Program 2.2: Plant and animal health

Program objective

  • support access to overseas markets and protect the economy and the environment from the impacts of unwanted pests and diseases through the safe movement to and from Australia of animals, plants and their products, including genetic material, people and cargo.

Program description

Our biosecurity program works to keep Australia free from some of the world’s major agricultural and aquatic pests and diseases, providing a trading advantage and continuing access to overseas markets. We protect Australia’s plant and animal health through education and awareness to prevent incursions and work to ensure robust response plans are in place if an outbreak occurs.

More information is available at animal and pl​ant health.

Key performance indicators

Table 18 Program 2.2—Plant and animal health—key performance indicators
Key performance indicator2012–13 targetPerformance
Responses to pest and disease incursions and outbreaks are managed according to relevant frameworks100%MetMet
Reports to international bodies provide up-to-date information on Australia’s animal, plant and marine health status, as required by international agreements100%MetMet
Fund key national surveillance, response and diagnostic capabilities100%MetMet
Within budget constraints, deliver capacity building projects to the Asia–Pacific region, to manage pests and diseases100% of budget utilised aMet
Representation of Australia’s interests at relevant standard setting fora26 meetings aMet
AUSVETPLAN, AQUAVETPLAN, EMPPLAN and PLANTPLAN reflect current science of emergency responses to plant and animal pests and diseasesAll plans reflect current scienceMetMetMet
Timely development of National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement (NEBRA) schedules to provide guidance for implementationDraft 3 schedules aMet
Scientific and economic research
Underpinning research, advice, forecasts, projects, products and data services are delivered on time, within budget and are of high quality85% aMet

a New performance indicator.


Supporting a national approach to biosecurity

We continued to work with the states and territories to implement the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity (IGAB). This included finalising outstanding schedules to the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement (NEBRA) on the conduct of cost-benefit analyses, distribution of inland water diseases and distribution of marine diseases.

We developed a national framework to help jurisdictions adopt a consistent approach to engagement and communication plans. We also completed the first phase of a research, development and extension capability audit to capture information on current personnel and infrastructure and government investment in biosecurity related research and development activity.

Pest surveillance

We facilitated a national plant biosecurity surveillance strategy, with agreement from all state and territory jurisdictions. This included collating data in a nationally coordinated information management system to enable the sharing of surveillance information between national and international agencies, to guide decision-making and to contribute to the evidence required when making official claims around Australia’s pest free status.

DAFF continued to implement a national plant pest surveillance program to improve Australia’s capacity for early detection of a range of plant pests. The program includes the Multiple Pest Surveillance program, ports of entry trapping for fruit fly and Asian gypsy moth and surveillance data management components. The program is used to increase confidence in Australia’s pest-free status to gain market access.

National Plant Health Policy

We lead and coordinate development and implementation of national plant health policies and programs through national committees, including the Plant Health Committee (PHC). An internal review during the year led to changes being implemented for management of the PHC, including establishing a clear line of sight between the PHC, the National Biosecurity Committee and the IGAB, and benchmarking progress against strategic priorities identified in the IGAB and the National Plant Biosecurity Strategy.

Key initiatives for the PHC in 2012–13 included reviews of interstate trading processes and cost sharing arrangements for the Long-term Containment Strategy for Exotic Fruit Flies in Torres Strait. Outcomes from these initiatives will be considered in 2013–14.

Managing major pest and disease incidents

Delivering a Hendra virus vaccine

In August 2012, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority issued a ‘minor use’ permit to allow supply of a Hendra virus vaccine for horses. Release of the vaccine was a significant achievement in being able to protect horses and humans from the disease.

The permit sets strict conditions for use of the vaccine, including administration by accredited veterinarians and identification of vaccinated horses by a microchip, with their details recorded in a database. Research continues on the vaccine to assess its suitability for full registration.

Preparing for foot-and-mouth disease

Good progress was made in implementing the national action plan to improve Australia’s management of the risk of a foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak. Achievements include a national policy for vaccination against FMD, a revised AUSVETPLAN FMD strategy manual, a draft report on national carcass disposal mapping and analysis, and agreement on national definitions of swill and swill feeding.

We also facilitated training in FMD endemic countries to give Australian vets, producers and stock handlers experience in identifying FMD, implementing biosecurity strategies and conducting initial disease investigations. In 2012–13, 62 Australians attended training in Nepal, and another 40 were scheduled to attend training in September 2013.

National emergency response management

In 2012–13, there were 58 reports under the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD), 15 marine pest reports sent to the Consultative Committee on Introduced Marine Pest Emergencies and two reports under NEBRA. The Australian Government also responded to 16 new animal disease incidents.

Five animal incidents resulted in notification to the relevant emergency animal disease consultative committee. In most cases, the animal diseases detected were not of economic significance or were not considered technically feasible and/or beneficial to eradicate.

The National Management Group (NMG) agreed to a national cost-shared arrangement under the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement (EADRA) for the eradication of highly pathogenic avian influenza in poultry in New South Wales in November 2012.

The NMG also considered ongoing cost-shared responses for eradication of electric ant, chestnut blight, four tropical weeds and low pathogenicity avian influenza in ducks.

Red imported fire ant

The NMG sought assessments of the red imported fire ant eradication program. ABARES undertook a cost-benefit analysis of the eradication program, taking into account the effectiveness of recently introduced remote sensing technology that has been used to identify nests. We facilitated an independent efficiency audit in association with Biosecurity Queensland. The NMG concluded there was a strong economic benefit from eradication and that it remains feasible.

As at 30 June 2013, the Australian, state and territory governments had invested a total of $266 million in this eradication program. In May 2013, the Standing Council on Primary Industries (SCoPI) agreed to continue the program in 2013–14.

Emergency response levies

Animal and plant industry groups are strongly encouraged to become signatories to the EADRA and the EPPRD to ensure their contribution in the event of a nationally cost-shared emergency response. We helped the Cherry Growers of Australia Inc. and Summerfruit Australia Limited establish levies for Plant Health Australia membership and emergency responses. We helped a range of other industry bodies progress similar proposals.

close-up of Sycamore lace bug

Sycamore lace bug: This close-up of an invasive pest was the winning image in the Patterns Within Life category of the 2013 DAFF Photo Competition.

Photo: Craig Hull

Transition to management

We worked with state and territory governments and industry to develop a new approach to deal with incursions that cannot be eradicated but where further nationally coordinated action is needed. The approach aims to assist primary producers and the community to transition to ongoing management of the pest or disease.

We also worked with state and territory governments and industry to continue implementing two pilot programs aimed at limiting the spread and impact of Asian honey bees and improving our understanding of the plant disease myrtle rust.

Building international ties

World Organisation for Animal Health

The Australian Chief Veterinary Officer (ACVO) was elected to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Council in May 2012. The ACVO’s influence has led to improved transparency, with summary reports of OIE council meetings now provided to all delegates. Regional consultation has also been improved with issues sought from the region for addition to the council agenda.

Since May 2012, DAFF staff members have also represented Australia on the OIE Aquatic Animal Health Standards Commission and the OIE Animal Welfare Working Group.

Australia Indonesia Partnership for Emerging Infectious Diseases

We have established an effective working partnership with the Indonesian Government to strengthen veterinary services in Indonesia. Progress under the Australia Indonesia Partnership, funded by the Australian International Development Agency (AusAID), included:

  • improving emergency and emerging disease preparedness and response
  • assisting the regional control of an endemic zoonotic disease (brucellosis)
  • developing an integrated animal health information system to improve laboratory capacity to diagnose animal diseases
  • strengthening quarantine risk analysis and risk management
  • improving disease recognition and reporting at the local level.

Both Indonesian and Australian agencies are working hard to make the partnership successful. The program supports our focus on enhancing Australia’s biosecurity interests through international partnerships.

Regional animal biosecurity program

The value of our regional biosecurity program was demonstrated by Papua New Guinea’s response to an outbreak of Newcastle disease in chickens in Sandaun Province. An officer, trained during multiple DAFF-led surveillance activities, detected a suspected case using rapid tests provided by the department, and sent diagnostic specimens to the Australian Animal Health Laboratory where tests, paid for by DAFF, confirmed the disease and indicated the likely source.

Authorities responded quickly, implementing Papua New Guinea’s emergency animal disease response plan, which was developed in conjunction with DAFF through an AusAID funded project completed in 2012.

Plant flower from the P-tracker system on a smart phone.

Tracking regional plant health: The P-tracker system is enhancing the capabilities of plant health scientists from DAFF and Australia’s neighbours Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The suite of digital data collection, consolidation and mapping tools is helping with the analysis of biosecurity surveillance activities across the region. These activities provide early warning of exotic plant pests and disease movements to help manage biosecurity risks offshore.

A picture from the P-tracker system on a smart phone.

Photo: DAFF

Scientific and economic research

ABARES is preparing a regulation impact statement on the introduction of an improved National Livestock Identification System for sheep and goats. The Primary Industries Standing Committee under SCoPI found that the system does not currently enable tracing of animals to national performance standards. A regulation impact statement is required before SCoPI can make any decision to implement improvements to the system.


Building partnerships for biosecurity

New ways of working with state and territory governments and industry are needed to ensure efficient and effective processes and biosecurity actions can be supported. The department continues to work with jurisdictions to improve and streamline arrangements for the prevention, eradication and management of pests and diseases within our borders.

Defence trade controls

The department’s Chief Scientist played a lead role in response to concerns from a number of biosecurity research stakeholders about the impact of the Defence Trade Controls Bill 2011. The legislation seeks to introduce permits for trade in intangible technology such as any knowledge which could have security implications. Researchers in areas of plant, animal and pathogen biosecurity can fall within the scope of this legislation.

The Chief Scientist engaged in a range of stakeholder meetings and roundtable discussions to review Department of Defence proposals to address stakeholder concerns. The engagement process satisfied our stakeholders that the revised arrangements would allow them to meet their obligations to undertake research and collaboration activities. The Bill was passed into legislation in October 2012.

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Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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