Reports reveal biosecurity gaps


Two recent reports on the state of biosecurity operations in Australia have highlighted the need for agencies to better respond to biosecurity risk and for adequate investment in detection systems.

Chair of the NSW Farmers Biosecurity Committee Ian McColl said the NSW Auditor-General’s report into the state’s biosecurity risk management and a review of pest and disease interceptions and incursions from the Inspector General have uncovered serious gaps in biosecurity functions. 

“Both these reports have highlighted the need for increased government investment into frontline resources,” Mr McColl said. 

“The increased movement of passengers and goods are increasingly testing the biosecurity system and our agricultural industries are facing serious biosecurity threats from incoming passengers and mail, including African swine fever and foot and mouth disease.”

“The Department of Agriculture has so far worked effectively to keep these diseases out – but it needs to be adequately resourced to ensure this continues into the future.”

Mr McColl said the Inspector General raised several resourcing issues, including funding of the detector dog program, which relies on adequately trained staff and animals.

“Any drive for staffing efficiencies by the Department shouldn’t compromise our biosecurity capabilities at the border.”

The Inspector General’s report also recommended better collection of data and sharing of information to ease pressure on staffing requirements.

“NSW Farmers has long called for funding to deliver modern and world-class traceability systems, increased surveillance and monitoring programs that proactively detect biosecurity threats and provide evidence of disease freedom, and also enhancements in data collection, analysis and accessibility.”

Mr McColl said the NSW Auditor-General’s report offered some reasonable and practical recommendations for the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to build on its current biosecurity management programs.

“Again, we see that better collection and use of data is critical to planning for and responding to biosecurity threats, and that activities need to be aligned to the areas of greatest risk,” Mr McColl said.

“NSW Farmers recognises that biosecurity responses can be very fast-moving, and it is difficult to complete full cost-benefit analyses for each potential response option. Continual planning for responses and testing of response options – which include effective liaison with industry – will ensure DPI and its partner agencies are well-prepared for future outbreaks.”

Date: Monday 1 July 2019 
Contact: Michael Burt  | 0428 228 988 | burtm@nswfarmers.org.au