Biosecurity Bulletin - Edition 5, 2014

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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Working on our business to make things easier on yours

Image of Rona Mellor Innovation is both a challenge and an opportunity for businesses around the world. The time and resources invested in running your business can leave little time to work on delivering real improvements for your clients and your bottom line.

It’s a challenge that we appreciate at the Department of Agriculture, as we work to strike a balance between managing our daily operations and making crucial business improvements for our clients.

Continue reading the message from the Deputy Secretary

To effectively manage the risk of exotic pests and diseases our biosecurity operations must be flexible and adaptable to the scientific intelligence we have about biosecurity risk. But we also need to deliver our regulatory services in a way that responds to industries that rely on our effectiveness.

In this edition of the Biosecurity Bulletin you can read about some of the improvements we’re making to our frontline biosecurity services. The mobile workforce pilot is bringing inspection and verification services around Australia to your business, making it easier for you to meet your obligations and work with us.

But it’s not just about improving our services, we’re also looking at our cost recovery framework to identify opportunities to reduce red tape, address inequity in our current charges and define fairer fees across the board. The long term strategy is to deliver a sustainable funding model that keeps pace with modern service expectations and is responsive to the changing nature of trade and biosecurity risks.

We work to support Australia’s export markets for our agricultural products through export certification. We work with exporters to keep Australia safe from harmful pests and diseases, which protects our market access into many countries which we would otherwise not have.

In the past six months we’ve been very active in our role of negotiating market access for Australia’s export industries.

September marked the first two-way trade on table grapes to Korea, and we’ve negotiated new health certification requirements for alpacas to Korea that has the potential for growth.

Other markets we have gained access to include stockfeeds to Japan and live cattle to Cambodia.

Find out more about these key developments and other interesting happenings from around the department in this edition of Biosecurity Bulletin.


Emergency biosecurity measures triggered

Carrots freshly picked from the field An exotic bacterial pathogen which has become widespread in Europe has triggered emergency biosecurity measures in Australia.

Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum causes leaf curling, leaf yellowing, stunting and root abnormalities in carrots and celery.

The bacterium is not present in Australia, however the Department of Agriculture is implementing additional biosecurity measures to help protect the industries in Australia which are worth $190 million and $34 million a year respectively.

Continue reading about emergency biosecurity measures

The measures were implemented on 20 October 2014 and include heat treatment or molecular testing for carrot seeds as well as screening in post-entry quarantine facilities and molecular testing for carrot and celery tissue cultures.

International stakeholders have been notified of the emergency measures through the World Trade Organization Sanitary and Phytosanitary notification system, with a 60 day implementation period.

Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum has spread rapidly across geographically distant areas, including France, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Morocco.

Evidence from Europe suggests the bacterium is spreading through the trade of carrot seeds and tissue culture. Most carrots are grown in Australia from imported seed, which makes these new measures essential to manage the biosecurity risks posed to our domestic industries.

View the ICON alert for new import requirements.


Fine tripled for food safety breach

prawnsAn importer who sold 1500kg of cooked prawns imported to Australia from Vietnam without undertaking mandatory food safety tests has had the fine nearly tripled on appeal.

After an initial prosecution and fine of $7000 and given the seriousness of the offence, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution pursued the matter, launching a successful appeal that has resulted in a revised fine of $20,000 for the importer.

Continue reading about the food safety breach

In March 2014, Mr Xu Chun Dong, company director for B&E Packaging pleaded guilty to a breach of the Imported Food Control Act 1992.

The prawns imported from Vietnam were subject to the Imported Food inspection Scheme to ensure compliance with Australian Food Standards.  Australian requirements mean the prawns had to be tested for food safety risks including bacteria that can cause food poisoning such as staphylococcal, salmonella, and cholera.

The Department of Agriculture’s First Assistant Secretary for Compliance, Raelene Vivian, said the revised fine of $20,000 sent a clear message about the seriousness of the offence.

“This appeal shows that the department takes its role in managing compliance of imported food with Australia’s standards seriously and will use the full force of the law to achieve a just result,” said Ms Vivian.

“Reckless and deliberate disregard of Australia’s food safety and importing requirements will not be tolerated and can attract fines of $330,000 for a corporation.”

The department helps protect Australia's food producers by managing the risk of exotic pests and diseases entering the country. It also inspects imported food to check it meets Australian requirements for public health and safety. The requirements exist to protect the Australian community from potential food poisoning hazards. 

For more information about importing food to Australia visit Importing Food to Australia.


Australian Biosecurity Awards final call for nominations

Biosecurity Awards template imageThe Australian Biosecurity Awards recognise individuals, groups and organisations that have gone above and beyond expectations to safeguard Australia’s biosecurity status.

For the first time, the awards have been opened up to allow members of the public and businesses to nominate someone they think deserves recognition for their exceptional biosecurity efforts.

The closing date for the Australian Biosecurity Awards 2015 nominations has been extended to 14 November 2014.

If you know someone who has made an outstanding contribution to safeguard Australia’s biosecurity status and you think they deserve national recognition for their efforts, visit the department’s website and nominate them.

Continue reading about the Australian Biosecurity Awards

The Australian Biosecurity Awards are the opportunity to showcase and recognise the exceptional efforts of people, groups and organisations that have played a significant role in supporting our biosecurity system.  

The work of the government sector is also being recognised, with the introduction of a government category.

Winners will be announced at the ABARES Outlook 2015 conference on 3 March 2015.

Visit agriculture.gov.au/aba for more information and a nomination form.  


A new five-year plan to manage the health of Australia’s aquatic animals

AQUAPLAN workshop participantsAQUAPLAN 2014–2019: Australia’s National Strategic Plan for Aquatic Animal Health outlines the shared vision of governments and aquatic animal industries for a sustainable and prosperous future.

Australia’s fisheries and aquaculture sectors were valued at $2.3 billion in 2012 and AQUAPLAN outlines agreed industry and government priorities to improve national biosecurity and health management policies.

Continue reading about AQUAPLAN 2014–2019

The plan was endorsed in August by the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum and by aquaculture and fisheries industries through the National Aquatic Animal Health Industry Reference Group in January.

Industry and governments are jointly responsible for implementing the plan and will work together to achieve the objectives and to ensure Australia remains a leader in aquatic animal health management.

The five objectives of AQUAPLAN are to improve regional and enterprise-level biosecurity, strengthen emergency disease preparedness and response capability, enhance surveillance and diagnostic services, improve the availability of appropriate veterinary medicines, and improve education, training and awareness.

Over the next five years the department will lead on a number of activities to improve awareness of nationally significant aquatic animal diseases and will investigate the use of mobile technology to enhance reporting.

We will coordinate a review of the existing Aquatic Animal Health Training Scheme (2013–14) and are looking to improve the breadth of comprehensive data in Australia’s online database for aquatic animal diseases and pathogens.

AQUAPLAN covers aquatic animal health issues relevant to aquaculture, commercial fisheries, recreational fisheries, the ornamental fish industry, the tourism industry and the environment. Its objectives are supported by activities to address specific aquatic animal health management issues associated with infectious diseases of finfish, molluscs and crustaceans.

AQUAPLAN 2014–2019 is available at the Department of Agriculture website. Printed copies are also available.

For more information or to receive a hardcopy of AQUAPLAN 2014–2019, contact the Aquatic Pest and Health Policy team at aah@agriculture.gov.au

AQUAPLAN workshop participants  

Participants

Front row (seated, left to right): Mark Schipp, Ingo Ernst, Helen Jenkins, Tracey Bradley, Katie McMahon, Kitman Dyrting, David Ellis

Standing (left to right): Marty Phillips, Eva-Maria Bernoth, Shane Roberts, Alex Ogg, Nick Savva, Mark Crane, Neil Stump, Pheroze Jungalwalla, Juliet Corish, Ross Hodge, Rob Jones, Kevin Ellard, Tim Karlov, Craig Foster, Rod Andrewartha, Paul Hardy-Smith, Ian Lyall, Jedd Routledge, Matt Barwick, Ben Diggles, Tim Lucas, Adam Main, Mike Snow


Bringing services to you in the field, online and in real time

Department of Agriculture employee with tablet computerThe Department of Agriculture is changing the way it delivers services to make it easier for people to meet their obligations.

We’re introducing new technology to change the way we operate and to help us become a more modern, flexible and professional service delivery agency.

The ‘mobile workforce pilot’ is equipping some of our officers in the field with tablets to deliver biosecurity services.

The department’s customers and clients will not need to do things differently during the pilot, so you will be able to deal with the department in the same way and meet the same requirements.

Continue reading about the mobile workforce pilot

Not all mobile officers are involved in the pilot. A cross-section of department roles, services and locations have been selected, including the roles of inspector, auditor, investigator, veterinarian, assessor and scientist.

First Assistant Secretary for Service Delivery, Greg Williamson said the new technology will mean less paperwork and fewer time delays so resources can be focused where they matter most.

“Instead of relying on paper to record and provide information, our mobile workforce will be able to complete a range of transactions at the point of service, saving time and effort for us and our clients.

“We’re testing that the technology is fit for purpose and can be used in the field to deliver services online, remotely and in real time,” he said.

The pilot began in Adelaide and is now running across Australia.

Over the next year, more of our mobile workforce will be testing these tablets in the field, including at importer and exporter premises, on the ports and in cargo warehouses.

A thorough evaluation will take place at the end of the pilot and feedback is welcome as we develop more convenient, cost-effective and nationally consistent services.

To provide feedback please contact our Service Delivery Modernisation team on (02) 6272 2251.


Comprehensive review of Agriculture’s cost recovery arrangements

Department of Agriculture employeesThe Department of Agriculture is reviewing its cost recovery arrangements as part of a long term strategy to ensure sustainable funding for its biosecurity and export certification activities.

The current scope of the cost recovery review includes fees and charges for all imports including post entry quarantine, as well as live animal, plant and food exports.

Continue reading about cost recovery arrangements

There are three broad streams of work, including a review of existing cost recovery frameworks, a joint border charging review led by the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service in consultation with the Departments of Agriculture and Immigration and Border Protection, and the development of a long term cost recovery strategy for the department.

The review will look to support more efficient regulation by reducing red tape for clients, addressing inequity and defining fairer fees and charges across the department’s cost recovered activities.

Cost Recovery Taskforce leader, Colin Hunter, said the department is looking to increase transparency and consistency in how the cost recovery frameworks are applied.

“Clients should be confident of the basis on which we apply fees and charges across import and export activities, which is why we are looking at cost recovery at the highest level and assessing things across the board” he said.

“The long term strategy for sustainable funding demands that we keep pace with and drive productivity enhancements through modern technologies and enabling systems,” Agriculture fees and charges that will be considered as part of the joint bord​er charging review are those where there are joint effects or interactions with clients or where there are common objectives. For commercial importers, the review includes biosecurity charges such as those collected from the Full Import Declaration and container charges.

Other fees and charges in scope of the joint border review include the passenger movement and import processing charges and visa application charges administered by the Immigration and Border Protection Portfolio.

The first stage of the department’s stakeholder engagement process has commenced and Mr Hunter was pleased to address industry stakeholders at an introductory session in Sydney on 17 September 2014 and Melbourne on 18 September 2014.

Industry consultative committees are also being engaged on the review and meetings are continuing to be conducted. Further consultations will occur as the reviews progress.


Exercise Odysseus brings Agriculture department staff to a standstill

Staff from across the department take part in Odysseus exercisesLike hundreds of their counterparts across Australia, staff in the Department of Agriculture are participating in Exercise Odysseus.

The exercise programme commenced in August, allowing staff to practise their roles should a national livestock standstill be implemented in response to a foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak. 

Exercise Odysseus is a series of discussion exercises and field activities being held throughout 2014 in each jurisdiction, to assess government and industry arrangements for implementing a national livestock standstill.

Continue reading about Exercise​​ Odysseus

Odysseus is based on a scenario where FMD is detected in Queensland and a 72-hour national livestock standstill is declared. Staff are being put through their paces to respond to the emergency. 

The department is using the activities as an opportunity to train staff and assess the effectiveness of our Critical Incident Response Plan, which guides the incident management team when responding to all types of emergencies and complements national biosecurity incident response arrangements

First Assistant Secretary of the Sustainability and Biosecurity Policy division and Exercise Director, Ian Thompson, said it was an important opportunity for the department’s staff to participate in an exercise that’s based on such a high-impact biosecurity incident.

“These exercises give us the opportunity to simulate what might happen in a biosecurity emergency and are a key part of building our preparedness and onshore capability to manage Australia’s biosecurity in the face of real risks.”

“If there was an FMD outbreak in Australia, it will be essential for us to establish an incident management team quickly.  This will rely on having staff with the right skills who can hit the ground running.” 

Mr Thompson said that the first Odysseus activity had already identified improvements to the department’s response arrangements.

“These exercises are essential to our preparedness activities.  We’re involving as many people as we can from across the department, even if they don’t work in the area of animal biosecurity.”


Caught and in court

Department of Agriculture employees The strength of our intelligence and enforcement capability has hit hard for two businesses who tried to conceal their shonky dealings from the Department of Agriculture and have paid the price for putting Australia’s biosecurity at risk.

Failing to comply with import conditions has cost a fish farming business $36,000 and a conviction in the Brisbane Magistrates court.

The owner of Bay Tropical Fish Farm Pty Ltd, Jared Ross Patrick, pleaded guilty to 30 charges in the Brisbane Magistrates Court and was convicted under section 67(5) of the Quarantine Act 1908.

Continue reading about caught and in court

As a Quarantine Approved Premises (QAP), Bay Tropical Fish Farm was required to keep fish separate and not engage in unauthorised use of antibiotics. The fish farm supplies the retail aquarium market with imported ornamental freshwater fish.

People convicted of illegal importation under the Quarantine Act face up to 10 years jail. In cases of commercial importation a fine of up to $1.7 million per offence can also apply.

In Perth, Vihentico Pty Ltd and the business owner, James Huynh, received a $52,500 fine for illegally importing 26,040 packets of Songlin Brand Fish Maw from Taiwan between July 2007 and July 2010.

He also received a suspended eight month custodial sentence and a $5000 good behaviour bond.

First Assistant Secretary of the Department of Agriculture's Compliance Division, Raelene Vivian, said fish maw is traditionally made from the swim bladders of fish.

“But this brand of the product contains pork skin and not a single trace of fish,” she said.

Australia does not allow pork products to be imported from Taiwan. The fish maw had been deliberately concealed among other products and fraudulently invoiced as Huynh knew it was prohibited in Australia.

Ms Vivian said that the department takes its job seriously. “We do a lot of work to help importers comply with Australia’s laws but we know there are people who intentionally put our country at risk,” she said.

“This is why we have a series of risk management measures in place across the continuum, including random inspections and audits of importer premises.”


Trade matters: grapes, cattle, stockfeeds and alpacas

Australian Ambassador to Korea, Mr Bill Paterson PSM, with Korean quarantine inspector Ms Mi-Sun Go (L) and Australia’s offshore pre-shipment inspector, Ms Anita Barz (R).In the past few months the Department of Agriculture has reported a number of advancements in the negotiation for market access and trade.

September saw the commencement of trade in Korean table grapes imported to Australia after an audit of quarantine systems conducted by both countries.

Continue reading about trade matters

The commencement of trade was marked by an event in Hwaseong, Korea attended by the Australian Ambassador, Mr Bill Paterson PSM, and the Hwaseong Mayor, as well as representatives of the Korean grape industry and the Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs as a well as the department’s agriculture councillor, Joanne Pearce.

Exports of Australian table grapes to South Korea commenced in May 2014 making this the first year of two-way trade in fresh table grapes between our two countries.

A new export market for alpacas is also expected to develop with Korea following the opening of that trade.

Newly agreed health certification requirements are anticipated to open up an initial trade of up to 1,000 head of alpaca each year, with good growth prospects further into the future.

Australia has a national alpaca herd of about 100,000 in the hands of some 2,300 breeders.

In Japan, we have reached an agreement to re-establish the trade in animal-based stockfeed and stockfeed ingredients, which the Australian Renderers Association estimates will be worth $58 million a year by 2020.

Australian Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, said the news was a great win for an industry already contributing $275 million annually to the value of Australia’s agricultural exports.

A new live cattle trade with Cambodia is also being established as part of Australia’s push to achieve greater market access for Australian livestock and better farmgate returns for producers.

Australian and Cambodian government veterinary authorities have reached agreement on animal health certification requirements which will allow trade in feeder and slaughter cattle between the two nations to commence.

Cattle producers are also expected to benefit from the removal of the requirement to have tail-tags on cattle destined for the EU meat market.

Lime-green tags used to be attached to the tails of cattle produced and eligible for processing into beef for export to the EU, however Australia’s development of strong cattle identification and traceability systems such as the National Livestock Identification System have rendered the tags obsolete.

Beef and offal exports to the EU were worth $201.9 million in 2013 and doing away with the tail tags is expected to save cattle producers up to $1 million a year.


Border finds

Black spined toadBiosecurity officers in Melbourne have discovered and captured a toad which they say could have been more damaging to Australia than the cane toad had it escaped into the wild.

The Black Spined Toad was around 5cm x 2.5cm in size and was in one of four shipping containers inspected over two days in July. The container had been loaded with bluestone slabs in China.

The toad was euthanased but it could have become established in the cooler parts of Australia and being a carnivore, would have caused significant damage to Australia’s natural environment, competing with native frogs and toads for food and habitats, and likely to have been carrying exotic parasites or disease.

Continue reading abo​​ut border finds

Chocolate banded snailThe toad discovery came soon after biosecurity officers mopped up an incursion of Chocolate Banded Snails at the main container berth in Adelaide.

This species of snail hails originally from the Mediterranean and presents a serious biosecurity threat, based upon the experience of the USA where it has become established.

The snail detection drew praise from Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, who congratulated the quick work of industry and biosecurity officers.

“This species of snail is established in the United States of America and because of its destructive nature to plants and crops presents a serious agricultural biosecurity threat,” Minister Joyce said.

“Taking appropriate biosecurity measures, like working with importers to ensure they meet Australia’s biosecurity importing requirements, helps protect Australia’s growing agriculture exports which reached over $51 billion in 2012—13.

“Working collaboratively with industry meant the best actions were taken by the department, ensuring the most cost-effective outcome possible for industry.”

In August, Biosecurity officers seized the plant material pictured below from a passenger flying in from China.  The passenger was unable to advise the officers of what it was, apart from being a plant that is used for cooking.

Seized unidentified plant material Seized unidentified plant material
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