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$10,000 Lesson In Quarantine

$10,000 Lesson In Quarantine

Two passengers who tried to smuggle fresh and dried fruit into Australia have learned the expensive way that Australia will not tolerate pest and disease threats to its vital agriculture industries and environment, Federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Warren Truss said today.

“The passengers were fined a total of $9,936 in Brisbane last Friday for breaching Australia’s strict quarantine and customs laws — the biggest penalty to date for a quarantine infringement,” Minister Truss said.

“The couple, who arrived at Perth International Airport from South Africa, made no effort to declare three apples, two pears and more than eight and a half kilograms of dried apples, plums and grapes.

“The couple claimed they did not think the items qualified as food — even though one of them is a supermarket manager,” Mr Truss said.

The quarantine items were found during routine X-ray examination of luggage.

Because the couple was only going to be in Perth for a short period, the case was transferred to Brisbane, where the magistrate commented on the seriousness of the quarantine risks associated with the dried fruit and the implausibility of the passengers’ explanation.

“This serious penalty is a timely reminder to all Australians of the importance of declaring items of quarantine concern, including food, seeds, wood and other plant and animal material,” Mr Truss said.

“Surveys last year found that four in five Australians favour heavy penalties for quarantine, and the Government supports those views.

“Over the past year, international travellers who ignored Australia’s strict quarantine regulations have been convicted and fined for trying to smuggle items such as sausages, pork, bees, dates, sunflower seeds and plant cuttings.

“Increased penalties reflect the Government’s commitment to protecting Australia’s agriculture industries and environment from exotic pests and diseases,” Mr Truss said.

Hon Warren Truss MP

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

16 July 2002


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