Senate Inquiry into Citrus

When the three ex High School students started to do our research into what was going wrong with Valencia oranges and with the community we expected that most of the action would be done by people and organisations in the region. We had sensed some reluctance from citrus farmers to communicate so we decided that I would ask to make a presentation. It was not until various farmers communicated with the senators that the scope of what evolved for all of the farmers was that former citrus statutory body Riverina Citrus which was based in Griffith\ and was a significantly influential body had imploded. The replacement Citrus Australia is based in Mildura, Victoria .

Each of the farmers were being interviewed by the senators in the hope that a replacement body fully representing Valencia orange growers could be established. I have a lot of copies of Hansard covering this very important stage or change in this industry. There are some snippets here with comments from me made after the inquiry

Mr Brighenti: We need someone to talk for us, but we want have some sort of ability to control what they are saying and who is representing us. Right now we do not vote anyone in or vote anyone out, but they claim to be the peak body and they are using levy funds through the IAC. We need to be able to have a voice, and you can only have a voice when you can have a voting voice. That is something terribly lacking.

Senator XENOPHON: All of you have been critical of Citrus Australia. If you consider that they are so hopeless in representing your interests—that is what you are basically saying—have you considered setting up an alternative organisation at a national level?

Mr Mancini: It is probably putting words in my mouth saying that they are totally hopeless—

Senator XENOPHON: Well, there have been shortcomings. I think there has been a general disappointment with Citrus Australia.

Mr Sartor: This is the way I would address it. There are a number of changes that we can do. We can either change the body or we can change the people in it or we can send a message to them very clearly through our nonpaying of levies. I think if all funding other than the voluntary levy were removed from the organisation, it would send a very strong direction of no confidence in the way they operate. We need a national body. Every other organisation has a national body. They seem to still be able to access quite a significant amount of funding through the federal levy, which is of great concern to me because I do not know whether that is the best cost benefit or the best cost outcome from my compulsory federal levy. That needs to be reviewed. It will then have to operate at a grower level to attract grower funding. We have also had a regional body which disappeared. We set up another regional body. It was not too difficult to do that—to be able to liaise with government to address the issues that Citrus Australia are not addressing. It is not an impossible task.

Mr Brighenti: We need someone to talk for us, but we want have some sort of ability to control what they are saying and who is representing us. Right now we do not vote anyone in or vote anyone out, but they claim to be the peak body and they are using levy funds through the IAC. We need to be able to have a voice, and you can only have a voice when you can have a voting voice. That is something terribly lacking.

There are hours of interaction like this but achieving nothing.

The next item is of great interest to me. My discussion with the senators uncovered frightening effects of carbendazim as shown below but it will also be covered in other sectors .  

Mr Sartor: Senator Xenophon, you asked earlier about the impact of carbendazim. I do not think you can understate that, as processors did not buy local fruit because the carbendazim product was available so cheaply, it did not just create a price crash; it also created significant fruit fly problems because there was so much unsold fruit left in the area. They happened to go overseas, and generally we try to clean up our Valencias around June or July, so during the winter months the pest does not have a lot of fruit to be able to nest in and reproduce.

 

As the only non farmer I talked to Bill Heffernan and Nick Xenophpn about other things and that scared the crap out of me. This highly important letter appeared:

 

’In a letter to Senator Xenophon in January(2012), Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, the Hon Catherine King MP, stated that orange juice concentrate containing any level of the fungicide would not be permitted to be imported into Australia after April 2012.’

 

Senator XENOPHON: “ ……….: if the government had followed through its ban on carbendazim, which it overturned last year because of the lobbying from some of the multinational processors, what difference would that have made to  your industry?”

 My estimate was in billions but that will have to wait for another day because my Hansard date is no longer available. he meeting was on 3rd July 2013 in Griffith if that data is tell available in archjves. Fortunately I have my published book 'WHODUNNIT The Last Nail in the Coffin of the Citrus Family Farm.' Some of the more significant exchanges are copied here: 

Senator XENOPHON: 'The citrus industry in Australia effectively banned from using this chemical (carbendazim) over two years ago yet FSANZ decided to wait for another review before banning the harmful fungicide at tbe import level.'

'However in his appearance before Senate Estimates this evening FSANZ Executive Officer, Stever McCutcheon, effectively admitted that lobbying from juice processors was a key  factor in forcing a last-minute review of this ban.'

'Again we see the the big end of town putting tbe squeeze on small producers.' Nick Xenophon said.

'FSANZ may try to bury the facts,  but they cannot bury this issue.

In the ye\ars following this meeting 

 

 
 

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