Australia's biosecurity system is recognised worldwide as strong, bringing benefits to our economy, our unique environment and our way of life.
Australia remains free of many significant pests and diseases enabling globally competitive and sustainable industries.
The Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources works in partnership with other Australian Government agencies, state and territory governments, industries and the broader community to maintain our special biosecurity status.
In 2011, the department commissioned Mr Ken Matthews (AO), former Secretary of the department, to provide a qualitative assessment of Australia's readiness to respond to the threat of foot and mouth disease (FMD).
Mr Matthews report, 'A review of Australia's preparedness for the threat of foot-and-mouth disease', acknowledges the strength of Australia's biosecurity system. It also highlights 11 areas where improvements would further strengthen Australia's approach to managing the threat of this disease.
FMD is by far the most significant biosecurity threat to Australia's livestock industries. An outbreak in Australia could have devastating consequences for our community in lost production, trade and tourism. It would also have social consequences resulting from movement restrictions and response activities during an outbreak.
Following the release of Mr Matthews' report, the then Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator the Hon. Joe Ludwig, wrote to his counterparts in Australia's state and territory governments seeking their commitment to work together to develop a strengthened approach, particularly in the areas of vaccination policy, sheep traceability and swill feeding.
As a result, the Australian Government, state and territory senior biosecurity officials (through the National Biosecurity Committee) developed ta National FMD Action Plan.
The department also established a dedicated FMD Taskforce to provide national leadership and to contribute to whole-of-government and collaborative efforts to strengthen FMD preparedness.
In addition, in December 2011 an Industry-Government Working Group was convened by the Chief Veterinary Officer to engage the key livestock industries on targeted actions to improve preparedness for FMD across all sectors.
Within the Australian Government, the department and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service have commenced closer collaboration on how to use Customs systems to more effectively target imports of potential quarantine concern.