The National Biosecurity Committee met on 11 March 2020 in Orange, New South Wales. It considered current and emerging issues for each jurisdiction. Of particular concern is the increasing risk of Covid-19, now spreading around the world, along with African swine fever and the fall army worm. The Committee noted the significant work going on in terms of preparedness for these risks, as well as the success of the new pre-border measures taken to prevent the entry of the brown marmorated stink bug.
In light of a strenuous and sensitive time for Australia recovering from the bushfire season that was a trying time for many in our communities, the Committee discussed learnings from the response activity and considered the differences and similarities between emergency and biosecurity responses and how to improve and harmonise aspects of this, for continued smooth facilitation of future responses.
The Committee recognised the success of the National Biosecurity Emergency Preparedness Expert Group (NBEPEG) in completing its 2016-2019 roadmap. This has driven a significant number of improvements to enhance Australia’s biosecurity emergency preparedness, response and initial recovery arrangements. A major achievement of the group has been the creation of the national biosecurity response team arrangements. While the expert group has fulfilled its role, members recognised the continuing importance of emergency preparedness, including environmental biosecurity, and agreed that we should continue a focus on preparedness.
The Committee focused its efforts on progressing a number of priority reform areas for Agricultural Ministers’ consideration later in the year. In particular, the Committee progressed discussions on traceability, acknowledging the extensive work of SAFEMEAT to engage industry and government partners on our livestock traceability system and to gaining in-principle support from the wool, pork, red meat and livestock sectors for a recommended approach to enhance the National Livestock Identification System. The committee agreed to undertake further scoping work on available options for implementing the recommended enhancements, ahead of agricultural ministers’ consideration in November 2020.
The Committee discussed the importance of property identification codes (PICs) to assist in a quick emergency response, and effective recovery, and how these were successfully used during the recent bushfires. The Committee considered stakeholder feedback on the draft PIC business rules and principles. It requested further engagement with the plant industry to build understanding of the benefits of unique property identifier (PICs), and also requested an examination of broader plant traceability systems, after discussion of plant industry sectors views on property identifiers.
The Committee agreed to the final positions on all National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement (NEBRA) review recommendations and the approach to implementing a revised agreement. Following legal review and jurisdictional process, the final agreement will be presented to agriculture ministers in November 2020.
The Committee recognised the success of the National Wild Dog Action Plan initiative and the collective industry and government support for its continuation. The Committee endorsed the National Wild Dog Action Plan 2020-30 as Australia’s national plan for the coordinated management of wild dogs, to commence on 1 July 2020. Following nine months of stakeholder engagement, the updated plan is supported and endorsed by peak industry bodies including Australian Wool Innovation, Meat and Livestock Australia, Wool Producers Australia, Sheep Producers Australia, the Cattle Council of Australia and Animal Health Australia.
On the response front, the Committee was briefed on national biosecurity response activities. The Committee noted the progress of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program in South East Queensland.
The Committee noted progress on the National Carp Control Plan.
The importance of the national fruit fly management system to Australian growers was recognised by the Committee. Members agreed that the sustainability of the system is important and tasked the Plant Health Committee with providing advice on a short to medium-term strategic plan. The Committee endorsed three projects under the Strengthening Australia’s Fruit Fly System Research Program, following consideration from the National Fruit Fly Council (NFFC) and Plant Health Committee (PHC).
The impact of climate change on biosecurity, including the risks and opportunities for Australia’s agricultural industries was discussed at the strategic workshop on 12 March 2020. As part of delivering the biosecurity component of the national agriculture and climate change work program agreed by agricultural ministers, the Committee will map existing work particularly on modelling potential pest and disease spread and understanding current efforts including relevant research.
The Committee endorsed the approach taken by PHC to the interstate trade review for plants and plant products, noting its vital contribution to more effective and efficient movement arrangements with reduced red tape for industry.
The Committee also:
- discussed One Biosecurity, a program developed by South Australia that allows producers to demonstrate higher levels of biosecurity planning
- agreed to further consider ways to strengthen responses to near-border biosecurity incidents, including a draft framework to provide guidance on roles and responsibilities when detections are made in close proximity to imported goods and conveyances
- approved the formation of a multi-agency/multi-jurisdictional group to develop a national framework to manage the biosecurity risks associated recovery of waste materials for use as a fertiliser or soil amendment
- noted progress with Aquatic Deed and the development of national guidelines to manage Salmonella enteritidis.
The next NBC meeting will be hosted by Victoria in September 2020, with an interim teleconference scheduled for July.
For any questions regarding this communique, please email the NBC Secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The National Biosecurity Committee is responsible for managing a national, strategic approach to biosecurity threats relating to plant and animal pests and diseases, marine and aquatic pests, and the impact of these on agricultural production, the environment, community wellbeing and social amenity. The Committee provides advice to the Agriculture Senior Officials Committee and the Agriculture Minister’s Forum on national biosecurity issues, and on progress in implementing the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity.
For further information on the National Biosecurity Committee, you can visit the Committee’s website, hosted by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.