Agriculture Ministers’ Joint Statement

Release of the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity review report

26 July 2017

Today, the independent report of the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity (IGAB) review was presented to the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum.

Agriculture ministers thanked the review panel, chaired by Dr Wendy Craik AM, for producing such a thorough and forward thinking review.

Australia has a robust national biosecurity system, built on the combined efforts of governments, industry and the community. This system supports our access to overseas markets – and our reputation as a producer of clean, high quality product – as well as entry into Australia of valued imports for businesses and consumers. But, more fundamentally, it safeguards our economy, environment and way of life from the adverse impacts of introduced pests and diseases.

The review recognises the significant achievements of the IGAB, which commenced in 2012, and the strong and healthy working relationships between governments. The strength of this relationship is on show, today, through our commitment to a 10-year eradication campaign in relation to red imported fire ants in south-east Queensland and to develop a government-industry deed to support national responses to disease outbreaks affecting aquatic animals.

But, as the report confirms, we continue to face new challenges, including a growing global population, increased and changing international trade and travel, loss of biodiversity and increasing urbanisation. The report also clearly identifies that governments and industry are facing ongoing resourcing pressures, which will affect our ability to effectively manage biosecurity risks in the future.

We have faced some significant challenges in recent years, with our efforts in relation to several significant pest and disease outbreaks demonstrating the fundamental strength of our system and reaffirming our need to remain vigilant and to continuously learn from our collective efforts. In 2016 alone, Australian governments have handled more than 120 pest and disease notifications, including red imported fire ants at Brisbane airport, white spot disease of prawns in south-east Queensland and Khapra beetle in South Australia. Since the commencement of the IGAB in 2012, there have also been 21 nationally cost-shared emergency biosecurity response programs initiated, of which six responses achieved eradication and two responses were deemed non-eradicable and subsequently transitioned to management.

We are committed to strengthening our world class biosecurity system, increasing its flexibility and resilience to adapt to future pressures. As biosecurity risk increases, the resources required to maintain the current level of risk must also increase. A key part of our national system must therefore involve identifying new sources of investment and making better use of emerging technologies and available information on potential risks. Without this and other essential changes, our community, industry and environment will face the cost and impact of managing an ever greater number of pest and disease incursions.

Biosecurity is a shared responsibility. Governments, industry and the broader community must continue to work together. We can build more productive partnerships by better defining our respective roles within the system and the expectations that come with them. All producers need to reduce the risk of pest and disease outbreaks by ensuring their biosecurity practices are best practice, while individuals need to increase their awareness about what they source online from overseas, or bring in from overseas holidays. Governments need the support of community groups to monitor and report environmental pests and diseases.

This report provides an important roadmap to guide our efforts, making 42 recommendations aimed at strengthening our national biosecurity system over the next five to ten years.

Some of these recommendations we have endorsed today. The IGAB will remain an agreement between the First Ministers of Australian, state and territory governments and this will be supported by whole-of-government arrangements for system implementation. We will collaborate with industry and community stakeholders to develop a national biosecurity statement that articulates a national vision and goals for biosecurity as well as our respective roles, responsibilities and accountabilities.

Work is already underway on many other recommendations. We have made considerable progress on an emergency response deed for aquatic animals and have commenced work on a response deed for exotic production weeds.

Ensuring we have the best system possible to maintain our enviable international biosecurity status is critical for Australia and our industries. We have asked officials to come back to this group by the end of the year with early advice on how best to respond to these recommendations. We will then work together to create a refreshed intergovernmental agreement to be agreed by mid-2018. This agreement will guide our efforts to strengthen our national biosecurity system to meet the future needs of Australia.

Local government, industries, importers, other key stakeholders and the broader community remain important partners in biosecurity and their continued involvement in biosecurity discussions is paramount as part of our shared responsibility for biosecurity.

More information on the IGAB review is available from the departments website.