A long-term, sustainable biosecurity funding pipeline to help protect agriculture, communities, the economy and the environment must be a top priority for the new Federal Government.
This was the message delivered by the NFF to new Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister, Senator Murray Watt at the first industry Ministerial roundtable in Canberra last week.
“Biosecurity, isn’t a catchy word, but it’s an issue all Australians have a vested interest in. Significant incursions will not just impact agricultural value chains and market access, but will have an impact across the whole economy,” NFF Vice President David Jochinke said.
“Right now, Australia’s livestock and support sectors are working hard to prevent the possible incursion of Foot and Mouth Disease and/or Lumpy Skin Disease, with both diseases detected in Indonesian cattle.
“Government and industry are supporting our regional neighbours in the containment of both diseases and in the safeguarding our sector should there be an incursion on home soil.
“There has been significant effort, both now and over the many years prior, to develop preparedness plans and programs. Just today, industry and Government met to progress the LSD National Action Plan. However, adequate investment is needed to bring these plans to life.”
Mr Jochinke said the current threats were just the latest in a long line to bring into sharp focus how volatile Australia’s $80 billion agriculture sector was to potentially disastrous biosecurity outbreaks.
“Recently, grain growers shuddered as Khapra Beetle, a significant threat to stored grain, was detected in white goods packaging at a Canberra retail store. A near miss that could have been avoided. While nothing is zero-risk, additional resources must be provided to ensure our biosecurity system is best placed to respond to changing risk profiles.
“We need to do better than tackling problems at the point of crisis. We must finalise the National Biosecurity Strategy, and deliver the investment required to strengthen our system,” Mr Jochinke said.
“It’s not just animals and crops at risk from biosecurity incursions but native flora and fauna. Australia is free from many exotic pests and diseases, that if allowed to infiltrate, could decimate our most precious natural environments.
“Our landscape is already under pressure from out-of-control populations of introduced animals like deer, pigs and foxes, which can also act as vectors for many dangerous diseases.”
Numerous reviews have outlined areas where further investment is needed to strengthen Australia’s biosecurity system. While previous Governments of all colours, have directed significant, yet ad hoc, investments to the problem, none have implemented a sustainable, long-term funding pipeline.
Mr Jochinke said the NFF welcomed Labor’s election commitment to address the problem and felt reassured the Minister understood the importance of biosecurity following his address at today’s roundtable.
“Biosecurity must be a shared commonwealth-state priority. States territories must also do their bit, through bolstered funding to secure monitoring and surveillance and on-the-ground strategies.”
At the roundtable, the NFF also raised the priorities of sustainability, agriculture’s role in a reduced emissions future and the farm sector’s workforce crisis.