxed to allow easier delivery of imported fruit.
The banana industry, he said, must remains fully protected.
Mr Abbott pointed out there would be a shortage of bananas for some time.
The short-term pain of a lack of supply was easily outweighed by the long-term gain of protecting the country’s banana growers, Mr Abbott said.
“For quite a few months to come, shoppers right around Australia will notice bananas will be pretty hard to come by,” Mr Abbott said.
“Around Tully, this cyclone has been every bit as serious as Cyclone Larry.
“We’ve got to continue to preserve the Australian banana industry and the last thing I would want to see is anyone using a banana shortage as a justification for changing our banana quarantine rules.
“We’ve got to preserve this industry for the long haul and the best way to do that is to keep a strong quarantine system in place.”
Hmmmmm. This all sounds suspiciously like economic protectionism to me. Now there may be a case for economic assistance by the government to banana growers who have been affected by the cyclone. But lots of other agricultural sectors that are no where near North Queensland also have quarantine laws. Perhaps it is time to look at which of these are really justified on health grounds, and which are just a convenient replacement for tariffs and quotas.