03 July 2022

Insight from: Robbie Sefton

Any Australian who likes to pack their bags for overseas adventures would have thought more than once: wouldn’t it be nice if we were a little closer to some of our more far-flung neighbours. It’s true that the plane trip to some of our more desired destinations is an adventure in itself – before you even consider the expense – but our unique location in the world also presents some unique advantages.

As an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, our isolation has been of benefit during past global conflicts and pandemics, and safe-guarded our valuable agriculture industry from pests and disease that have wreaked havoc across other world markets. Biosecurity is so critical to our agriculture sectors and up to now, we have enjoyed a reasonably good record in terms of avoiding potentially devastating issues for producers, consumers, suppliers and the economy as a whole.

Biosecurity is front and centre currently, with the nation welcoming a new federal government recently, the NSW Government flagging a record spend on biosecurity in the upcoming state budget, and a current outbreak of one of the most feared diseases for our livestock industry occurring right on Australia’s doorstep.

The Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak across Indonesia’s livestock sector has been devastating and it’s put those responsible for Australia’s biosecurity on high alert, with calls for greater funding and resources to ensure it doesn’t breach our nation’s borders.

Of course, there’s any number of other threats to our lucrative agriculture industry from varroa mite in bees (Australia is currently the only inhabited continent to be free of it) to African swine fever in pigs. The tireless work of a raft of different agencies and departments has meant producers have not had to endure the emotional and financial heartbreak of seeing a lifetime of work wiped out by a virulent pest or sickness that has managed to evade our strict biosecurity regulations.

The likes of quarantine and customs officers are always alert for incoming threats, an enormous task when you consider our vast coastline and innumerable points of entry into the country. While the devastation of FMD to our north is nothing short of tragic, it has served as a fresh warning to our nation’s governments that after so long keeping our country free of unwelcome visitors, we cannot afford any complacency, and must be constantly seeking new opportunities for bolstering our means of defence.  

The NSW Government has announced more than $163 million in the next budget for improved biosecurity measures and the new Federal Government has also committed to releasing more resources aimed at improving our biosecurity response. Our ‘clean’ record – in comparison with other world markets – when it comes to our agricultural exports is so critical to the ongoing prosperity of this sector. Australia is renowned for its relative pest- and disease-free status and our exports have benefitted accordingly over decades.

Biosecurity must be on everyone’s radar – city or country, farmer or town dweller – because just from a financial standpoint, our economy is so heavily reliant on our round-the-clock vigilance. We can all play our part, too, even it’s just being aware that when you return from your long-overdue overseas adventure you’re not returning with any potential hazards. And take seriously all those Customs and quarantine rules and regulations – they’re there for a very important reason. Biosecurity is everyone’s business – our nation’s counting on it.

To see Robbie’s column in The Land newspaper, go to https://www.theland.com.au/story/7798962/biosecurity-must-be-on-everyones-radar/