Thursday 26 June 2008
Estimates Committee B
Protection of primary industry and fisheries resources
4.1 Poppy security -
Mr HINE - In 2007-08 one person was charged for the year. There were only eight interferences, with a total of 820 caps stolen from the poppy industry. That is down about 8 500 from the previous year, a significant decrease. Although the acreage is increasing there has been a significant decrease in poppy thefts and interferences.
Ms RITCHIE - Only one person charged?
Mr HINE - Yes.
CHAIR - If the total is only seven, why have you set the target as 20 in the next year?
Mr JOHNSTON - As soon as you increase the acreage you increase the potential. The challenge for us is always to make sure that our deterrent and preventative strategies are sufficient.
CHAIR - That is more than double, though.
Mr JOHNSTON - As I say, if you look historically we have had quite a few. We used to have 38, 35 interferences per annum when the acreage was about the size that we were expecting it to be.
Ms RITCHIE - Coming back to the policing measures that have seen that significant reduction, can you tell us what you have done that has made policing more effective?
Mr HINE - We have a task force specifically to target the security of poppy crops. It is intelligence led; we gather intelligence, target that, analyse that and actively pursue those who may be involved with it. We work closely with industry and the farmers.
Ms RITCHIE - Obviously that task force has proof of their successes and you would link that back to them.
Mr HINE - Yes, we have had the task force for a number of years. We are getting better at intelligence leads, targeted policing and working with the farmers so it is starting to pay dividends.
Mr FINCH - The diversion of poppy crops to the illicit market, can you give us an overview of what is going on there? Is it still occurring? If so, to what extent?
Mr JOHNSTON - Minister, there is a very simple answer. There are so few caps stolen that by the time that they are processed to do anything with them other than individual use would suggest to me that there is no market, in the last year in particular.
Mr FINCH - Did you say personal use?
Mr JOHNSTON - Yes.
Mr FINCH - Okay. Is there much of that?
Mr JOHNSTON - Yes, there used to be. There is not so much now and since the introduction of the thebaine crop, which can potentially kill people if they use the product from it, I think some of those who were diverting are starting to wake up to the fact that it may be not a good thing to do.
Mr FINCH - They might have all died out in the bush there somewhere, with the foxes.
I am having a look at the performance information on page 10.11. The target figures for 2007-08 and 2008-09 seem to indicate an expectation nearly doubling the rate of interference. Is this a gloomy outlook, or is something happening out there?
Mr JOHNSTON - As we tried to indicate to Miss Ritchie, this is reflective of the increase in acreage that we expect to be planted over that period of time. We would be silly to predict a low number and then embarrass ourselves by getting it wrong with an increase in acreage.
CHAIR - Members are very concerned about the potential impact of poppy crops that are going to be coming on in the area. We seem to have covered that well in that.