Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity (IGAB)

​​​ The Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity (IGAB), which came into effect in January 2012, is an agreement between the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments, with the exception of Tasmania. The IGAB aims to strengthen the working partnership between governments and to improve the national biosecurity system and minimise the impact of pests and disease on Australia’s economy, environment and the community. The IGAB Schedules identify priority areas for collaboration.

The first deliverable under the IGAB was the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement (NEBRA). The NEBRA sets out emergency response arrangements, including cost-sharing arrangements, for responding to biosecurity incidents that primarily impact the environment and/or social amenity and where the response is for the public good. It includes marine pest and other incidents which are not covered under the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement or Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed. The Commonwealth and all states and territories are signatories to the NEBRA.

The National Biosecurity Committee (NBC) is the governing body tasked with identifying and implementing collaborative projects to meet the national priorities identified in the IGAB.

Achievements

Since 2012, a number of significant achievements and outputs have been made against the priority areas identified in the IGAB Schedules.

[Expand all]

Investment and decision-making (Schedule 2)

A number of reforms are being progressed to develop a consistent approach to biosecurity risk prioritisation and investments. Key achievements to date include:

  • a National Transition Program Policy Framework for the short term management of pests and diseases that cannot be eradicated while industry and the community prepare to live with the pests or disease
  • establishing core capability to undertake benefit cost analysis to ensure that biosecurity investments are cost beneficial and made in a consistent manner
  • a National Framework for Biosecurity Benefit: Cost Analysis for inclusion in the NEBRA
  • national significance and national interest principles to inform national biosecurity investment decision making.

Biosecurity information governance (Schedule 3)

A number of reforms are being progressed to develop collaborative approach to collecting, collating, analysing, storing and sharing biosecurity information to improve decision making and enhance efficiency of biosecurity operations. These include developing agreements for sharing information and the development of national minimum data standards to facilitate the exchange of agreed data sets between jurisdictions.

Surveillance and diagnostics (Schedule 4)

A national framework has been developed to promote an integrated, collaborative approach to surveillance and diagnostics to promote the optimal the use of existing capability and infrastructure, reduce unnecessary duplication and target resources at the areas of the greatest return. The National Surveillance and Diagnostic Framework was endorsed by the National Biosecurity Committee in 2014.

Biosecurity sectoral committees are currently developing national surveillance and diagnostics strategies and plans that will provide a strategic direction for both state and sectoral based surveillance and diagnostic plans.

Established pests and diseases (Schedule 5)

The National Framework for the Management of Established Pests and Diseases of National Significance has been developed to provide a consistent policy approach to the identification and management of pests and diseases of national significance. The Framework aims to streamline cooperative efforts, promote consistency and transparency in decision-making and ensure limited government resources are directed to best serve the national interest and provide the best return on investment.

The framework was finalised by the National Biosecurity Committee (NBC) and the Agriculture Senior Officials Committee in 2016 following public consultation.

Engagement and communications (Schedule 6)

The National Biosecurity Engagement and Communication Framework was developed to improve cooperation between parties, increase stakeholder and beneficiaries awareness, and enhance the effectiveness, of biosecurity activities through communication and engagement. It assists the jurisdictions to adopt a consistent approach when developing engagement and communication plans. The Framework was endorsed by the National Biosecurity Committee in February 2013. Biosecurity sectoral committees are currently developing supporting strategies and plans for engaging and communicating with stakeholders on issues relevant to their sectors.

Emergency preparedness and response (Schedule 7)

Activities are being progressed to enhance the level of emergency preparedness in all jurisdictions and ensure nationally consistent response arrangements are in place to promote the effective and timely management of biosecurity incidents and emergencies.

To date all jurisdictions carried out self-assessments of their biosecurity systems and identified ways to build on their capacity to respond to biosecurity incidents. A national biosecurity qualifications skill set is being developed to improve sharing of capacity and capability in a response by addressing ensuring jurisdictional training is nationally aligned.

Biosecurity research, development and extension (Schedule 8)

An audit of biosecurity research and development capability was undertaken in July 2012 to capture information on capacity and government investment in biosecurity related research and development activity across the biosecurity sectors

Research, development and extension (RD&E) strategies have been developed to establish the future direction for and improve the focus, efficiency and effectiveness of RD&E for both animal and plant biosecurity. These strategies have been endorsed by the Primary Industries Ministerial Council.

A community and environment RD&E strategy is also expected to be completed shortly.

Future priorities

The NBC has identified that a number of IGAB priorities remain to be fully addressed, which have been consolidated into six priority areas:

  1. National decision making and investment
  2. National emergency preparedness and response
  3. Established pests and diseases of national significance
  4. Surveillance and diagnostics
  5. Information management
  6. Communications and engagement.

The NBC has established an implementation taskforce to monitor progress on these reforms, which will be undertaken by NBC’s sectoral committees, expert groups or task specific working groups.

The most complex and challenging priorities are those related to national decision making and investment. These include addressing gaps in existing emergency response arrangements, identifying sustainable funding mechanisms to allow contributions from risk creators and beneficiaries, the management of long term containment programs and the development of a national biosecurity investment framework.

The enhancement of Australia’s biosecurity preparedness to ensure all jurisdictions maintain the capability and capacity to respond to biosecurity incidents and emergencies remains a high priority and will be addressed through an ongoing NBC expert group – the National Biosecurity Emergency Preparedness Expert Group.

Following public consultation on draft policy approach to the identification and management of pests and diseases of national significance, there will be a process to determine which established pests and diseases will be considered ‘nationally significant’ under the proposed new approach. The agreed approach will be reflected in relevant future national biosecurity strategies and plans.

The ability to seamlessly source and analyse real-time data aggregated from all jurisdictions in the event of biosecurity incidents, is fundamental to the effective management of biosecurity responses and the ability of Australia to fulfil its international reporting obligations. Activities to improve national information sharing will be addressed through an ongoing expert group – the National Biosecurity Information Governance Expert Group.

Sectoral committees, under NBC oversight, are implementing the national framework for surveillance and diagnostics and are responsible for communication and engagement with stakeholders on issues relevant to their sectors.