Biosecurity failures risk billions

The state’s peak agricultural body says the Varroa mite outbreak is a stark example of the failures in the national biosecurity system.

NSW Farmers Biosecurity Chair Ian McColl said it was clear biosecurity screening protocols at our borders were clearly not at the standard required, and it was time for the federal government to urgently fix the system before it was too late.

“We have been warning Australia is highly exposed to biosecurity incursions and we’re seeing that play out right now,” Mr McColl said.

“It is clear that there are gaps in the system, because Varroa mite reached our shores and evaded detection.

“Good luck – not good management – seems to be the only thing keeping biosecurity threats out of Australia.”

While the state government has boosted funding to enhance biosecurity preparedness and respond to incursions, Mr McColl said keeping diseases out was of utmost importance with foot and mouth disease and lumpy skin disease poised to rip an enormous hole in the economy.

“If we get a detection of foot and mouth disease it will cost Australia $80 billion and take years to recover from,” Mr McColl said.

“To put that into perspective, that’s roughly the size of the entire JobKeeper program, and it’s something we can prevent if we get the systems right.

“This is why the agriculture sector has been calling for urgent action on biosecurity for some time now, because as we have seen over recent years, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

While the new federal government had made a pre-election commitment to improve biosecurity, Mr McColl said it was critical this work was done as a matter of urgency.

“I know the new ministers have a lot on their plate, but we need this actioned now, not in 18 months’ time,” he said.

“With foot and mouth disease now in Bali, it is perilously close to our shores.

“If the government wants to avoid an $80 billion economic disaster, it should put biosecurity reforms at the top of the agenda.”

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