National Biosecurity Committee Strategic Workshop 5

14 – 15 May 2015

The National Biosecurity Committee (NBC) along with representatives from the livestock and plant industries and non-government environmental organisations met on 14 May 2015 to consider opportunities to optimise national biosecurity investments and improve decision making in emergency responses.

Professor Tom Kompas (Australian Centre for Biosecurity and Environmental Economics at The Australian National University) presented a model that allows consideration of optimal return on biosecurity investments. The model is designed to assist in the allocation of biosecurity investment across a range of biosecurity measures and sectors in order to maximise the return on investment and to minimise expected costs, including production losses and control costs. Professor Kompas demonstrated how such a model could be applied at a national level to potentially optimise investment.

Professor Mark Burgman (Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis, The University of Melbourne) gave a presentation on decision tools that could be applied to emergency response decision making, including the use of structured expert judgement and elicitation.

The NBC met on 15 May 2015 and considered the following issues:

National biosecurity investment strategy

The committee considered feedback from stakeholders at the previous day’s investment workshop and discussed the benefits of a strategy to guide and optimise national investment in biosecurity. The committee agreed to develop a draft investment scoping paper.

National Biosecurity Committee strategic report to the Agriculture Senior Officials Committee

As requested by the Agriculture Senior Officials Committee in March 2015, the committee discussed approaches for reporting to senior officials on the national biosecurity system, including the role of NBC, current work and achievements, future priorities and risks. The NBC will continue to refine the reporting framework in the coming months in consultation with sectoral committees, Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia, for consideration by senior officials in November 2015. Work will also be initiated on key performance measures for the biosecurity system.

Health of the biosecurity system

The committee discussed ways to address issues raised by stakeholders at the recent Biosecurity Roundtable held in Canberra in March 2015, and identified opportunities to improve future engagement with stakeholders. It agreed to prepare a blueprint for how a national biosecurity roundtable programme could operate, involving a range of sector or subject specific mini-roundtables in addition to an annual meeting.

Engagement and communication strategy for community and environmental stakeholders

The committee reviewed a draft strategy for engaging and communicating with community and environmental stakeholders. This strategy is being developed to address a gap in existing industry and sectoral consultative arrangements, and is also a priority under the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity.

Biosecurity Bill 2014: Commonwealth onshore and emergency powers

The committee noted that the Biosecurity Bill 2014 along with supporting legislation was passed by the Parliament of Australia on 14 May 2015. There was discussion on the Commonwealth’s new powers for managing onshore biosecurity risk, including the principles by which the Commonwealth will use those powers.

Long-term containment – policy considerations

The committee discussed a range of issues in considering the value of developing a draft national policy framework for the long-term containment of nationally significant pests and diseases. This has been recognised as a gap in the biosecurity system, and the committee agreed to develop a draft scoping paper setting out the key principles and policy for a national approach to long-term containment activities for further consideration.

Animal Health Committee 2015-16 work plan

The committee endorsed the Animal Health Committee 2015-2016 work plan.

Plant Health Committee 2015-16 work plan

The committee discussed the 2015-16 Plant Health Committee work plan, and subject to amendment the plan will be approved.

Invasive Plants and Animals Committee 2015-16 work plan

The committee endorsed the Invasive Plants and Animals Committee 2015-16 work plan.

Marine Pest Sectoral Committee 2015-16 work plan

The committee endorsed the Marine Pests Sectoral Committee 2015-16 work plan.

Update on National Biosecurity Committee activities

Progress on a range of NBC activities was noted, including:

  • That a number of working groups have been disbanded following successful completion of their work. Six priority reform areas of work, relating to: national decision making and investment; emergency preparedness and response; established pests and diseases; surveillance and diagnosis; information governance; and stakeholder engagement and communication will be progressed by the sectoral committees, ongoing expert groups and task specific groups (refer below).
  • Establishment of the Intergovernment Agreement on Biosecurity Implementation Taskforce to oversee implementation of work in the six priority reform areas.
  • Establishment of the National Biosecurity Emergency Preparedness Expert Group to develop and maintain a harmonised national capability and capacity to prepare for and manage emergency responses.
  • Establishment of the National Biosecurity Information Governance Expert Group to improve cooperation between jurisdictions in the collection, analysis and sharing biosecurity information to improve decision making and operational efficiency.
  • Establishment of the Exotic Weed Incursions Agreement Taskforce to provide advice to the committee on a proposed national approach between governments and industry for responding to exotic weeds with an impact on agricultural production.
  • The Funding Model Steering Committee, which has been expanded to include representation from all jurisdictions, is continuing work to finalise a draft funding model for securing contributions from risk creators and beneficiaries outside of the existing national response arrangements; and to consider how these new arrangements could be implemented in the future.
  • Imminent release of a discussion paper – Modernising Australia’s approach to managing established pests and diseases of national significance for a 60 day public consultation period.
  • Continued work on a national biosecurity statement to assist with engaging and communicating with external stakeholders about the national biosecurity system and to set the context for jurisdictional biosecurity strategies.
  • Collection of data for the 2014-15 biosecurity investment stocktake has commenced. This year’s stocktake will provide an ongoing picture of how Australia’s governments invest in biosecurity, and any changes that have occurred since the previous year. The purpose of the stocktake is not to compare and contrast the quantum of each jurisdiction’s expenditure, but to look at aggregated investments to give the national picture.

The National Biosecurity Committee is responsible for managing a national, strategic approach to biosecurity threats relating to plant and animal pests and diseases, marine and aquatic pests, and the impact of these on agricultural production, the environment, community wellbeing and social amenity. The committee provides advice to the Agriculture Senior Officials Committee and the Agriculture Ministers’ Forum on national biosecurity issues, and on progress in implementing the Intergovernmental Agreement on biosecurity. For further information about the National Biosecurity Committee, you can visit the Department of Agriculture’s website.