Impact Publications : Aircargo_243
Page 4 • aircargo asia-Pacific • JUNE-JULY 2016 ‘Biggest’ biosecurity revamp prepares Aust for the future It has taken a lot of work, with our sector winning praise for its input and its constructive criticisms, but we’re there at last, writes Kelvin King. Australia’s new Biosecurity Act 2015 replaces the cobwebby Quarantine Act 1908 which, albeit reworked with many updates and amendments, has given pretty good value over more than a century of constant- ly-changing conditions. the new legislation is in place and further work now is being done under Department of Agriculture & Wa- ter Resources (DAWR) auspices, including consultation on the Intergovernment Agreement on Biosecurity, a report on foot and mouth diseases response with the learnings gleaned from the big Exercise Odysseus, and the signing of further international arrangements for emergency animal diseases outbreaks. Biosecurity is at the heart of Australia’s international air cargo movements – and passenger traffic – and the country’s trading integrity depends increasingly on optimum biosecurity systems, both preventative and fast-response reactive. Air cargo’s vulnerability was seen starkly during the equine influenza outbreak which halted most horse traffic between Australia and other countries while debilitating diseases and predatory pest incursions also have the potential to hurt our throughput, profits and even our corporate viability. Lyn O’Connell, DAWR’s head of biosecurity thanked all involved in bringing the Biosecurity Act to fruition. She described its introduction as “a significant step forward in our ability to respond to global threats posed by exotic pests and diseases that have devastat- ed other countries’ agricultural industries and environ- ment.” O’Connell is good value, not only for her current work but because of her professional track record which included a much-praised stint at the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development. this gave her insight into the transport sector. “the old legislation has allowed us to effectively manage our biosecurity to date, but has been amended more than 50 times to cater for changing demands, leading to complex legislation with overlapping powers and provisions,” she noted. “the new legislation is designed to be easier to read and understand, and reduces duplication and regulatory impacts. It introduces a modern approach to support the biosecurity system into the future and accommodates advances in transport and technology.” DAWR is also working with stakeholders on the agreement which underpins the national biosecurity system, the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity (IGAB). Introduced in 2012, this encompasses the federal, state and ter- ritory governments. It establishes a nationally agreed framework to prevent, prepare for, detect and mitigate biosecurity risks as well as respond to, manage and – vitally – recover from biosecurity incidents. to ensure IGAB’s ongoing effectiveness, agriculture ministers agreed to a far-reaching review and broader examination of Aus- tralia’s biosecurity system. A discussion paper has been the basis for the consultation, rais- ing a number of topics and questions for consideration. Be prepared: Exercise Odysseus Among the plethora of animal and plant diseases which could strike Australia or NZ, foot and mouth (FMD) probably raises the biggest goose-bumps, not just because of the havoc it could wreak through direct impact on animal stocks but more widely for the international quarantine curtain that would clamp down on the country, restricting and slowing trade of other commodities. In 2014-2015 DAWR (under its earlier name) co-ordinated a pro- gram of 48 projects which involved several government agencies, the agriculture and transport sectors, research institutions and others. the report on its outcome was published recently. It can be accessed on the DAWR website: www.agriculture.gov.au O’Connell pointed out that the stakes are mind-blowingly high: “It was estimated that a medium or large outbreak of FMD in Australia could cost the Australian economy more than A$50 billion over 10 years. “Australia already has well-established biosecurity systems that safeguard our industry and environment from diseases like FMD but these systems are backed by continual improvement and the best-available evidence. Lyn O’Connell Mark Schipp Continued page 6.