House of Representatives Committees

Contents

Foreword
Membership of the Committee
Terms of reference
List of abbreviations
List of recommendations
Chapter 1 Current and future prospects
Chapter 2 Bees in Agriculture
Chapter 3 Resource security
Chapter 4 Biosecurity
Chapter 5 Economic and trade issues
Chapter 6 Research, extension and training
Appendix A – Honeybee R&D Five Year Plan 2007-2012
Appendix B – The Inquiry
Appendix C – List of submissions
Appendix D – List of exhibits
Appendix E – List of public hearings and witnesses

Foreword

The humble honey bee is one of the most important contributors to the success of Australian agriculture. Many crop and pasture species are heavily or totally reliant on bees for pollination. Commercial prosperity within the agricultural sector requires bees. So does the food security of Australian and the world.

Yet, the Australian honey bee industry faces a number of significant threats and challenges. A major challenge is resource security. The honey bee industry is dependent upon native forest for honey production and recovery from pollination operations. As native forests are locked away in National Parks, so the floral resources available to the industry have declined and will continue to decline. Bushfires and land clearing also have a significant impact on the availability of floral resources. Without access to floral resources, the potential of the honey bee industry to grow to meet the demands for crop pollination is compromised. The Committee has made a number of recommendations which, if implemented, will provide resource security for the honey bee industry and pollination dependent industries into the future.

This is especially important in the face of the biosecurity threats facing the industry, which have the potential to remove the pollination services provided by feral honey bees from the production cycle, making agricultural industries largely or wholly dependent upon managed bees. The potential for pests such as Varroa destructor to annihilate feral bee populations and decimate managed bees is real. Keeping such pests and diseases from Australian shores should be a priority for governments and industry. Investment in border security measures and research is vital. In this regard, Australia needs to lift its game. In particular, the Committee strongly recommends the creation of a new honey bee quarantine facility and increased funding for the National Sentinel Hive Program.

The industry is also being challenged by declining profitability in the honey production sector and the problems associated with modernising an industry based on honey production to provide paid pollination services. Yet, for paid pollination services to be viable the honey production sector must also be viable. Import competition is having a significant impact upon returns to Australian producers—but much of this competition derives from low cost countries with poor quality control regimes. Australian exporters on the other hand often face a range of tariff and non-tariff barriers in accessing overseas markets. Clearly, there is no level playing field. In addition, lax labelling laws have allowed foreign honey to be ‘re-badged’, with serious implications for the reputation of Australian honey. These are issues which must be addressed.

Protecting the industry from biosecurity threats and preparing it for the future is a significant undertaking. In this vein, the Committee acknowledges the work of government and industry in creating Pollination Australia, an organisation designed to provide funding and leadership for Australia’s pollination providers and pollination users into the future. Nonetheless, the Committee believes that there is greater scope still for the promotion of research extension and training for the Australian honey bee industry and related industries. With this in view, the Committee has recommended that the Australian Government commit $50 million per annum in pursuit of biosecurity measures and research in support of the Australian honey bee industry and pollination dependent industries; and that the Australian Government use this money to establish a national centre for honey bee and pollination industry research, training and extension.

My colleagues and I would like to thank all those who made contributions to the inquiry. The honey bee industry is made up of people with a real dedication to their craft, a genuine love for what they do, a fact reflected in the quantity and quality of evidence provided to the Committee. I would also like to thank the members of the former Standing Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry for their contribution to the inquiry and what has been obtained through that work.

The Hon Dick Adams MP

Chair

Membership of the Committee

42nd Parliament

Chair

The Hon Dick Adams MP

 

Deputy Chair

Mr Alby Schultz MP  

Members

Mr James Bidgood MP Ms Kirsten Livermore MP

 

Mr Nick Champion MP

Mr Graham Perrett MP

 

Mr John Forrest MP

Mr Sid Sidebottom MP

 

Mr Barry Haase MP Mr Tony Windsor MP

43rd Parliament

Chair

Mr Alby Schultz MP

 

Deputy Chair

The Hon Dick Adams MP  

Members

Mr Martin Ferguson MP Mr Gavan O’Connor MP

 

Mr Michael Ferguson MP

Mr Patrick Secker MP

 

Mr John Forrest MP

The Hon Wilson Tuckey MP

 

Mrs Sophie Mirabella MP Mr Tony Windsor MP


Committee Secretariat

Secretary

Ms Janet Holmes

Inquiry Secretary

Dr Bill Pender

Research Officer

Ms Sam Mannette

Office Manager

Ms Jazmine De Roza

Terms of Reference

This inquiry will examine the honey bee industry in terms of:

  1. Its current and future prospects.
  2. Its role in agriculture and forestry.
  3. Biosecurity issues.
  4. Trade issues.
  5. The impact of land management and bushfires.
  6. The research and development needs of the industry.
  7. Existing industry and Government work that has been undertaken for the honey bee industry.



List of abbreviations

ACCC Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
AFB American Foulbrood
AHA Animal Health Australia
AHBIC Australian Honey Bee Industry Council
AHGA Australian Hydroponic and Greenhouse Association
APVMA Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority
AQBBA Australian Queen Bee Breeders Association
AQIS Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service
BMP best management practices
CALM Department of Conservation and Land Management, Western Australia
CCD Colony Collapse Disorder
CIE Centre for International Economics
CMA Catchment Management Authority
CPI Consumer Price Index
CRC Cooperative Research Centre
CSIRO Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation
CVAA Central Victorian Apiarists Association
CVO Chief Veterinary Officer
DAFF Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
DAFWA

Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia

DEC Department of Environment and Conservation, Western Australia
DPI Department of Primary Industries, Victoria/NSW
DPIW Department of Primary Industries and Water, Tasmania
EADRA Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement
EFB European Foulbrood
EMAI Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute
EMS Environmental Management System
EPA Environmental Protection Agency, Queensland
EPPRD Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed
EU European Union
FCAAA Federal Council of Australian Apiarists’ Associations
FFIC Forests and Forest Industries Council of Tasmania
GM genetically modified
GMO genetically modified organism
GVP gross volume of production
IPP Industry Partnerships Program
IRA Import Risk Analysis
MRL Minimum Residue Level
NAQS Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy
NCC National Code of Conduct
NEVAA North East Victoria Apiarists Association
NRS National Residue Survey
NSHP National Sentinel Hive Program
OTC Oxytetracycline
PA Princess Alexandra Hospital, Brisbane
PCR polymerase chain reaction
PDB paradichlorobenzene
PHA Plant Health Australia
PIAPH Product Integrity Animal and Plant Health Division, DAFF
QA quality assurance
QBA Queensland Beekeepers’ Association
QPDI Queensland Department of Primary Industries
R&D research and development
RFA Regional Forest Agreement
RIRDC Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation
RTO Registered Training Organisation
SEQFA South East Queensland Forests Agreement
SHB Small Hive Beetle
TBA Tasmanian Beekeepers’ Association
TCPA Tasmanian Crop Pollination Association
UWS University of Western Sydney
VAA Victorian Apiarists’ Association
WABA Western Australian Beekeeper’s Association

List of recommendations

1 Current and future prospects

Recommendation 1

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government provide the necessary leadership, funding and organisational resources to establish and run Pollination Australia.

2 Bees in Agriculture

Recommendation 2

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government fund research and training in the provision of paid pollination services as part of its contribution to Pollination Australia.

Recommendation 3

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government fund research into alternative pollinators as part of its contribution to Pollination Australia.

Recommendation 4

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government alter labelling requirements for agricultural chemicals to reflect their impact on honey bees and other pollinating insects.

3 Resource security

Recommendation 5

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government, in conjunction with State and Territory governments, establish guidelines for beekeeper access to public lands and leasehold lands, including national parks, with a view to securing the floral resources of the Australian honey bee industry and pollination dependent industries.

Recommendation 6

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government provide incentives for the planting and conservation of melliferous flora under Commonwealth funded revegetation projects and carbon credit schemes.

Recommendation 7

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government fund research into the impact of fire management on the Australian honey bee industry with a view to establishing honey bee industry friendly fire management practices.

4 Biosecurity

Recommendation 8

The committee recommends that the Australian Government maintain and enhance the National Sentinel Hive Program with a view to ensuring that:

Recommendation 9

The committee recommends that the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry request that the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority fast track the pre-registration of pesticides and other chemicals necessary to combat a Varroa incursion.

Recommendation 10

The committee recommends that the Australian Government improve the nation’s incursion response capacity by providing for:

Recommendation 11

The Committee recommends that the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry establish a new honey bee quarantine facility as a matter of urgency, this facility to be commissioned prior to the closure of the current facility at Eastern Creek, and that:

Recommendation 12

The Committee recommends that the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry direct Biosecurity Australia to complete the import risk analysis for drone semen by the end of 2008.

Recommendation 13

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government, in conjunction with State and Territory governments, establish and fund a national endemic bee pest and diseases control program.

Recommendation 14

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government, in conjunction with State and Territory governments, establish bee biosecurity regions based on natural boundaries, being:

Recommendation 15

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government, in conjunction with State and Territory governments, establish a national system of registration for beekeepers, bee hives and apiary sites.

Recommendation 16

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government commit $50 million per annum in pursuit of biosecurity measures and research in support of the Australian honey bee industry and pollination dependent industries.

5 Economic and trade issues

Recommendation 17

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government request the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to investigate pricing practices for honey within the honey bee industry and the retail sector.

Recommendation 18

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government request the Productivity Commission investigate the long term viability of the Australian honey bee industry in respect of industry organisation, marketing structures and the financial viability of producers and packers.

Recommendation 19

The Committee recommends that the Department of Immigration and Citizenship look at the skilled migration program with a view to further refining opportunities for the honey bee industry and the emerging pollination industry.

Recommendation 20

The committee recommends that the Australian Government develop product standards for honey and other bee products with regard to food standards and chemical contamination in line with those in force in the European Union, and that all imported honey products are tested against this standard.

Recommendation 21

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government develop labelling standards to more accurately reflect the place of origin and composition of honey and honey bee products.

Recommendation 22

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government pursue the development of a uniform international standard for the testing and labelling of honey bee products and the removal of all tariffs on honey bee products.

Recommendation 23

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government, in consultation with industry, reduce inspection charges, if possible, for queen and packaged bees to make the export of this product more cost effective to producers.

6 Research, extension and training

Recommendation 24

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government establish a national centre for honey bee and pollination industry research, training and extension, funded as per Recommendation 16.

Recommendation 25

The Committee recommends that the Australian Government alter research funding arrangements to allow for:



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