Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper – Biosecurity Surveillance and Analysis

​The Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper (the White Paper) was an Australian Government plan to grow agriculture. It was a $4 billion investment in our farmers and in the future of our nation.

Through the White Paper, the government announced $200 million for biosecurity surveillance and analysis to better target critical biosecurity risks. The investment has improved Australia’s ability to detect and manage biosecurity risks early and, in turn, minimise damage to our farmers, the environment and the economy. It has also helped us grow our evidence base for our pest and disease status to support Australia’s access to overseas markets.

Most of the White Paper funding provided for biosecurity was for surveillance and analysis activities over 4 years until 30 June 2019. Some of the information and analysis components have funding to continue work until 30 June 2020. The activities will leave a legacy for biosecurity beyond the funding period.

Our department was responsible for implementing the biosecurity surveillance and analysis initiatives funded through the White Paper. The initiatives were delivered under four themes and through 10 measures.

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Strengthening surveillance

Biosecurity surveillance helps the department detect and respond to biosecurity threats and provides evidence to show freedom from pests and diseases to support market access.

The White Paper funding allowed us to conduct additional surveillance activities in Australia and overseas and to extend our surveillance strategies in cooperation with state and territory governments, community and industry.

This theme was split into the following measures:

1. Improving biosecurity surveillance

Through this measure, we have improved Australia’s biosecurity surveillance capacity, which has allowed us to demonstrate to our trading partners that we are free from specific pests and diseases of concern to them. Our enhanced biosecurity surveillance capacity means we are able to respond more rapidly to biosecurity incidents should they arise.

Work under this measure included:

  • developing strategies to guide investment (including surveillance strategies for the citrus and forestry industries)
  • conducting surveillance activities onshore
  • establishing nationally consistent and efficient business processes that support surveillance, diagnostic activities and sample tracking.

2. Better data for northern Australia

Existing northern Australia biosecurity data has been connected, cleaned and reformatted. This has improved our ability to analyse the data and facilitate sharing with stakeholders. Historical data, such as specimen collections housed in various locations across the north, has been electronically catalogued and is now readily available. This work has had real impact: surveillance data from the Northern Australia Quarantine Strategy provided to the Western Australian Government has assisted a determination on the absence of banana freckle within that State.

3. Offshore surveys for northern pathways

Working closely with our neighbors Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste, we managed biosecurity risks that were affecting the region. We also collaborated to understand biosecurity risks in Australian Indian Ocean Territories to identify and address threats before they could reach mainland Australia.

4. Northern Australia biosecurity surveillance

We collaborated with governments, researchers and industry partners located in northern Australia to prioritise and develop additional approaches to surveillance activities for our aquatic environment. These now include better monitoring of aquatic pests and diseases and training for industry, fishers, government and the community.

We have also improved our understanding of the pathways for biosecurity risk through Torres Strait and upgraded facilities and communication infrastructure to support surveillance activities in the north. Tools and systems were also developed to better support the collection, collation and analysis of data relating to biosecurity risk inspection activities in Torres Strait.

Building community–based engagement

We have expanded the biosecurity work of Indigenous Rangers and raised biosecurity awareness across northern Australia through targeted messaging and sponsorship of community events.

This theme is split into the following measures:

1. Community engagement for stronger biosecurity in the north

Biosecurity impacts everyone and we want everyone across the north to play a role in biosecurity – to keep a ‘Top Watch’ to identify and report potential biosecurity threats. We used new technologies and proven ways to spread the word on biosecurity risks that may affect the north. This allowed us to develop trusted relationships with the agricultural sector and encouraged the involvement of key industries and stakeholders in biosecurity activities. As a result we have improved awareness of biosecurity threats in the north and ways to report them.

We engaged Biosecurity Champions and Ambassadors—high profile people who are aligned with the agricultural sector—to promote the importance of biosecurity. This was achieved through awareness products such as videos, media and sponsoring relevant community events.

We improved the collection, analysis, and distribution of biosecurity surveillance and monitoring information. This included creating a web presence that the community can now use to report pests, weeds, and diseases.

Greater awareness of biosecurity helps to reduce the risk of threats establishing in Australia, which benefits our agricultural industries and the Australian economy.

2. Indigenous Rangers for biosecurity work in northern Australia

The Indigenous Rangers program creates employment, training, and career pathways for Indigenous people in land and sea management. The program specifically supports Indigenous people to combine their traditional knowledge of the environment with conservation training to protect and manage their land, sea and culture.

Rangers provide valuable biosecurity services across northern Australia, including monitoring fruit fly, testing cattle for diseases and conducting weed and pest surveys.

Growing scientific capability

To improve our scientific capability, the White Paper funded scientific staff to:

  • assess biosecurity risks
  • analyse those risks through more efficient approaches
  • review import conditions
  • work more closely with stakeholders.

Technical market access strategies for Australian exporters to get their products into markets overseas were developed.

We invested in laboratory infrastructure, updated our diagnostic equipment and funded research into emerging aquatic and terrestrial pests and diseases to grow our scientific biosecurity capability.

This theme is split into the following measures:

1. Technical market access

With around 65 per cent of our agricultural produce exported, access to overseas markets is vital for a profitable agriculture sector. Being able to access a broad range of markets reduces reliance on any one market and increases the opportunity for higher profits for farmers.

Through this measure, we developed market access strategies for Australian exporters. We helped ensure those exporters were aware of importing country requirements and liaised with overseas government authorities about any changes to conditions.

The work also included looking into innovative ways to assess import risk more efficiently. We committed to review all import conditions on animal and plant products to ensure they remain effective in managing biosecurity risk. We also worked with our trading partners on their market access requests.

Stakeholder attitudes to biosecurity were investigated to better inform biosecurity activities. We also trialed a dedicated point-of-contact for stakeholders to communicate with us on import risk analyses.

2. Modern diagnostics

We improved plant and animal health diagnostics capability and infrastructure to support diagnostics in northern Australia by:

  • upgrading laboratory infrastructure
  • coordinating and sharing diagnostic information
  • identifying capability gaps for plant and animal pests and disease diagnosis
  • providing diagnostic training
  • developing diagnosis tools.

This work leaves a legacy of enhanced diagnostic skills and equipment throughout northern Australia and helps us to more effectively reduce and rapidly address biosecurity risks.

Information and analysis

We are replacing legacy information systems and have already improved our ability to collect, collate, store, analyse and share biosecurity information. All biosecurity information has been consolidated to create complete and accessible data that can be used for biosecurity analysis. We have established a dedicated biosecurity analytics capability.

This theme is split into the following measures:

1. The Biosecurity Integrated Information System

Our surveillance, community and scientific work is generating a lot of new data, but that data has limited value if we lack the systems to capture and analyse it.
Development of new information systems continues into the 2019/20 financial year and will lay the foundation to improve our ability to collect, collate, store, analyse and share biosecurity information.

The Biosecurity Integrated Information System (BIIS) will support our regulatory and policy functions, provide detailed pest and disease information and ultimately support our officers to provide better informed timely decisions underpinning agricultural import and exports.  This capability will gradually be delivered over the remaining life of the program.

We have also recruited and trained skilled analysts to understand the data and work closely with business subject matter experts in developing continued insights into biosecurity risks.

This work will help focus biosecurity efforts on areas of high risk, to safeguard our primary production and valuable exports.

2. The Biosecurity Advanced Analytics Capability

The work we do generates a huge amount of data. As the amount of data increases, it is becoming more important to make the best use of it by transforming the data into information that we can use to make better biosecurity risk management decisions.

Analytics helps to answer hard questions like what happened and why? and helps determine what actions are needed. It can also help us predict what might happen if something changes. We have recruited and trained skilled analysts, developed a pest and disease repository to provide a single source of information about pests and diseases, and facilitated data sharing with state and territory governments.

This work has helped us focus biosecurity efforts on areas of highest risk, to safeguard our primary production and valuable exports.

Benefits

Through the White Paper, the Australian Government committed to make the agricultural sector more competitive, profitable and resilient.

Benefits of the work include:

  1. maintaining increased, or improved, export market access
  2. enhanced biosecurity surveillance activities that better target, locate and manage exotic pests and diseases, and provide greater evidence of area freedom from pests and diseases
  3. enhanced capacity and capability so that Australia is better prepared to identify and manage biosecurity risks
  4. increased stakeholder engagement that has improved biosecurity awareness and education on biosecurity monitoring and reporting

Find out more about biosecurity surveillance and analysis projects

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Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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