BIOSECURITY has taken centre stage with Hollywood heartthrob Johnny Depp arriving for a court appearance on the Gold Coast today in Queensland.
Mr Depp’s wife Amber Heard was charged over quarantine breaches relating to the couple’s pet dogs Boo and Pistol arriving in Australia last year without submitting the correct documentation.
That incident set up a high profile verbal conflict between the veteran Hollywood actor and Australian Agriculture and Water Resources Minister Barnaby Joyce who last week as the acting Prime Minister.
Mr Joyce’s has declined to comment today while the incident is before the Southport Magistrates Court on the Gold Coast.
Mr Depp and his wife arrived for the hearing in a black limousine and were confronted by a large, frenzied media scrum.
It’s understood 12 witnesses were listed to give evidence with Mr Depp potentially called during the scheduled four-day hearing but Ms Heard pleaded guilty to the charges laid last year and court adjourned until 11:00am.
Mr Depp and his wife have reignited public interest in the case and its underlying message about biosecurity standards, after flying into Coolangatta Airport yesterday morning.
According to the Mr Joyce’s Department, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions served Ms Heard with a summons on July 14 last year over the incident which was revealed when the dogs were spotted on social media, at a pet grooming salon.
The CDPP’s action follows an incident where a biosecurity officer attended a Gold Coast property in April and found two dogs alleged to be illegally imported, a statement said.
“All animals entering Australia must have an import permit, and have undergone relevant testing and health checks signed off by a government veterinarian from the exporting country to ensure pests and diseases from overseas are not brought here,” it said.
Mr Joyce and Mr Depp have engaged in a global war of words over the biosecurity breach after the minister warned the actor his two pet terriers must return to the US within 72-hours or else they’d be euthanised, after entering the country illegally.
The pets entered the country on a private jet where Mr Depp was filming his latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie.
“A gentlemen by the name of John Christopher Depp – otherwise known as (Captain) Jack Sparrow - has decided to bring into our nation two dogs without actually getting the proper certification and the proper permits required,” Mr Joyce told a media conference at the time.
“Now, Mr Depp either has to take his dogs back to California or we’re going to have to euthanise them.
“It’s time Pistol and Boo buggered off back to the United States - and after that I don’t expect to be invited to the opening of Pirates of the Caribbean.”
The pets left Australian within the prescribed timeframe but Ms Heard was subsequently charged producing a false document to quarantine officials and illegally importing the dogs into Australia which carry a hefty fine or potential imprisonment.
Last December, Mr Joyce won a Froggatt Award for principled decision-making in standing up for the nation’s quarantine laws and biosecurity standards over the incident.
Mr Depp’s latest jibe at Mr Joyce over the incident was on the red carpet at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles in February when he was asked if he planned a return visit to Australia and replied, “absolutely”.
“I think that guy Barnaby he invited me to stay at his house for some reason,” he quipped.