Agriculture Minister Littleproud: ‘Biosecurity must come first’

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Image Credit: Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment

As demands continue to rise at the border, the Government is stepping up to address biosecurity threats to the Australian agricultural sector.

Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management David Littleproud reiterated yesterday that the Australian Government was “making all efforts” to meet demand at the border, reduce industry impact while managing the barrage of biosecurity risks the nation is faced with.

The announcement came with an acknowledgment from the Minister that there have been delays in biosecurity document assessment and inspection services from the department.

“International trade volumes and emerging biosecurity risks will only continue to grow,” said Minister Littleproud. “We cannot afford to compromise Australia’s biosecurity to achieve better service delivery outcomes.”

Minister Littleproud said that taking both a grassroots and a strategic-level approach will be critical to achieve reform and ensure that the flow of trade and goods remain uninterrupted.

“While biosecurity must come first, it is also important that we explore more innovative ways of operating. Doing more of the same is not an option.”

Citing the threat of exotic pests and diseases on the agriculture industry, the environment, and the economy, the Minister said that the impact of the biosecurity risks would be felt across the country.

“We are lucky to be free from these harmful pests and diseases and we want to keep it that way.”

The Department is now working on several initiatives to ensure that the risks are dealt with more effectively. These include:

  • 3D x-ray and auto-detection technologies to identify biosecurity risk material at the border. Trials of the x-ray technology have been a success with the department using the 3D images to create the world’s first auto-detection algorithms for biosecurity risk material.
  • Training detector dogs to identify scent extracts and volatile organic compounds to detect priority pests such as brown marmorated stink bugs.
  • As part of the Business Research and Innovation Initiative (BRII) challenge, two companies are testing scanning systems mounted on ship-to-shore cranes to detect pests and contaminants on sea containers. If successful, this may reduce unnecessary inspections and result in faster release of containers
  • Automation to increase the speed and accuracy of biosecurity document assessment.
  • Piloting virtual inspections of surveillance low risk foods, in consultation with industry participants.
  • Trialling RealWare’s hands-free Smartglasses since early 2020 to test their potential useability in certain biosecurity activities, such as remote inspections.
  • Investment in modern systems to schedule and deploy assessment and inspection services more effectively.

“These are just some examples of how we are working to manage increased volumes of cargo and emerging biosecurity risks through increasingly more complex global pathways.

“I have asked my department to work with industry groups on other short-term and medium-term system and process improvements, and on setting a global benchmark in biosecurity best practice through co-design.”

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