A greater focus on science and innovation is needed to build a stronger, more sustainable biosecurity system in Australia, according to Head of Biosecurity at the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Andrew Tongue.

Speaking at the ABARES Outlook 2021 conference in March, Andrew also said it was important for Governments to strengthen partnerships with industries and build better national preparedness and response arrangements.

“Innovation will continue to be the key way we can ensure we’re on the front foot and able to better detect and manage growing biosecurity risks,” Andrew said.

“Work is already underway through our investments in 3D X-rays, drones and mobile detection technology. With increased volumes of cargo arriving, there’s an opportunity to look at how we can more efficiently manage the safe movement of cargo across our borders.

“For instance, we’re working with industry on automation to increase the speed and accuracy of biosecurity document assessment.”

On average, each year around three million shipping containers, 19,000 commercial vessels and 144 million mail items arrive into Australia. 

Andrew said farmers and growers were best placed to ensure they have the right systems established to manage the risks of pests and diseases on their farms.

“But we need to work with them and provide support and tools to address the growing biosecurity threats that Australia is facing. We can do this by helping identify new and better ways to manage risks so that we can grow industry resilience and our overall preparedness,” he said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has raised community awareness of the importance of biosecurity and increased familiarity and understanding of what biosecurity is. This presents us with a great opportunity to better engage with the community and public on biosecurity issues affecting them and how they can do their part in protecting Australia’s biosecurity.”

Andrew said biosecurity was key to the Australian Government’s ambitious target to achieve $100 billion in farm-gate output by 2030.

The full ABARES Outlook 2021 conference program can be found here: https://www.agriculture.gov.au/abares/outlook/program