The National Biosecurity Committee met virtually on 11 - 12 November 2021.
Mr Andrew Tongue, Deputy Secretary Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, and committee co-chair, provided an overview of efforts to ensure biosecurity risks are managed as international border are reopened to travellers. The committee also discussed COVID-associated trade disruptions and the flow on impacts for biosecurity, including the high volume of older and contaminated containers, as well as future options to better manage port risks.
The committee noted work underway to develop:
- a Biosecurity Performance Evaluation Framework, which was a key recommendation arising from the 2017 report, Priorities for Australia’s biosecurity system: an independent review of the capacity of the national biosecurity system and its underpinning intergovernmental agreement, and
- a national biosecurity strategy, including efforts to enable the views of all to system stakeholders to be heard.
The strategic importance of priority national biosecurity infrastructure and assets – from diagnostic laboratories, reference collections, and data systems, to quarantine facilities and vaccine banks – was discussed. The committee agreed further work was needed to determine the ongoing sustainability of critical assets and infrastructure, as well as system gaps, in light of their importance for industry and governments.
Members noted continuation of the industry-government funded National Fruit Fly Council – which provides advice and leadership to strengthen arrangements to address national fruit fly issues – noting it has significantly enhanced national cooperation and collaboration in recent years.
The committee acknowledged progress made developing national plant biosecurity strategies for preparedness, surveillance and diagnostics. The committee welcomed the proposed formation of a National Plant Biosecurity Strategy Implementation Group, under the Plant Health and Environment and Invasives subcommittees, to oversee implementation, reporting and review across the strategy suite.
Plant Health Australia and Animal Health Australia reported on the findings of their consultation on priority issues and opportunities within the current national biosecurity emergency response arrangements.
On the biosecurity research and innovation front, the Committee discussed ongoing prioritisation of collaborative projects. An update was provided on the Biosecurity Commons project – a virtual laboratory with data to model biosecurity risk, for research and decision-making – together with progress toward a national framework guiding use of high throughput sequencing technologies for biosecurity purposes.
The committee endorsed the National Environment and Community Biosecurity Research, Development and Extension Strategy 2021-26 and a transition plan designed to deliver coordinated effort across plant, animal, marine and environmental biosecurity. The committee also watched a live demonstration of environmental DNA testing to better understand how ‘eDNA’ can be used as a tool by biosecurity officers in the field to detect potential biosecurity threats.
The committee will meet next in March 2022 in Canberra.
For any questions about this communiqué, please contact 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.