A new CSIRO report, Australia’s Biosecurity Future: Unlocking the next decade of resilience, says Australia’s biosecurity systems won’t cope with the challenges ahead.

The report says that unless our biosecurity systems become more resilient, coordinated and collaborative, Australia will experience increased disease outbreaks and pest incursions, weakened exports and damage to our global trading reputation.

To address this, 20 recommendations across three themes have been identified to shift the trajectory for Australia’s biosecurity future.

This is an important report. It’s vital that we carefully consider it to ensure that Vinehealth Australia’s operations and strategic focus are responsive to current biosecurity challenges, to enable a resilient wine industry. We share key excerpts and recommendations from the report below.

The report was co-developed by Animal Health Australia, Plant Health Australia and the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions, and we share key information from the report, including the recommendations, below.

Emerging challenges for Australia’s biosecurity system

A range of existing, emerging and growing challenges must be addressed in order to maintain and strengthen Australia’s biosecurity system status by 2030:

  • Urbanisation – increasingly dense urban areas can act as disease incubators and increase disease outbreak risks.
  • Growing trade and travel – greater levels and speed of global trade, travel and interstate freight are creating new opportunities for pests and diseases to enter and spread across Australia.
  • Antimicrobial resistance – presents an ever-growing threat.
  • Biodiversity loss – largely caused by human activity, decreases the resilience of natural environments to pests and diseases and has placed many species on the brink of extinction.
  • Climate change – facilitates the movement of pests and disease vectors into new areas and increases the susceptibility of native species to invasive species.
  • Agricultural intensification – will be greater to meet growing food demand, impacting the resilience of ecosystems and rendering them more vulnerable to damage from both species not yet in Australia and those that are already established.
  • Data sharing and system connectivity – between jurisdictions, biosecurity sectors and industry is limited. This reduces Australia’s ability to understand and manage inter-species disease transfers and broader impacts.
  • Resourcing – on numerous fronts is challenging the biosecurity system.
  • Commercialisation of new solutions – historically has been hindered by a lack of investment interest, due to small market sizes and lack of underlying capabilities and skills to implement and use.
  • Social license of emerging technologies – each new technology application will come with its own social challenges to manage.

Scaling current approaches will not be enough to mitigate these growing risks.

While the relatively consistent level of new incursions is due to Australia’s strong biosecurity system, the costly ongoing management of established species coupled with the increasing risk of new incursions is placing growing strain on the system which is already experiencing resourcing challenges.

While investments are being made towards some of these challenges, continuing along the ‘business as usual’ trajectory of slow and incremental change could expose Australia to significant triple bottom line risks over the next 10 years.

The system requires more transformational change in approaches and responsibilities to generate greater efficiencies and effectiveness. Pursuing the transformational trajectory will require stronger collaboration across governments, industry, research and the community.

20 recommendations for achieving this 2030 transformational trajectory have been detailed.

Digitised processes and data sharing Develop procedures and systems for timely biosecurity information exchange Modernise export compliance processes Optimise export protocols through regular assessment of supply chain risk reduction activitiesCommunity and public engagement Develop and promote a single source of biosecurity information to the public Create robust and verifiable citizen science programs to help engage and empower the public Develop biosecurity education and communication programs to build public and community awarenessSupporting innovation Set national biosecurity innovation priorities Drive development, investment, commercialisation and manufacture of innovative technologies for biosecurity Better integrate social, cultural and ethical considerations into the development, policy and regulation setting of new technologies
Domestic and international partnerships Develop stronger partnerships within the national system to bolster shared responsibility Strengthen relationships with international counterparts and partners Improve pre-border clearance of importsIndigenous engagement Make biosecurity engagement with Indigenous communities a more systemic process of the system Empower Indigenous involvement in biosecurity through co-development of fit-for-purpose technology solutions and creation of economic opportunities Increase Indigenous representation at senior decision-making levelsScience and technology capability Invest in pathways for the career development and training of biosecurity-relevant specialists and researchers Bolster Australia’s vaccine development capability and pipeline
Industry engagement Identify the non-negotiable government conditions and industry incentives associated with privatisation of biosecurity services and activities Invest in social science research to better understand non-compliance behaviours Investigate improvements to incentivise accurate and timely biosecurity detection reporting

Now is the time for a system re-think

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased community awareness of the importance of biosecurity and has enhanced familiarity with broad biosecurity concepts.

This presents a unique opportunity to make transformational changes to Australia’s biosecurity system while engagement levels are comparatively high.

To read the full CSIRO report, click here.