National Biosecurity Committee – Meeting 19 – Communiqué

The National Biosecurity Committee (NBC) met on 6 March 2015 and considered the following issues:

National portfolio investment optimisation

The committee considered a report on the National Biosecurity Investment Portfolio, which focused on the allocation of Commonwealth and state and territory government investment across a suite of biosecurity activities or ‘investment categories’. There is potential to use the portfolio resource allocation approach to guide investment in biosecurity, where the allocation of resources across the biosecurity continuum is optimised for the best return on investment. The committee also noted the preliminary outcomes from a pilot study, which is being carried out as a proof of concept through the Australian National University.

Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis – moving towards risk based biosecurity

Associate Professor Andrew Robinson from The University of Melbourne gave the committee an overview of the work being conducted through the Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis (CEBRA). The committee discussed how CEBRA contributes to national priorities under the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity, including through the National Decision Making and Investment Framework and the National Biosecurity Research Development & Extension Framework.

New funding arrangements for eradication programs – update on eradication consultancy project

The committee noted a draft consultancy project report and draft funding framework prepared by IDA Economics, which examine possible funding arrangements for eradication programs. The Project Steering Group will continue to develop the funding framework for consideration and finalisation by the committee at its next meeting.

The health of the biosecurity system – outcomes from industry roundtable

The committee discussed some of the key issues raised by industry stakeholders at a ‘health of the biosecurity system’ roundtable held the previous day. Members discussed options for the resolution of these issues, and considered NBC’s role in this process.

National Biosecurity Statement

The committee agreed to develop a National Biosecurity Statement in consultation with stakeholders to communicate the importance of biosecurity and the concept of shared responsibility with the broader community.

National Biosecurity Committee stakeholder engagement and communication strategy

The committee noted the work being undertaken to continually improve engagement and communications with stakeholders. This includes the development of a strategy for consultation with community and environmental stakeholders, the tasking of sectoral committees (Animal Health Committee, Invasive Plant and Animal Committee, Marine Pest Sectoral Committee, Plant Health Committee) to develop engagement and communications strategies, engaging industry directly through Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia, and the use of targeted approaches such as topic-specific roundtables.

Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity (IGAB) Taskforce final report

The committee reviewed progress with the implementation of the IGAB since it came into force in 2012. An IGAB Taskforce was established in 2014 to identify priority reform areas and to advise NBC on how to best progress IGAB implementation. This Taskforce reported to the committee on priority reforms that remain outstanding in the areas of decision making and investment, emergency preparedness and response, the management of established pests and diseases, a collaborative approach to surveillance and diagnostics, the management of biosecurity information including surveillance data and communications and engagement. The priority reforms will be implemented by the NBC, supported by expert groups and a dedicated project manager.

Formal national response framework to deal with exotic weed incursions – establishment of taskforce

The committee discussed the terms of reference for a national taskforce established to develop a potential deed-like response agreement for exotic weeds incursions not covered by current emergency response agreements. Membership and chairing arrangements for the taskforce will be finalised out of session.

National arrangements for incursion management

The committee agreed to improve collaboration and work towards continuous improvement in the national eradication arrangements in conjunction with Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia, as the custodians of the animal and plant emergency response deeds.

Foot-and-mouth preparedness update

The committee noted a report from the Animal Health Committee on progress made against the Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) National Action Plan. The committee noted the good progress made on outstanding issues. Some jurisdictions have commenced dedicated FMD preparedness programs, and the outputs of these programs will be shared to enhance the national FMD preparedness agenda.

Biosecurity Emergency Preparedness Working Group update

The committee noted an update provided by the Biosecurity Emergency Preparedness Working Group, which highlighted progress made towards the implementation of nationally accredited training, and development of the Biosecurity Emergency Knowledge Base.

Biosecurity Incident National Communication Network

The NBC noted the ongoing preparedness work of the Biosecurity Incident National Communication Network (NCN), which includes a national approach to foot-and-mouth disease communication. It also supports the NCN’s recent initiative to engage further with animal and plant industry groups.

Animal Health Committee update

The committee noted the good progress by the Animal Health Committee (AHC) on its 2014-2015 workplan. It also noted specific work undertaken by AHC against the NBC IGAB Framework in the areas of national animal health surveillance and diagnostics and established animal diseases of national significance. AHC is also continuing to work on an animal health communications and engagement strategy, as tasked by NBC. 

Plant Health Committee update

The Plant Health Committee provided an update to the committee on progress in implementing the IGAB in the plant sector, including the National Surveillance and Diagnostic Framework, National Framework for Management of Established Pests and Diseases of National Significance, communication and engagement strategy, and a national approach to risk analysis.

Invasive Plants and Animals Committee update

The Invasive Plants and Animals Committee (formed in 2014 from the former Australian Weeds Committee and the Vertebrate Pests Committee) provided the committee an update on a new workplan. Key work items include the revision of the Australian weeds and pest animal strategies, and the implementation of priority reforms under the IGAB.

Marine Pest Sectoral Committee update

The National Biosecurity Committee noted an update on Marine Pest Sectoral Committee activities, including progress in the development of a Marine Pest Biosecurity Strategy.

Australian Testing Centre for Marine Pests

NBC noted progress on the marine pest monitoring program which will identify priority marine pests using polymerase chain reaction testing protocols, without the requirement for expensive and time consuming diver surveys.