Biosecurity strategy vital for future

The state's peak agricultural body is calling for an urgent boost to biosecurity systems to protect Australia from imported viruses and pests.

In a submission to the National Biosecurity Strategy Consultation, NSW Farmers outlined the failings of Australia's biosecurity system, calling for more urgency to develop a modern system with sufficient investment from government.

"The recently released National Biosecurity Strategy is a good start, but strategies alone don't get things done," NSW Farmers President James Jackson said.

"Every footy team has a game plan before they hit the field, but what matters is whether the players put that into action.

"The same goes for biosecurity, we know what we need to do, but as a nation we're still not doing it well enough and we need to start action now with greater urgency."

Mr Jackson said the Federal Government's focus this week on boosting traceability was important, but it was only one aspect of the biosecurity continuum. One of the most alarming biosecurity failings, he said, came just prior to the arrival of COVID-19 - almost half of all imported cut flowers were found to harbour a disease that could wipe out Australia's wine industry if left unchecked. Mr Jackson said a modern biosecurity system needed better detection and tracking to pick up all potential incursions.

"Our key priority is for the Federal Government to implement a sustainable funding model - we must have longer term certainty of biosecurity that is beyond the budget cycle," Mr Jackson said.

"Greater investment in biosecurity research and development will minimise the impact of risks and challenges.

"The outcome of increased investment will be a stronger biosecurity system, which in turn strengthens agriculture's sustainability and profitability, and our broader economy."

Federal and state governments must have the capacity to effectively respond to incursions of exotic pests and disease, Mr Jackson said, and that meant an appropriately trained and funded system.

"We also must not forget endemic pests and disease," he said.

"We need a biosecurity system that seeks to minimise their impact and enhance agricultural and environmental productivity."

NSW Farmers believes that a strong, unified, appropriately resourced, and scientifically based biosecurity system is the key to combatting the threats posed by pests and disease at our borders, and is calling for:

1. Adequately funded biosecurity structures to investigate the possibility of pests and diseases imported from different countries

2. Smarter and more targeted controls on imports from countries who continually fail to comply with biosecurity rules

3. Greater investment in biosecurity research and development

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