Mail laws a headache for WA

19 Apr, 2006 08:45 PM
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PROTECTING WA grain crops from disease threats through the domestic mail system has proven continually frustrating, according to the Agriculture Department.

Agriculture Department quarantine officers are unable to open mail arriving at Perth Domestic Airport suspected of carrying diseased matter because national legislation requires Australia Post officers to do so to protect the recipientsí privacy.

Department executive director Rob Delane said the Australia Post mail and parcel pathway was considered a significant risk needing urgent attention.

But Mr Delane said the department had received fantastic cooperation from Australia Post staff at the airport and in Perth.

ìWe have department staff doing x-rays and checking with the postal staff so they work very cooperatively,î he said.

ìIf a parcel or letter is suspected of containing something risky the immediate response is to attach a quarantine notice to the mail item and then the recipient comes to us when they receive it.

ìBut if itís something obvious that we believe is too risky to let out of the receival area then we liaise with Australia Post staff to resolve the situation.î

Mr Delane said the issue was about the Australian Postal Corporations Act and its lack of provisions regarding domestic mail and quarantine issues.

He said federal quarantine was adequately dealt with but the interstate situation was problematic.

ìThe Agriculture Minister and the department have examined whether any WA laws could circumvent or overcome the federal law and there arenít,î Mr Delane said.

ìFederal parliament has made the judgment that the privacy of mail recipients outweighs the risk to our grains industry.

ìWe are always seeking to minimise biosecurity risks to deal with the changing biosecurity environment and terrorism issues.î

Agriculture Minister Kim Chance has previously told Farm Weekly that he was highly concerned about department inspectorsí inability to check personal mail for hazardous seeds, organisms or pests coming into WA.

ìBecause Australia Post is a Commonwealth-managed system we canít do anything,î Mr Chance said.

ìThis mail issue has to be the worst example of cooperation between the Commonwealth and the states.

ìNo legitimate privacy right exists to override the risk to our agricultural industries and economy by letting potentially devastating diseases through the mail.î

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