The Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Paul Grimes, has directly refuted Tony Abbott’s assertions that screening of frozen berries has increased, telling Senate estimates today that the Liberal Government hasn’t made any changes to surveillance rates.
Last week the Prime Minister told the Australian people that the Government was moving to toughen its inspection of imported berries in the wake of the contamination scare, saying:
"We have moved to 100 per cent screening of these sorts of imports until this matter is resolved in a way which is very protective of the health of the Australian public.”
Tony Abbott – Press Conference – 19 February 2015
However, today at Senate Estimates Secretary Grimes confirmed:
“We have not made changes on surveillance rates for berries broadly at this stage.”
Paul Grimes, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture – Senate Estimates – 23 February 2015
Tony Abbott has lied to Australians about what his Government is doing about the level of screening of frozen berries.
The Liberal Government has serious questions to answer about its chaotic and confusing response to the Hepatitis A outbreak. The Government must provide assurance to consumers who are rightly concerned about this incident.
Nine days have passed since the outbreak, five days since the guarantee of more rigorous inspections and yet the Government’s response is mired in chaos and confusion that is failing to provide Australian consumers with the assurance they need.
18 Australians are now infected with Hepatitis A and thousands of Australians remain at risk. Yet the Government remains paralysed.
Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, Assistant Health Minister Senator Fiona Nash, and the Prime Minister are obviously not speaking to one another let alone coordinating a proper government response.
The Abbott Government has preferred secrecy over accountability, refusing to release figures on the number of contaminated berry packets on the grounds that that they were “commercial in confidence”. It was left to Patties to release the information following days of questioning as to why Tony Abbott was placing commercial sensitives ahead of consumer safety and wellbeing.
The health and safety of Australians cannot be compromised by Liberal and National chaos and confusion.