Page 4304 - Week 13 - Thursday, 19 November 2015

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When I introduced the bill I provided background to the issues and the potential risks to bee populations from pest and disease, including the varroa mite and the viruses that it spreads. I outlined the national significance of the issue and the cost to Australia both economically and environmentally if Australia’s bee populations were to be reduced through a biosecurity event.

Today I would like to talk about local beekeepers and acknowledge the contribution of the Beekeepers Association of the ACT. They have played an important part in this. The feedback from the local beekeeping community to the bill has been very positive. The amendments are viewed as a progressive step in assisting the territory to be well placed to respond to any disease or pest risk to bees and also for the beekeeping community to take an active part in prevention measures.

One of the initiatives that the Beekeepers Association of the ACT is involved in is the national bee pest surveillance program under the auspices of Plant Health Australia. The program includes early warning initiatives to detect any new incursions of exotic bee pests and pest bees into Australia. Under the program the local association is establishing sentinel hives at Jerrabomberra Wetlands. These hives will be monitored by experienced beekeepers to detect possible incursions of exotic bee pests and pest bees into the region. Work undertaken by the association is voluntary and requires the commitment and time of association members. I commend this work and the commitment by local beekeepers and the association. I would also like to thank the association for their significant participation as a key stakeholder in the development of the bill.

I am mindful of the hour and the extensive comments that Mr Coe just made. I do not intend to go through the full details of the bill this evening but I would like to take this opportunity to thank the scrutiny of bills committee for its consideration of the bill. I note comments made by the committee in relation to the issue of a reversal of the legal burden of proof under new section 62B(2). This section provides that proof of New South Wales registration and compliance with display of registration numbers under the New South Wales Apiaries Act 1985 is a defence against prosecution for not registering in the ACT under section 62B(1).

The committee is correct that this is a legal burden and not an evidential burden. A revised explanatory statement has been prepared, as recommended by the committee. I now table the following paper:

Revised explanatory statement to the Bill.

The bill and the amendments it introduces to the Animal Diseases Act are an important platform in our response to a bee biosecurity incident or risk. I would like to thank members for their support of this bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

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