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'Beef up' quarantine protection warn farmers

12 May 2008

THE breakdown in quarantine procedures – exposed by the recent equine influenza (EI) outbreak – threatens Australia’s pest and disease-free status, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) warned today, as the nation’s peak farm body called on all levels of Government to address a glaring lack of confidence in the system.

In its submission to the Government’s Review of Australia’s Quarantine System, the NFF highlights failures in proactively protecting Australia’s shores from pests and diseases.

"The rigour of our science-based quarantine and biosecurity regime – covering botany, plant and animal pathology, entomology, mycology and virology – is universally agreed to be paramount," NFF President David Crombie declared.

"Yet, it has emerged that technical capacity has been reducing over time, particularly within State Departments of Primary Industry and the CSIRO, placing our border detection and protection under intense pressure.

"All levels of government must ensure they have the resources and expertise to meet the programs they are charged with. The NFF is calling for an injection of resources and targeted strategies to ensure these deficiencies are rectified, along with long-term safeguards so they don’t reoccur.

"Ensuring Australia’s pest and disease-free status must be the Government’s highest priority under this Review. Transparent, science-based quarantine and biosecurity that protect Australia’s environment, biodiversity and agricultural systems assume even greater importance in this modern era of global movement of people, animals and goods. Our quarantine and biosecurity effort simply hasn’t kept pace with modern demands and will be under increasing pressure."

"The NFF believes we can improve our quarantine system by forging more effective links between the various government agencies, at both the Commonwealth and State/Territory levels, as well as closer consultative arrangements with industry.

"By creating an effective continuum between pre border arrangements (now managed by Biosecurity Australia), at border arrangements (now managed by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service) and post border arrangements (now managed by States), there will be a stronger national quarantine and biosecurity system.

"We also highlight the importance of a strong consultation processes, between industry and quarantine authorities. Over the past decade, through the involvement of organisations such as Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia, industry has proven to be an invaluable contributor to good policy development, contributing funding to animal and plant health systems and improving effectiveness and efficiency.

"We can build on this successful model in quarantine and biosecurity. The 2007 EI outbreak highlighted breakdowns and painfully demonstrated how damaging and resource intensive an incursion can be. We have to get it right."

[ENDS]

The NFF’s submission to the Quarantine and Biosecurity Review is available is available at: Submissions to Government

Media Enquiries: Brett Heffernan on (02) 6273 3855 or 0408 448 250

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