Australia has acquired a sound reputation for its biosecurity management and enforcement systems, with the initial Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity supported as an important step towards formalising cooperation between all entities. That said, it has been acknowledged that there are still some issues to be resolved in terms of developing open communication channels between all entities involved in the management of biosecurity programs.
The Commonwealth and all State and Territory Governments are currently undertaking an independent review of the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement (NEBRA) to seek views from industry regarding the implementation and effectiveness of the agreement in the five years since its commencement.
WAFarmers is of the view that NEBRA should not be considered in isolation and suggests it should have an interlinking function with other core bodies such as the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement (EADRA), the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD), and Regional Biosecurity Groups, within the boarder biosecurity framework.
A biosecurity system operates at its most effective when all stakeholders are aware of each other’s roles and responsibilities and are working collaboratively toward achieving agreed outcomes.NEBRA doesn’t at present reflect the relationships and connections between scientists and industry experts.
WAFarmers believes a more cooperative approach would benefit Australia’s biosecurity efforts overall, with very little added costs, and believes the NEBRA structure must improve communication channels and transparency with both EADRA and EPPRD to enhance industry engagement and expertise.
Australia still has multiple agencies across the biosecurity spectrum responsible for a range of plant, animal and human threats. Much work has been done to reform different parts of the biosecurity continuum, yet there has been much less done on integrating and auditing these reforms more effectively to produce holistic biosecurity strategies in full collaboration with industry and community entities.
It is recognised that governments are not the only funding contributors to the national biosecurity system and its activities – while core government funding is integral, contributions come through a variety of sources such as:
- community based fee for service charges;
- industry rates, levies or charges;
- landholder rates, levies or charges; and,
- contributions from recreational users.
When considering emergency response mechanisms, some industries such as EADRA and EPPRD have highly detailed and specific cost and responsibility sharing arrangements.
WAFarmers would seek to ensure that NEBRA is able to be triggered for all biosecurity incursions, including unknown pests and diseases that do not have risk and cost benefit analyses, and does not support the development of another Research and Development Corporation environmental industry-based levy system to support its functions in isolation under cost sharing arrangements. Further, WAFarmers would not support the shifting of costs for environmental biosecurity to agriculture.
There is clearly a need for rationalisation and simplification, and WAFarmers is of the opinion that the points outlined above would work towards this consolidation and result in a more cooperative and collaborative biosecurity continuum on a national scale.