National Biosecurity Committee - Meeting 14 - Communique

The National Biosecurity Committee (NBC) met for the fourteenth time on 2 August 2012 and considered the following issues:

Key Discussions and Outcomes

National Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Action Plan

Members discussed progress with the implementation of the National FMD Action Plan. Major achievements include finalisation of a national FMD vaccination policy, completion of a biosecurity risk analysis relevant to surveillance needs and an enhanced animal health scanning function. NBC noted that further work was required on risk mitigation to improve our capacity and capability to detect and manage a medium to large scale FMD outbreak. Members agreed for Animal Health Committee to be tasked with providing preliminary advice on options for the conduct of a national livestock standstill exercise, including broad costs.

Exercise tuckerbox

Members noted a presentation by the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries on a desk-top livestock tracing exercise conducted in April 2012, known as Exercise Tuckerbox. The aim of the exercise was to use the NLIS database to compare the mob-based tracing system for sheep and goats with the system for cattle and other susceptible species (where available), to test NSW’s ability to meet the National Livestock Traceability Performance Standards relevant to FMD. The exercise would also assist in the development of tracing standard operating procedures and work instructions. Members noted that the exercise results would be made available to the Animal Health Committee for information.

Implementation of the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity (IGAB)

NBC noted the progress of working groups in implementing priority reforms, and work that was underway to develop a high level overview of the nature and timing of deliverables against the outcomes set down in the IGAB. This will assist decision makers to identify critical paths, cross-cutting issues and areas of potential duplication. Linkages will also be made with other undertakings outside of the IGAB that must be delivered, including the National FMD Action Plan. Members agreed that priority should be given to the finalisation of national data standards to enable greater data sharing between jurisdictions for emergency response and surveillance; and early development of a framework for diagnostic services as this related to the work of multiple working groups and sectoral committees.

National Transition Program Policy Framework

Members considered a revised national transition program policy framework by the National Decision Making and Investment Working Group (IGAB Schedule 2). The aim of the framework was to address the policy gap once a decision is made that a pest or disease is not eradicable but where further action is in the national interest. Members agreed to recommend the framework to the Primary Industries Standing Committee (PISC) for the purposes of consultation with members of Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia.

Report on trial of Benefit Cost Analysis framework

Members noted the progress of the work by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences and Plant Health Australia in road-testing the national framework for benefit cost analysis (BCA). The framework has been tested on BCAs for responding to a Varroa incursion and in eradicating chestnut blight. The framework is also currently being tested for red imported fire ants, black-striped mussel and Siam weed.

NEBRA implementation including 3 new attachments to schedules

Members noted DAFF’s intention is to make NEBRA implementation as seamless and close as possible to the administrative arrangements in place for the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement (EADRA) and Emergency Plant Pest Disease Response Deed (EPPRD). The NEBRA is not retrospective so, incursions currently being managed under ad-hoc (NEBRA-like) arrangements will continue to be managed in this way. Members also endorsed three new attachments to schedules - Attachment 4A: National framework for Biosecurity Benefit Cost Analysis; Attachment 5C: Potential distribution of inland water diseases; and Attachment 5E: Potential distribution of marine diseases and potentially affected populations. The attachments will be submitted to PISC for final endorsement before being incorporated into the Agreement.

Stakeholder communication and engagement

Members noted that non-government stakeholders play an important role in achieving reforms to Australia’s biosecurity system and where appropriate it is essential to involve industry and other non-government organisations in the implementation of the IGAB activities. NBC noted progress in establishing a stakeholder consultative group to assist the Committee and its working groups. The group will comprise a small number of industry, environmental and other relevant non-government representatives together with two members from the NBC. Invitations have been distributed and the group will meet once membership has been finalised.

Driving improvements to risk assessments through improved consultation

NBC supported steps to improve risk assessment outcomes by enhancing information flow and communications between the Commonwealth, states and territories.

Formation of a working group to develop a contingency plan for red imported fire ant (RIFA) management

Members endorsed a proposal for a working group to be established to develop a contingency plan for RIFA management, should preliminary results on delimitation activities (including remote sensing) suggest containment with a view to eradication may no longer be feasible. It was agreed that the working group should also consider the results of the ABARES benefit cost analysis as part of the contingency plan. Given the importance of this work, the Committee agreed to form the working group as a priority under the direction of NBC.

Proposed Australian Testing Centre for Marine Pests

Members noted a proposal by the Marine Pests Sectoral Committee to establish an Australian Testing Centre for Marine Pests at the South Australian Research and Development Institute to supply the National Monitoring Network with diagnostic services for marine pest surveys. NBC agree that further work was required by the Marine Pest Sectoral Committee to establish the business case for the testing centre.

Frequency and mode of NBC meetings

NBC agreed to align its meeting schedule with the Primary Industry Standing Committee and the Standing Council on Primary Industries by meeting face-to-face twice yearly.