LAURA JAYES: The Australian beef industry has descended on Far North Queensland for one of the sector's largest events of the year, and that is Beef Week. [Audio skips] down there in 2021. An opportunity to connect producers, agri-business and industry experts. Now the Federal Government is a principal partner of this event, and it contributes millions and millions of dollars. Joining me now live is the Agriculture Minister, David Littleproud. And I've got to say, Minister, is just an excuse this morning to go live to Rockhampton. We know that a lot of viewers there, and they love Beef Week.
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Beef Week's big, I can tell you. It comes round every three years and there'll be over 100,000 people come and celebrate all that is beef. I've got to say, we are one of the biggest beef exporting nations in the world, in fact, number two. And our beef producers have had a pretty tough time over the last three years, but we've rebounded with some rain. The industry's on the way up - it's a $15 billion industry. And without it, our economy would have been buggered during COVID-19. And resources and agriculture has lifted us out of this COVID recession, and beef has been at the forefront of it.
LAURA JAYES: That said, big spending measures in the budget coming? For these agriculture businesses then, I suspect.
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Well, we made a big commitment in the last budget in October last year - over $320 million to help in the diversification of our markets, being able to send out product, beef in particular, into, into different marketplaces around the world, and that's already having results. We're seeing now, Saudi Arabia, we're allowed to have our beef on their, on their shelves for longer. But we'll now look and put our energy into biosecurity, protecting brand Australia. We'll make significant investments, and the Prime Minister will be in beef to make that announcement with me tomorrow around ramping up our biosecurity efforts.
We've already started with increasing penalties. We've cancelled 14 visas of those that have come into this country that didn't declare products in their bags. We've sent them home and- on the plane they came on, and they're not allowed back for three years. We've also increased the fines from just $444 to $2664. And anyone that wants to import, and they do the wrong thing, the fines have gone from $400,000 to over a million. And the privilege to be at Her Majesty's pleasure for 10 years. So we're taking biosecurity very seriously. Only have to look at what happened with the pandemic right across this country, what would happen with foot and mouth disease which would cost us around $50 billion, or even African swine fever.
So this is about protecting it. We'll then be saying to the states, you actually have to kick the tin too, it's important we understand it's an integrated biosecurity system, not only at our borders, but within the country as well. And this is going to make sure that we protect, not only agriculture, we're protecting the environment as well.
LAURA JAYES: That said, I mean, you're really putting on display here a very heavy handed approach that this Government takes. And it's in the context at the moment of us making it illegal for Australians to come home from India for the next two weeks. Are you comfortable with that?
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Yes. This is about protecting Australians and facing up to the risks that we are facing as a nation. And we're going to give every support to those Australians…
LAURA JAYES: Well, just not the 9000 Australians that are stuck in India, though?
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: …we’ll work to make sure we get them back as soon as we possibly can. But the responsibility of any government is to keep its people safe and its borders secure - that's what we intend to do. And those that are- find themselves on the other side of the border, we will work as quickly as we can, as safely as we can, to make sure we bring you back in a safe way that protects, not only you, but those of your loved ones and the rest of the population here in Australia. We just- we're just asking people to persevere with us. These are trying circumstances and we are taking the medical advice to make those decisions and to make them soundly, to ensure we keep everybody as safe as we possibly can.
LAURA JAYES: Okay, David Littleproud. You've got a bit of background noise; it must be music to your ears. It sounds pretty good, I've got to say, Beef Week ramping up every three years, enjoy.
DAVID LITTLEPROUD: Pure cash, Laura, pure cash behind me.
LAURA JAYES: I love it. Thanks so much for your time there. David. Littleproud live from Rockhampton. It is Beef Week, if you didn't get that message.