Biosecurity is Top Priority

11 February 2021

Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, David Littleproud has acknowledged industry concerns with delays in receiving biosecurity document assessment, and inspections services from his department.

Minister Littleproud said the Australian Government was making all efforts to manage the increased demand at the border and reduce the impact on industry while still effectively managing biosecurity and imported food risks.

“International trade volumes and emerging biosecurity risks will only continue to grow,” 
Minister Littleproud said. 

“We cannot afford to compromise Australia’s biosecurity to achieve better service delivery outcomes. 

“While biosecurity must come first, it is also important that we explore more innovative ways of operating. Doing more of the same is not an option. 

“Partnering and co-design activities with industry at both a grass roots and strategic level will be critical to achieving reform, while ensuring the flow of trade and goods to Australian consumers keeps moving.

“Australia is facing significant and changing threats posed by exotic pests and diseases such as African swine fever, brown marmorated stink bug and khapra beetle, which would all have devastating effects on agricultural industries, the environment, exports and our economy if they established here. 

“We are lucky to be free from these harmful pests and diseases and we want to keep it that way, as the impacts would be felt across communities, including businesses trying to recover from the effects of the COVID pandemic.

“My department is currently working on a number of initiatives which will help to manage biosecurity risks more effectively and efficiently at the border. These include:

  • 3D x-ray and auto-detection technologies to identify biosecurity risk material at the border. Trials of the x-ray technology have been a success with the department using the 3D images to create the world’s first auto-detection algorithms for biosecurity risk material. 
  • Training detector dogs to identify scent extracts and volatile organic compounds to detect priority pests such as brown marmorated stink bugs.
  • As part of the Business Research and Innovation Initiative (BRII) challenge, two companies are testing scanning systems mounted on ship-to-shore cranes to detect pests and contaminants on sea containers. If successful, this may reduce unnecessary inspections and result in faster release of containers
  • Automation to increase the speed and accuracy of biosecurity document assessment.
  • Piloting virtual inspections of surveillance low risk foods, in consultation with industry participants.               
  • Trialling RealWare’s hands-free Smartglasses since early 2020 to test their potential useability in certain biosecurity activities, such as remote inspections. 
  • Investment in modern systems to schedule and deploy assessment and inspection services more effectively. 

“These are just some examples of how we are working to manage increased volumes of cargo and emerging biosecurity risks through increasingly more complex global pathways. 

“I have asked my department to work with industry groups on other short-term and medium-term system and process improvements, and on setting a global benchmark in biosecurity best practice through co-design.”

“I thank members of the import supply chain for their ongoing cooperation and patience while these improvements are rolled out, and assistance in managing biosecurity risks.