Biosecurity checks get a $371m beefing up

·2-min read

Biosecurity controls will be beefed up in a bid to protect Australian agriculture from devastating diseases and pests.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will on Tuesday travel to Beef 2021 in Rockhampton to make a $371 million funding announcement one week ahead of the federal budget.

"Australia's biosecurity system protects $42 billion in inbound tourism, $53 billion in agricultural exports and 1.6 million Australian jobs across the supply chain," Mr Morrison said.

"This investment is about building a protective ring around Australia to safeguard our industry as well as the rural and regional communities that depend on it. There will never be zero risk but we are committed to reducing the risk where possible."

The package will include $34.6 million for research and improved field tools to better understand how pests and diseases could enter the country, as well as $96.8 million for the offshore treatment provider assurance program.

A trial of pre-border biosecurity screening technology on inbound and outbound passengers will be funded to the tune of $19.5 million.

Technology for improving the speed and accuracy of pest and disease identification at the border will also be beefed up at a cost of $25.5 million.

African swine fever prevention methods will get a $58.6 million boost.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said reforms recommended by the independent Inspector-General of Biosecurity would help manage the unique public health risk posed by passengers and crew on arriving international vessels.

"We are investing in technical solutions to keep biosecurity threats out of Australia, including through new screening technologies for people and goods at the border," he said.

Recent University of Melbourne Centre for Excellence in Biosecurity Risk Analysis modelling puts the net present value of the biosecurity system at $314 billion over 50 years.

This means a $30 return on investment for every dollar spent on biosecurity.

The government last year dumped a troubled biosecurity levy that was slated to raise $325 million through taxing sea freight.

It was a 2018 budget announcement but shipping companies and importers successfully lobbied against two versions of the levy.

Traces of foot and mouth disease and African swine fever were recently found in intercepted parcels of illegally imported pork.

Farming groups have been lobbying for a budget package of around $400 million over four years.

National Farmers' Federation chief executive Tony Mahar said such a commitment would target activities that create risk and boost trading partners' confidence in Australia being disease free.