Taskforce completes review of biosecurity systems

Senator the Hon Murray Watt
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Australia will be more prepared to respond to any future biosecurity outbreak, after four weeks of rigorous testing of national biosecurity and emergency management plans by the Exotic Animal Diseases Preparedness Taskforce.

In a report received by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt, the Taskforce presented its assessment of Australia’s preparedness if an exotic animal disease, such as foot and mouth disease (FMD) or lumpy skin disease (LSD), were to reach Australia.

“It’s important to remember that Australia remains FMD and LSD-free, but we need to remain vigilant to biosecurity threats at our borders,” Minister Watt said.

“Our three-pronged approach of helping Indonesia deal with their outbreak, strengthening our borders and improving preparedness is vital to ensure we continue to remain FMD-free.

“This Taskforce is an important part of that, because good governments plan for the best and prepare for the worst.”

Minister Watt said the taskforce undertook specific scenario exercises as well as extensive consultations with government and industry stakeholders.

“These scenarios tested arrangements already in place to respond to incursions of FMD and lumpy skin disease (LSD), including for multiple outbreaks across multiple jurisdictions,” he said.

“The Taskforce worked closely with state and territory governments, industry and Indigenous communities, to ensure a national, coordinated view was captured.

“It also looked at the United Kingdom’s FMD outbreak in 2001, COVID-19 and recent natural disasters in Australia to see what lessons could be learned from those events.

“This work will now lead into and inform Exercise Paratus, a live boots-on-the-ground FMD-based scenario to be undertaken next year.”

Minister Watt said the exercises also stress-tested how Australia’s biosecurity plans interact with national emergency management.

“This way we know we can organise a rapid response across Commonwealth, state, territory, and industry partners should an incursion ever occur,” he said.

“Overall, the review found that our biosecurity system is strong and sound, particularly in prevention and mitigation, and there is good reason to expect Australia will remain free of these diseases.

“The review also found that some of our biosecurity responses need to be updated to be current with the times and with the technology we now have.

“I want to thank state and territory authorities, as well as industry bodies, for their willingness to engage with the Taskforce.”

The report can be viewed here.

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