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Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper – Biosecurity Surveillance and Analysis

The Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper (the White Paper) is the Australian Government’s plan to grow agriculture. It is a $4 billion investment in our farmers and in the future of our nation.

Through the White Paper, the government announced $200 million for biosecurity surveillance and analysis to better target critical biosecurity risks. This investment will improve Australia’s ability to detect and manage biosecurity risks early and in turn minimise damage to our farmers, the environment and the economy. It will also help us grow our evidence base around our pest and disease status to support access to overseas markets.

The majority of White Paper funding for biosecurity surveillance and analysis activities will continue until 30 June 2019 with funding for some of the information and analysis components to continue until 30 June 2020. The funded activities will create a legacy beyond the funding period.

Our department is responsible for implementing the biosecurity surveillance and analysis initiative funded by the White Paper. The initiative has four themes delivered through 10 measures.

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Strengthening surveillance

Biosecurity surveillance helps detect and respond to biosecurity threats, and provides evidence to show freedom from pests and diseases to support market access. The funding allows us to conduct additional surveillance activities in Australia and overseas and extend our surveillance strategies in cooperation with state and territory governments, community and industry.

This theme is split into the following measures:

1. Improving biosecurity surveillance

We are improving Australia’s biosecurity surveillance capacity to help demonstrate to our trading partners that we are free from pests and diseases, and respond more rapidly to biosecurity incidents if they arise. Work includes developing strategies to guide investment, conducting surveillance activities, and establishing nationally consistent and efficient business processes that support surveillance, diagnostic activities and sample tracking.

2. Better data for northern Australia

Existing northern Australia biosecurity data is being connected, cleaned and reformatted to improve our ability to analyse the data and facilitate sharing with stakeholders. Historical data, such as specimen collections housed in various locations across the north, will also be electronically catalogued and made available.

3. Offshore surveys for northern pathways

We are working closely with neighbouring countries to the north to manage biosecurity risks affecting the region. We’re also working to better understand biosecurity risks in Australian Indian Ocean territories, to identify and address threats before they reach the mainland.

4. Northern Australia biosecurity surveillance

We are collaborating with governments, researchers and industry in northern Australia to prioritise and develop agreed approaches to surveillance activities. This will include better monitoring of aquatic pests and diseases, and providing training for industry, fishers, government and community.

We’re also working to better understand the pathways for biosecurity risk through the Torres Strait to help inform biosecurity, surveillance, intervention and investment strategies, and supporting our staff to do the work by upgrading facilities and communication infrastructure. Tools and systems are also being developed to better enable the collection, collation and analysis of data relating to biosecurity inspection activities and risk in the Torres Strait.

Building community–based engagement

We are expanding the biosecurity work of our Indigenous Rangers and raising biosecurity awareness across northern Australia through targeted messaging and sponsorship of community events.

This theme is split into the following measures:

1. Community engagement for stronger biosecurity in the north

We’re building on the successes of the Biosecurity Top Watch initiative by increasing community awareness of biosecurity threats and ways to report them across northern Australia. Public awareness products are being developed to target specific groups across the north and are being delivered by dedicated engagement officers. Biosecurity ambassadors—high profile people who are aligned with the agricultural sector, are promoting the importance of biosecurity—and sponsoring relevant community events to raise biosecurity awareness.

We are also working on ways to improve the collection, analysis and distribution of information related to biosecurity surveillance and monitoring. This includes creating a web presence that the community can use to report on pests, weeds and diseases.

Greater awareness of biosecurity issues will reduce the risk of threats establishing in Australia, benefiting our agricultural industries and the Australian economy.

2. Indigenous Rangers for biosecurity work in northern Australia

The Indigenous Rangers—Working on Country programme creates employment, training and career pathways for Indigenous people in land and sea management. The programme supports Indigenous people to combine traditional knowledge with conservation training to protect and manage their land, sea and culture.

Rangers provide valuable biosecurity services across northern Australia, including monitoring fruit fly, testing cattle for diseases, and conducting weed and pest surveys. We are expanding the biosecurity monitoring and response activities delivered by Indigenous rangers with many new Indigenous ranger groups agreeing to undertake the work since 2015.

Growing scientific capability

To improve our scientific capability, the White Paper provides funds for scientific staff to assess biosecurity risks, analyse those risks through more efficient approaches, review import conditions, and work more closely with stakeholders. We’re developing technical market access strategies for Australian exporters, and working with trading partners on their market access requests.

We are also contributing to laboratory infrastructure, installing updated diagnostic equipment, and funding research into emerging aquatic and terrestrial pests and diseases to grow our scientific biosecurity capability.

This theme is split into the following measures:

1. Technical market access

With around 65 per cent of our agricultural produce exported, access to overseas markets is vital for a profitable agriculture sector. Being able to access a broad range of markets reduces reliance on any one market and increases the opportunity for higher profits for farmers. Through this measure we’re developing market access strategies for Australian exporters, ensuring those exporters are aware of importing country requirements, and liaising with overseas government authorities about any changes to conditions.

The work also includes investigating innovative ways to assess import risk more efficiently. We’re reviewing all of the import conditions on animal and plant products to ensure they remain effective in managing biosecurity risk, and working with our trading partners on their market access requests. Stakeholder attitudes to biosecurity are being investigated to better inform biosecurity activities, and we’re trialling a dedicated point of contact for stakeholders to communicate with us on import risk analyses.

2. Modern diagnostics

This work is improving plant and animal health diagnostics capability and improving infrastructure to support the timely delivery of diagnostics in northern Australia. This includes upgrading diagnostic equipment and laboratory infrastructure, and helping the coordination and sharing of diagnostic information. We’re also identifying capability gaps related to plant and animal pests and disease diagnosis and providing training and developing diagnosis tools for key personnel.

This work is leaving a legacy of enhanced diagnostic skills and equipment throughout northern Australia, helping to more effectively reduce and rapidly address biosecurity risks.

Information and analysis

We are replacing legacy information systems and improving our ability to collect, collate, store and analyse and share biosecurity information. All biosecurity information is being consolidated to create a single source of complete and accessible data that can be interrogated by a dedicated analytics capability.

This theme is split into the following measures:

1. The Biosecurity Integrated Information System

The Biosecurity Integrated Information System (BIIS) will improve the collection, collation, storage and ability to analyse information to support biosecurity activities, incursion responses and help inform decision making. The BIIS will replace legacy IT systems that support our regulatory and policy functions. All biosecurity information will be integrated by this new system.

The system will provide detailed pest and disease information to support agricultural exports and assist farmers to compete globally. Primary producers will benefit from our improved ability to more efficiently manage biosecurity data, and make better decisions.

2. The Biosecurity Advanced Analytics Capability

The work we do generates a huge amount of biosecurity data. As the amount of data increases, it is becoming more important to make the best use of it by transforming it into information that we can use to make better biosecurity decisions.

Analytics helps to answer hard questions like what happened and why, and what actions are needed. It can also help to predict what might happen if something changes. We are recruiting and training skilled analysts, developing a pest and disease repository to provide a single source of information about pests and diseases, and facilitating data sharing with state and territory governments.

This work is helping us focus biosecurity efforts on areas of highest risk, to safeguard our primary production and valuable exports.

Benefits

The biosecurity surveillance and analysis activities funded through the White Paper are providing long term benefits to Australia including reducing biosecurity risk, improving and helping to maintain market access, and improving our ability to rapidly respond to biosecurity incidents. These initiatives will benefit the agriculture sector, the community, environment, and the economy by:

  • improving outcomes for our agriculture sector through lower production costs, supporting access to overseas markets and the associated benefits for farm businesses, rural communities and the Australian economy
  • maintaining domestic and international access to high quality, safe food
  • preventing biosecurity risks from affecting the environment and continuing the broad range of benefits people enjoy from our environment (including benefits for the tourism industry)
  • providing better, simpler ways to report biosecurity issues
  • enhancing import and export processes

Find out more about biosecurity surveillance and analysis projects