Beefing borders: $371m budgeted for agriculture biosecurity

Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Chris Doheny
Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Picture: Chris Doheny

Farmers groups have welcomed as a "good start" from the Morrison government, a $371 million "ring of containment" biosecurity package in the May federal budget to help the agriculture sector repel exotic pests and diseases, and fight them in the case of an outbreak.

The pre-budget announcement is assuaging the sector which was disappointed with last year's decision to axe 2018 plans for a biosecurity levy slated to raise $325 million to protect Australian agriculture.

The measures include $67.4 million to support Australia's biosecurity preparedness and response capabilities such as a "national surveillance information system" for Australia's animal sector. There are also new 3D X-ray and screening technologies, swine flu prevention measures, extra detection dogs and $35 million for research about how pests can enter Australia.

"This is a good start. Applying cutting edge science and technology is crucial to ensuring our biosecurity system is future-ready," National Farmers Federation CEO Tony Mahar said in a statement.

"We also welcome funding to enable better communication between government, industry and citizens. As the peak body for Australian agriculture with a national footprint, the NFF is well placed to play a key role in these communications."

The National Farmers Federation had been calling for $400 million over four years to enhance Australia's biosecurity system, pointing to the 2017 Craik review which determined that at a national level the system is underfunded.

It also wants assurances over strategic long-term funding.

Speaking from Beef Week in Rockhampton, the Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government is using the COVID-19 experience to learn how to contain outbreaks. National exercises will be run to simulate outbreaks such as foot and mouth disease.

"We have seen how important that is in Covid," the Prime Minister said on Tuesday.

"It is the same when it comes to African swine flu or lumpy skin disease or any of these types of things which can be absolutely devastating to our agricultural sector and particularly our beef and cattle producers that we see on display here.

"We are very serious when it comes to border security, on all the elements of border security."

The Prime Minister said he wants to ensure Australia's agricultural producers are protected and can continue to produce and export the best quality produce anywhere in the world.

"(The) $66 billion industry all depends on how well we keep the borders secure from pests and from disease," the Prime Minister said.

"There's some 2.5 million containers that come through this country last year, 1000 commercial vessels, 60 million mail items that come through, some 35,000 pest and disease detections put in place by our border agencies and our quarantine.

"That's a fantastic job. The risks continue to be out there and they're ever present."

The federal opposition says the biosecurity funding is too little, too late.

Labor's agriculture spokeswoman Julie Collins says the opposition will take a look at what is proposed in the the pre-budget announcement, but she notes biosecurity funding was going backwards under the Morrison government.

Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content:

This story Beefing borders: $371m budgeted for agriculture biosecurity first appeared on The Canberra Times.