Northern Territory Biosecurity Roundtable – 27 September 2018

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Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, September 2018

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The 2018 Northern Territory Biosecurity Roundtable was held in Darwin on 27 September 2018.

What we heard from participants

  • It is critical to involve industry early in a response to share information and build trust with stakeholders
  • The social and emotional impact of a response should not be underestimated
  • Cross industry response training provides a good opportunity for collaboration and sharing experiences

The event was hosted by the National Biosecurity Committee together with the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and the Northern Territory Department of Primary Industry and Resources.

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The 2018 Biosecurity Roundtable Program

The Biosecurity Roundtable Program consists of seven biosecurity roundtables in each state and territory (NSW and ACT are combined), two environmental biosecurity roundtables and a National Biosecurity Forum at the end of the year.

These events are an opportunity for biosecurity stakeholders to talk about biosecurity issues directly with Australian and state/territory government representatives, a wide range of industry members and producers together with environmental and community groups.

This year the theme for the program is ‘preparedness and response’, with activities on the day designed to seek input on:

  • preparedness and response arrangements across a range of biosecurity activities
  • gaps and possible solutions
  • roles and responsibilities in preparedness and response
  • successes and lessons learned
  • trusted sources of information on biosecurity

Presentations

Alicia Zahmel, Assistant Directory, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, opened the roundtable, outlining the day’s focus on participation and opportunities to meet colleagues across industry, community and government.

Territory update

The NT Government update, delivered by Sarah Corcoran, Executive Director, Department of Primary Industry and Resources, provided an overview of biosecurity activities being undertaken in the Northern Territory.

The NT Government is currently responding to a number of biosecurity incidents. Ms Corcoran advised that they are implementing a nationally cost shared eradication program for Browsing ant, first detected in August 2015. A whole of life response plan that commits $4.6 million to eradication under the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement (NEBRA) was endorsed by the National Biosecurity Management Group in January 2018. The NT government is also managing a response to an Asian honey bee swarm recovered and destroyed in May 2018 in Darwin. The swarm appears to be related to the previous Asian honey bee incursion in 2015. The $26 million National Banana Freckle Eradication Program has completed the proof of freedom surveillance phase, with a proof of freedom submission before the National Management Group. Upon completion, it will have been Australia’s largest plant pest eradication program.

Ms Corcoran also gave an update on the status of the current citrus canker outbreak and response plan. The outbreak, which was detected in early April 2018 at two retail outlets in Darwin, has been limited to nursery stock at 12 infected premises in the Greater Darwin Regional Area and one property in Katherine. There have been no detections in commercial orchards to date. The initial response plan is in place until November 2018, and a whole of life response program is being considered by the national cost share partners.

The NT Government is conducting a number of surveillance programs under the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, in conjunction with WA, Queensland and the Australian governments, to enhance detection of exotic pest and diseases in northern Australia. They also undertake a regular fruit fly surveillance program and are working with growers on an in-shed pest surveillance program for the mango industry to meet interstate market access requirements and provide evidence of absence data for exotic mango pests.

Other programs being implemented by NT Government include:

  • funding to subsidise the cost of disease investigation in livestock across northern Australia 2017-2019
  • on-farm biosecurity research and risk assessments of plant pest movements in nurseries
  • new lab facilities for molecular diagnostics to enhance existing capacity and provide quicker analysis
  • cross industry response and liaison training
  • an all hazards regional response plan for optimum arrangements in the region
  • partnership building activities with key industry groups to retain expertise and skills in the Northern Territory.

Commonwealth update

Tim Chapman, First Assistant Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, delivered the Commonwealth update, emphasising the strength and value of Australia’s biosecurity system while acknowledging its vulnerabilities and the increasingly complex environment it operates in. Mr Chapman highlighted the growing volume of trade, passengers, mail and cargo and deliberate non-compliant behaviour, often by people within agricultural industries, as significant challenges to Australia’s biosecurity system.

Mr Chapman outlined the key activities being undertaken by the department in collaboration with the states and territories through the National Biosecurity Committee, in response to the Priorities for Australia’s Biosecurity system review report (2017). This included the creation of the Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer role to promote a stronger focus on environmental issues.

Mr Chapman also provided details about the Australian Government’s commitment of $313 million to strengthen Australia’s biosecurity capacity, highlighting several initiatives: 

  • $34.5 million to analyse risk, verify biosecurity controls and target compliance onshore, offshore and at the border.
  • $33.5 million to continue the Indigenous Biosecurity Rangers Program in northern Australia.
  • $36.5 million to advance national predictive analytics and intelligence capability for biosecurity.

Mr Chapman stressed the need to work together to leverage our relative strengths and better share information. He highlighted the way that state, territory and industry have recently worked together to successfully manage both the citrus canker outbreak response in Northern Territory and Western Australia.

Citrus Canker industry liaison role experiences and lessons learned

Corey Bell, Department of Primary Industry and Resources, gave a presentation and led a discussion session on the Industry Liaison Officer (ILO) role as part of the Northern Territory’s response to citrus canker. Mr Bell explained the responsibilities of the ILO as the official conduit between the Coordination Management Team or the Incident Management Team and affected livestock industry/industries. The function also communicates industry’s position on policy and proposed response activities, provides information on industry specific factors that may affect the response at the local, state or territory level and gives advice on resources available from industry and committing resources on behalf of their agency or organisation.

Mr Bell introduced the panel, consisting of three key industry personnel, to share their experience and lessons learned in ILO roles as part of the current citrus canker response.

Nathan Hancock, Chief Executive Officer, Citrus Australia.

Mr Hancock has been in the role of ILO for the citrus canker outbreak from the start of the response. Mr Hancock explained that he had only been Chief Executive Officer for six months at the time of the outbreak, with a small team lacking any response training, which made it challenging at the start. He emphasised the importance of the ILO having a physical presence early on and that being located in Darwin for the beginning of the response had a positive impact on subsequent interactions compared to communications with Western Australia which were more disjointed. Mr Hancock noted the difficulty of managing both his stakeholders and his own expectations around timelines, which were often slow due to the complexity of a multi-state response. He also spoke about the significant challenges of managing stakeholder anxiety and the difficulty of communicating the process within the confines of the deed privacy clauses. Mr Hancock commented on the need to ensure communications with industry adequately explain the different phases of the response; manage misunderstanding around how quickly it moves from detection to eradication; and prepare stakeholders for what to expect.

Simon Humphrys, Animal Health Australia (AHA), mentioned that AHA have been talking to state farming organisations about providing training to local stakeholders on what an ILO does during a response and asked whether these networks could be useful to the ILO. Mr Hancock suggested that continuous training would be required given the regular movement of staff, but it would be a good initiative and useful to the ILO.

John McDonald, National Biosecurity Manager, Nursery and Garden Industry of Australia (NGIA)

Mr McDonald has been involved in plant biosecurity for 20 years, with more than 10 years’ experience working with the NT nursery sector and involvement in a number of incursions throughout that time, including experience with the citrus canker outbreak in 2004/2009 which helped him prepare for the current response.

Mr McDonald described how the NGIA prioritised communicating with growers about what would be happening. A large part of the role involved relaying producers concerns to the NT Government and providing the emotional and technical support, guidance and preparation to businesses significantly impacted by the outbreak to help them proactively demonstrate they are involved in biosecurity and resolving the issues. Mr McDonald acknowledged that, just as many government employees involved in the response are working in areas they are not familiar with, many of the affected growers have not been exposed to a response either. Mr McDonald advised that government needs to be more aware of the emotional impacts of a response when engaging with producers, and should provide a single point of contact for infected growers in order to build trust. He also stressed the importance of relaying information early and often. Throughout the citrus canker response, Mr McDonald found the amount of information he was able to share with industry about the background, supply chains and response activities helped to alleviate a lot of industry concerns.

Mr McDonald also noted that the Citrus Canker Advisory Group and Northern Territory Farmers Industry Reference Group were both extremely useful in allowing industry peak bodies to engage and discuss issues outside of the formal government committees. In particular, he emphasised the success of the NT Citrus Canker Advisory Group saying that it underpinned a lot of his confidence in the response.

Greg Owens, Chief Executive Officer, Northern Territory Farmers Association

Mr Owens reiterated Mr McDonald and Ms Corcoran’s points about the social impact of the response on the affected properties. While the response is focused on eradication, industry is focused on keeping the affected properties in business so they can continue to trade. The ILO role sits between these two important aspects of the response. Mr Owens agreed with Mr McDonald that the establishment of an industry reference group early in the response worked very well to engage the citrus industry from the outset. He also emphasised the importance of ensuring messaging remains clear but flexible to promote trust, noting the NT Farmers Association’s involvement in the response bolstered producer trust levels. Mr Owens stated that in the past the government hasn’t always been willing to involve them early in the response however, by utilising industry organisations and ensuring they are across the messaging, government can take advantage of pre-existing trust when talking to the public and access stakeholders faster.

Mr Owens suggested that there was a need to include industry in post response monitoring and evaluation, not just restrict it to government. A question was asked around how NT Farmers Association managed the social media aspect of the response. Mr Owens said that the NT Farmers Association Facebook page was a good avenue for quick messaging. Negative comments were generally able to be ignored and focus redirected towards celebrating successes.

Ms Corcoran thanked Mr Hancock, Mr McDonald, Mr Owens and Laura Cunningham, Norther Territory Farmers Association, for the invaluable work, support and commitment they have provided throughout the citrus canker response

How do the emergency response deeds work?

Chris Ipkendanz, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, provided an overview of Australia’s national emergency response deeds and agreements, which include the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement (EADRA), the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD) and the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement (NEBRA). Mr Ipkendanz explained the purpose of the deeds, the triggers and decision making processes and the ability for industries to access response funds under the deeds and reimburse the Australian Government through levies over time.

The national deeds/agreements complement industry and state arrangements as they are only activated in circumstances where eradication of a pest or disease is:

  • technically feasible
  • cost beneficial
  • in the national interest.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is currently leading development of an Exotic Production Weed Deed and Aquatic Animal Disease Deed.

Questions from the attendees included what happened prior to the deeds being implemented. Ms Corcoran and Mr Chapman commented that prior to the deeds being in place, arrangements were still made on how to implement cost shared funding for major responses but there was no formal agreement around them which often resulted in responses being delayed due to disagreements. The advantage of having the EADRA or EEPRD is that they provide some certainty around payment structures and clarity around where the response benefit lies. Deed signatories that are part of the affected industry are also guaranteed the opportunity to be involved in the decision process of the response and have input to government decisions.

A question was also asked on the time industry has to repay the Australian Government after a cost-shared response and any incentives to pay the funds up front. Mr Ipkendanz explained that the deeds allow industry to make interest free repayments over a 10 year period. If industry have levies in place to cover the fund, the amounts payable are only subject to CPI indexing.

Workshops

National Biosecurity Statement

Ms Corcoran, the NT National Biosecurity Committee representative, introduced the draft National Biosecurity Statement (NBS). The NBS is being developed in consultation with industry, environmental and community groups and the public.

Ms Corcoran stated that the NBS was intended to foster community‑wide understanding and ownership of Australia’s biosecurity system based on shared goals, responsibilities and accountability.

Ms Corcoran then led table based exercises on the roles and responsibilities component of the NBS. She asked participants to discuss their roles in the biosecurity system and in improving its efficiency; the concept of stewardship; the roles and responsibilities of major institutions; the benefits of an agreed set of roles and responsibilities for system participants; and how we can measure if they are meeting these obligations.

Discussion on the NBS was positive on the day, with suggestions received around clearly stating the call to action, including a vision statement and articulating the principles of shared responsibility to incorporate participation, openness and transparency. Feedback also suggested a need to define biosecurity and reference its importance throughout the entire supply chain.

Public consultations on the NBS closed at the end of October. The department will present the final version at the National Biosecurity Forum on Thursday 29 November.

Preparedness and response

Alicia Zahmel, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, facilitated a workshop to discuss, share and analyse preparedness and response knowledge across the biosecurity space.

Table groups considered a specific topic—anticipate, prevent, prepare, detect, respond or recover/adapt—identifying and discussing activities, roles and processes currently in place as well as emerging issues. They then identified six key activities, plans or policies to the broader group.

The figure below shows, by topic and responsible sector, all the activities, plans or policies participants noted. In some cases, the same point repeats across sectors as the responsibility was seen as shared. If no activities, plans or policies were recorded for a sector, it is shown as blank.

This snapshot is not necessarily representative of biosecurity knowledge in NT. It does show that participants see the state government as the central agency and point of contact for a range of biosecurity activities, followed closely by industry bodies and the Australian government. Industry bodies, in particular, were seen to be delivering nuanced content and programs to their members.
Community groups, environmental groups, the general public, producers and research groups appear to be either underutilised or under-represented as active system participants. Alternatively, the roles of these groups were poorly understood or recognised by those in the room. This theme will be discussed further at the National Biosecurity Forum.

The discussions and notes from the workshop are expected to assist in the development of policy and resources, improve the understanding of other sectors’ roles and support the maturity of the response to the public consultation around the national biosecurity statement.

Panel: Roles and responsibilities

Facilitated by Alicia Zahmel, a panel comprised of

  • Tim Chapman, First Assistant Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
  • Lucy Buhr, Media Manager, Department of Primary Industry and Resources
  • Jessica Arnold, Manager, Emergency Management, Department of Primary Industry and Resources
  • Greg Owens – Chief Executive Officer, NT Farmers Association
  • Roni Opden – Manager Compliance and Planning, Department of Environment and Natural Resources

gave brief overviews on their own roles and responsibilities before taking questions from attendees.

The first question was about how to build trust with producers. There was discussion around the emergency response deeds/agreements, particularly on the payment of compensation to producers in the early stages of a response and how it affects trust. Mr Owens raised concerns about access to compensation for the small number of producers who destroy crops or stock under a quarantine order as part of an initial response to eradicate a disease prior to it being notified. Compensation payments under the deed are only eligible after the disease has been notified. Mr Owens stated that when early destruction is undertaken and a national response plan is not enacted, this subset of producers subsequently do not have access to sufficient compensation. While there is some difficulty in determining appropriate compensation due to inconsistencies in the way industries value their stock, Mr Owens suggested that having compensation arrangements in place for early responders would significantly increase producers trust in the system and their willingness to report.

A question was put to the panel about who they saw as some of the most underutilised stakeholders in the biosecurity continuum. Mr Chapman began by emphasising that the best chance of prevention comes from early detection. The public have an unrealistic expectation that Australia stays pristine and they don’t have a role in that. He said the term ‘biosecurity’ doesn’t always resonate well with the broader population and the government messaging often doesn’t have the desired impact to connect with individuals. Undertaking extension work and talking to environmental and special interest groups is worthwhile and generally has a much bigger impact than government messaging. The discovery of Didymo in New Zealand was a good example of special interest groups such as fishing clubs successfully creating awareness in the general public. Ms Buhr noted that in her experience, everyone is happy to support industry until it effects them - for example, supporting the eradication of banana freckle until they realise it means losing their own banana plants. It is challenging to get people to understand the bigger picture. Mr Owens noted the additional challenges of communicating biosecurity to landholders and producers from multicultural backgrounds. Ms Opden highlighted that, in weeds, the biggest problems are almost always human assisted and they need to work better with the NGIA on messaging, particularly using social media, to communicate the dangers of moving plants around.

Ms Arnold drew attention to the fact that when it comes to community engagement in a response it needs to be innovative and transparent, which often goes against governments’ tendency to be risk adverse.

Attendees followed up on the communication theme by asking the panel whether they felt the current biosecurity terminology and messaging was ineffective, or whether it just wasn’t being communicated effectively. Mr Chapman noted there is a need to communicate pest and disease impacts to the public better. Ms Buhr suggested that there is not enough media attention and that education about biosecurity should be starting while children are at school and messaging could continue to build up their knowledge. Mr Chapman added that while there is much greater awareness at the professional level, the understanding at a community level needed significant development. He also added the need to target high risk groups such as industry stakeholders who attempt to import genetic material or plant stock through non-compliant pathways for commercial gain.

The final question was about upcoming changes to biosecurity. Ms Opden and Dr Kevin de Witte, NT Chief Veterinary Officer both highlighted some of the technical work being undertaken in biosecurity, including big investments in next generation sequencing to support research into transmission of viral diseases and using Environmental DNA for environmental monitoring.

Ms Arnold emphasised the gradual shift in the biosecurity space towards an ‘all hazards’ approach and the resulting synergies managing emergency response across all sectors, both nationally and internationally. The whole panel acknowledged that sharing information and learnings between jurisdictions was an area that requires improvement. Ms Corcoran highlighted the recent cross sector Industry Liaison Officer Training as an extremely worthwhile and successful exercise in sharing knowledge and experience. The training, held in partnership with Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia, was delivered by the NT Department of Primary Industry and Resources to approximately 25 representatives from animal, plant and aquatic industries in February 2018.

Ms Corcoran closed the discussion and thanked the panel members on behalf of the NT Department of Primary Industry and Resources, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and the National Biosecurity Committee (NBC) for their time, engagement and ideas.

Biosecurity Information Survey

Thank you to participants who completed the biosecurity information survey.

Initial analysis of the completed surveys highlighted the primary role of industry groups or associations and organisations such as Livestock Biosecurity Network, Farm Biosecurity and AHA and PHA as sources of biosecurity information.

Twenty seven per cent of respondents access information using face-to-face contact or phone, with 21.1 per cent also using emails and newsletters and 17.1 per cent using websites. Three per cent of respondents are accessing information sent by post and 0.6 per cent through TV and podcasts.

Full results will be reported on at the National Biosecurity Forum in November 2018.

The survey is available for organisations or industry bodies to run with their own members – please contact the Biosecurity Roundtable Secretariat and we will email templates to you Biosecurity roundtable or phone 1800 068 468

Representation

90 invitations were sent out to organisations, groups or individuals (excluding state and Commonwealth government staff), with 31 participants (in bold) taking part in the roundtable, representing a wide range of organisations including:  

  • Amateur Fishing Association of NT
  • Animal Health Australia
  • Anindilyakwa Land and Sea Rangers
  • Arnhem Land Progress Association
  • Austop Fisheries
  • Australian Banana Grower's Council
  • Australian Cattle Vets
  • Australian Mango Industry Association
  • Australian Mangoes
  • Australian Melon Association Inc
  • Australian Veterinary Association
  • AUSVEG
  • Central Land Council
  • Centre for Invasive Species Solutions
  • Centrefarm/ALSEDA
  • Charles Darwin University
  • Citrus Australia
  • Consolidated Pastoral Company
  • Darwin Fruit Farm
  • Darwin Port Authority
  • Department of Environment and Natural Resources NT
  • Environment Centre NT
  • Environmental Defenders Office NT
  • Fawcett Contracting
  • Garngirr Fishing Aboriginal Corporation
  • Hancock Prospecting
  • Hort Innovation
  • Humpty Doo Barramundi
  • Kalano Community Association
  • Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa
  • Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association
  • Landcare Australia
  • Landmark
  • Meat & Livestock Australia
  • Monsoon Aquatics 
  • National Livestock Solutions Pty Ltd
  • North Australian Indigenous Land and Sea Management Alliance (NAILSMA)
  • Northern Land Council
  • Northern Territory Beekeeper’s Association
  • Northern Territory Buffalo Industry Council
  • Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association
  • Northern Territory Crocodile Farmers Association
  • Northern Territory Farmer's Association
  • Northern Territory Field Naturalists' Club
  • Northern Territory Livestock Exporters Association Inc.
  • Northern Territory Seafood Council
  • Nursery and Garden Industry Australia
  • Paspaley Pearling Co Ltd
  • Pinata Farms
  • Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre
  • Plant Health Australia
  • PRI Group
  • Quintis
  • Seafarms
  • South 32
  • South East Asian Livestock Services
  • Territory NRM
  • Tiwi Land Council
  • Tropical Primary Products
  • University of New England
  • Wildlife Health Australia

Northern Territory biosecurity roundtable agenda

Schedule Topic Presenter
9:00-9:10 Item 1. Welcome Alicia Zahmel, Assistant Director, Industry and Community Engagement, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
9:10-9:30 Item 2. State/territory update Sarah Corcoran, Director, Biosecurity and Animal Welfare, Department of Primary Industry and Resources
9:30-9:50 Item 3. Commonwealth update Tim Chapman, First Assistant Secretary, Biosecurity Animal, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
9:50-10:20 Item 4. Update and Workshop One:
National Biosecurity Statement and Roles and Responsibilities
Sarah Corcoran, Director, Biosecurity and Animal Welfare, Department of Primary Industry and Resources
10:20-10:40 Morning tea  
10:40 – 12.20 Item 5. Citrus Canker – Industry liaison role, experiences and lessons learned Corey Bell - Department of Primary Industry and Resources
Nathan Hancock – Chief Executive Officer, Citrus Australia
John McDonald – National Biosecurity Manager, Nursery & Garden Industry Australia
Greg Owens – Chief Executive Officer, NT Farmers
12:20 – 1.00 Lunch  
1:00 – 1:20 Item 6. How do the emergency response deeds work? Chris Ipkendanz, Policy Officer, Biosecurity Policy Implementation, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
1:20 – 2:20 Item 7. Workshop Two:
Topic: Preparedness and Response
Table based exercises
Facilitator: Alicia Zahmel, Assistant Director, Industry and Community Engagement, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
2:20 – 3.20

Item 8. Q & A Panel: Roles and Responsibilities

  • Introduction to panel & outcomes
  • Commonwealth role in preparedness/ response
  • State role in preparedness/ response
  • Industry org role in preparedness/ response
  • Environmental org role in preparedness/ response
  • Questions to panel
Facilitator: Alicia Zahmel, Assistant Director, Industry and Community Engagement, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
Tim Chapman – First Assistant Secretary, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
Lucy Buhr – Media Manager, Department of Primary Industry and Resources
Jessica Arnold – Manager, Emergency Management, Department of Primary Industry and Resources
Greg Owens – Chief Executive Officer, NT Farmers
Roni Opden – Manager Compliance and Planning, Department of Environment and Natural Resources
3.20 – 3:30 Item 9. Closing remarks Sarah Corcoran, Director, Biosecurity and Animal Welfare, Department of Primary Industry and Resources
Alicia Zahmel, Assistant Director, Industry and Community Engagement, Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
3:30 – 4:00 Afternoon tea  

2018 Biosecurity Roundtable Program Calendar

Date Event Location
11 April 2018 South Australia Biosecurity Roundtable Adelaide
3 May 2018 Environmental Biosecurity Roundtable 1 Canberra
7 June 2018 Tasmania Biosecurity Roundtable Hobart
4 July 2018 Western Australia Biosecurity Roundtable Perth
2 August 2018 Victoria Biosecurity Roundtable Melbourne
30 August 2018 New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory Biosecurity Roundtable Sydney
26 September 2018 Northern Territory Biosecurity Roundtable Darwin
9 October 2018 Environmental Biosecurity Roundtable 2 Brisbane
11 October 2018 Queensland Biosecurity Roundtable Brisbane
29 November 2018 National Biosecurity Forum Canberra

Next steps...

The Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and Department of Primary Industry and Resources would like to thank everyone who participated in the
Northern Territory Biosecurity Roundtable for their time and contributions. The discussions and ideas from the Roundtable will feed into the agenda for the National Biosecurity Forum and other biosecurity governance and communication processes through the NBC and other avenues.

We value your feedback – if you have suggestions about this roundtable or the roundtable program please contact us at Biosecurity Roundtable.

Phone 1800 068 468
agriculture.gov.au/biosecurity/partnerships/nbc/biosecurity-roundtable
Facebook: Australian biosecurity
Twitter: @DeptAgNews
Subscribe to Biosecurity Matters, a bi-monthly online newsletter providing readers with a greater understanding of the department's work in managing biosecurity risks overseas, at the border and within Australia.​

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Last reviewed: 30 September 2020
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