Agriculture minister Murray Watt has outlined the Albanese government’s biosecurity strategy on Tuesday amid emerging threats to Australia, warning climate change is presenting a heightened threat.
Minister Watt says the national biosecurity strategy will provide clear direction to ensure Australia is prepared to meet growing challenges over the next decade and beyond.
Minister Watt launched the strategy at the national press club in Canberra on Tuesday afternoon.
“One of the reasons that we face this ever growing threat of exotic pests and disease is our changing climate,” Minister Watt told the press club.
“Our farmers are on the front-line of climate change, experiencing the harsh cycle of extreme drought and extreme rainfall.”
During his address Minister Watt outlined his priorities for agriculture for his government, and highlighted his desire to combat climate change.
“I want to be the minister that works with industry, with workers and rural communities to tackle climate change, to reduce emissions, to build resilience.”
Minister Watt told the audience biosecurity challenges include emerging threats from foot and mouth disease, lumpy skin disease , varroa mite and Xylella.
The risk of the highly contagious livestock disease foot and mouth entering Australia in the next five years has been increased to 11.6 per cent after it spread to Bali in June.
Minister Watt also announced an additional $10 million in biosecurity funding to Indonesia during his address.
Lumpy skin disease presents a threat to Australia’s cattle industry, while varroa mite was first detected near Newcastle in NSW in June, and threatens the country’s honeybee industry. Xylella is a bacteria that affects many plant species around the world.
“The management of Australia’s biosecurity system is becoming increasingly complex, creating new challenges for governments, industry and community stakeholders in protecting our agricultural sector,” Minister Watt said in a statement.
The biosecurity strategy follows the announcement of a new taskforce last week to try and ensure Australia can respond quickly to the growing threats. It’s due to report back to the minister next month.
Minister Watt says the strategy is Australia’s first. It’s been in development for the past year, and was started under the previous coalition government.
“I’m really pleased that a new spirit of cooperation between federal, state and territory agriculture Ministers, along with industry, has seen it finalised as an early priority of our new government,” Minister Watt said told the press club.
President of the farmers federation Fiona Simson says the strategy is an important framework to protect Australia from an increasingly complex risk environment.
“A coordinated, well-resourced, and innovative biosecurity system is fundamental to the success of our agricultural industries, and in supporting the goal of becoming a $100 billion sector by 2030,” Ms Simson says.
The head of the invasive species council Andrew Cox says it’s the first time Australia has a strategy setting a direction for a national biosecurity system.
“It is a strategy that will help us protect the many things we value as Australians. I encourage all Australians to find ways they can support it.”
“The spirit of collaboration that helped create this strategy will be a fundamental element of the modern biosecurity system that will help us withstand the growing challenges that we will all face this decade,” says Mr Cox.