Friday 9 September 2022
Commonwealth, state and territory agriculture ministers met virtually on Friday 9 September 2022 for the second Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) since the election of the Albanese Government. This meeting had a strong biosecurity focus and continued the AMM’s commitment to collaboration, cooperation and meeting regularly to address the challenges of mutual concern facing Australian agriculture. AMM was chaired by the Australian Government Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator the Hon Murray Watt.
Ministers noted that Australia continues to remain free of significant diseases such as foot and mouth disease, lumpy skin disease and African swine fever. Ministers acknowledged the hard work and diligence of people across the biosecurity continuum and recognised that the collaborative efforts between Commonwealth and state and territory governments contribute greatly to maintain Australia’s enviable pest and disease-free status.
Ministers discussed the continuing strong performance of the agricultural sector in light of exceptional growing conditions and high commodity prices. Forecasts by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences point to the gross value of farm production exceeding $80 billion for a second year in a row, with export earnings expected to climb to a record $70.3 billion for 2022–23. Such extraordinary achievements reaffirmed the importance of the sector to Australia and to responding to heightened food security concerns around the world.
Ministers considered the challenges confronting Australian farmers such as workforce shortages, biosecurity threats, flooding in several regions, and the ongoing trade issues in some industries.
Ministers agreed on the need to continue to prioritise collective action to protect and prepare for biosecurity threats, assist with agricultural workforce challenges and to address, and prepare the industry for, the effects of climate change on agriculture. AMM will focus on these three agreed priorities, as well as other important issues to the sector as they arise, to ensure Australian agriculture continues to be an economic backbone of Australia, especially rural and regional Australia.
Ministers discussed biosecurity settings, noting that Australia’s strong biosecurity system continues to keep Australia free from significant diseases like foot and mouth. This is in large part due to the strong measures in place across the biosecurity continuum. Ministers extended their thanks and appreciation to industry, the travelling public and biosecurity officers for their work in maintaining Australia’s foot and mouth disease free status. Ministers agreed to continue collective action in this important area, and to ongoing clear communication with all stakeholders to address misinformation and build confidence in the system.
National Biosecurity Strategy – implementation
Ministers noted the release of the inaugural National Biosecurity Strategy, agreed at the last AMM, was already providing an effective framework for biosecurity in the face of emerging and increasing complex challenges. To maintain momentum and accountability, Ministers agreed to the establishment of the National Biosecurity Strategy Implementation Committee. Ministers also agreed to commence urgent actions under the Strategy, including further stress testing of emergency response systems, strengthening public awareness of significant biosecurity threats, and increasing the involvement of industry and communities in decision-making bodies.
Exotic Animal Disease Preparedness Taskforce
Minister Watt noted that the joint Emergency Management Australia / Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Exotic Animal Disease Preparedness Taskforce (the Taskforce) established in early August 2022 had provided its report earlier in the week.
Minister Watt explained the outcomes from the Taskforce will be used to inform refinements to the activities planned as part of jurisdictional and Commonwealth biosecurity exercise programs. Its primary message was that current systems are well formed and well understood and increasing work on preparedness should not be interpreted as a lack of confidence in the system. Ministers thanked the Taskforce for this important work.
Livestock vaccine capabilities
Ministers discussed progress on Australia’s mRNA vaccine capability and the progress of mRNA vaccine development, noting the importance of reliable and timely access to high quality livestock vaccines in managing outbreaks of exotic animal diseases. Ministers noted the work underway including the collaborative effort between jurisdictions and industry to explore opportunities to develop mRNA vaccines, as well as the Commonwealth’s open market discovery process investigating potential vaccine manufacturers.
Following in-principle agreement at the 20 July 2022 AMM, Ministers discussed progress on the implementation of national individual electronic identification for sheep and goats, Noting the strong industry engagement in this work to date, Ministers discussed the importance of jointly designing the implementation with industry through a new government-industry Sheep and Goat Traceability Taskforce which has been established under the National Biosecurity Committee.
To maintain momentum on this work, Ministers agreed to work with industry towards mandatory implementation of national individual electronic identification for sheep and goats in each jurisdiction by 1 January 2025 and that officials will report back to ministers on matters relating to implementation and governance arrangements. Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to working collaboratively to ensure the successful implementation of this important reform.
Fruit fly situation report
Ministers discussed the impacts of fruit fly, noting an estimated $300 million is lost in production and trade each year for our horticulture industries. Ministers discussed the current fruit fly situation in Australia, with particular focus on trade and biosecurity issues and fruit fly management initiatives that are underway.
New South Wales Minister for Agriculture, the Hon Dugald Saunders MP, briefed members on the status of the Varroa mite emergency response. Ministers agreed that stopping the spread of Varroa mite was a priority. Ministers agreed to work together on a coordinated and proactive response to securing pollination services for the remainder of 2022 and for the 2023 season.
National Electric Ant Eradication Response Plan
Ministers endorsed the National Electric Ant Eradication Program Revised Response Plan (Version 5) in session. Ministers noted the eradication of this species has been deemed nationally significant due to its potential impact on business, ecosystem services as well as environmental and social amenity, and that efforts must continue to this end.
Minister Watt provided an update on the recent Jobs and Skills Summit, including the immediate actions that will benefit the agriculture sector, including training places, migration, visa processing and worker protections. In addition, Minister Watt advised the meeting of the Agricultural Workforce Tripartite Statement signed by employer groups, unions and the Australian Government. Ministers welcomed the commitment by unions and employer groups to work together to address the workforce challenges impacting the Australian agriculture sector. Ministers agreed to continue to work together in parallel with this process to address this important issue for the sector.
Ministers agreed that climate change is a priority for further collaboration, given the current and future impacts of climate change on the agriculture sector and the opportunities for the sector in responding and adapting to climate change. Ministers agreed that it will be a focus of more detailed discussion at their next meeting.
Ministers will meet in person for a full day in Western Australia later in the year. Ministers noted that it had been some time since the last face to face meeting and are looking forward to meeting in that format. It was agreed animal welfare priorities would be considered at the next AMM meeting.
- Australian Government (Chair): Senator the Hon Murray Watt, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
- New South Wales: The Hon Dugald Saunders MP, Minister for Agriculture
- Victoria: The Hon Gayle Tierney MLC, Minister for Agriculture
- Queensland: The Hon Mark Furner MP, Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries
- Western Australia: The Hon Alannah MacTiernan MLC, Minister for Agriculture and Food
- South Australia: The Hon Clare Scriven MLC, Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development
- Tasmania: The Hon Jo Palmer MLC, Minister for Primary Industries and Water
- Australian Capital Territory: Ms Rebecca Vassarotti MLA, Minister for the Environment
- Northern Territory: Mr Luke Bowen, Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade