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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 05 Hansard (Tuesday, 8 May 2018) . . Page.. 1593 ..

I would like to finish by acknowledging a number of people I know who keep bees in their own backyard and some of my family and friends. Apart from the fact that they are maintaining a wonderful local industry, and they are protecting an important part of our ecosystem through the pollination benefits, it is also a fabulous personal benefit for me in that I get jars of honey from them. So I encourage them to keep up the good work.

MR STEEL (Murrumbidgee) (3.55): I welcome the opportunity to speak again about the importance of bees to the ACT’s environment and the economy. I spoke last month in the Assembly about the importance of bees following my attendance for the second time at the ACT beekeepers field day. Bees provide a critical ecological service through pollination—moving pollen from the anthers of flowers to another—cross-pollination and the fertilisation of plants. They have a crucial role to play in the yield and quality of crops without which Australia’s food security would be at risk. It is estimated that two-thirds of all agricultural output in Australia is dependent on pollination by honey bees. Our food security is tied to the health of bees, so I consider it to be a very important issue, contrary to the comments of those in the opposition.

A report released by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences revealed that the honey bee industry is an important sector of the Australian economy, the gross value being $101 million in the 2014-15 period. Bees also play a vital biosecurity role for our country, protecting people’s livelihoods and lifestyles from biological threats to the natural environment, such as the introduction of pests that may infect the natural environment. Australia is fortunate in the sense that our bees are relatively healthy compared to those overseas, and Australia is free from many infectious diseases we have seen there.

The Australian government introduced the national bee biosecurity program in 2016 to ensure that Australian beekeepers are prepared to manage incursions by exotic pests and to better monitor and manage these threats. However, our bees are increasingly under threat by a range of threats such as disease, pollution and pesticides.

The ACT has been working actively to safeguard the health of bees in the ACT and wider regional security. As of 2016 ACT residents and beekeepers with beehives are required to register their bees in line with the Animal Diseases Act. This helps the ACT government to be better equipped to manage possible threats and outbreaks in beehives and bee colonies. Bee populations around the world are declining, and one of the main culprits is the Varroa mite. Australia is apparently the only place where the deadly pest has never been found.

Last month the president of the ACT Beekeepers Association, Cormac Farrell, oversaw a training exercise to control biosecurity threats such as the introduction of a Varroa mite in a beehive. When I attended the ACT beekeepers field day I was also shown some of the sentinel hives, the pink hives, that they use that are responsible for capturing bees that may be carrying diseases and that are placed strategically around the airport. They have the ability to trap any sick bees before the broader population is infected.

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