With the announcement of its 2021-22 Budget, the Federal Government is showing that it takes biosecurity seriously across all parts of the greenlife supply chain. However, will this funding be enough to stop serious plant pest and disease incursions such as Xylella fastidiosa?
In its 2021-22 Budget, the Federal Government has committed to providing $370.9 million over four years to protect Australia from exotic pests and diseases1.
This package includes the following measures:
$84 million into critical frontline measures and people to better manage the risk of pests and diseases entering Australia, including:
The expansion of diagnostic capabilities to support faster biosecurity clearance of imported plant and animal-based products, benefitting a variety of industries, particularly horticulture
80.9 million to modernise ICT systems, technology and data analytics, including :
Piloting offshore risk screening using 3D x-ray technology
Developing a business case to deliver a simplified, integrated digital biosecurity import system
$205.9 million to improve ability to detect and manage threats offshore, while increasing the country’s capacity to respond to incursions, including:
The expansion of offshore assurance arrangements around hitchhiker pest risks
Stronger border interventions for shipping containers
Working towards a national animal and plant disease surveillance information system
Adding to the contingency funding available to meet national emergency response cost-share commitments
The Federal Government has committed $370.9 million to biosecurity over four years in its 2021-22 budget (Image: Australian Government 2021, Budget 2021-22: Biosecurity)
This budget has a strong focus on protecting Australia’s agricultural industry, supporting the Federal Government’s goal of $100 billion in farm gate value by 2030. However, in good news for members of the greenlife industry, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is starting to take notice of not only production horticulture, but other areas of the greenlife supply chain.
According to John McDonald, GIA’s National Biosecurity Manager, a recent media release issued by the Department was the first in some time which he has seen ornamental greenlife product referenced. In this release, the Department’s Deputy Secretary, Biosecurity and Compliance, Andrew Tongue highlighted the threat that brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys) poses to not only vegetable crops, but also ornamental trees. The brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) feeds on more than 300 host plants including fruit trees and woody ornamentals and could become a major problem for growers if established in this country2 .
The brown marmorated stink bug is one of only many pests and diseases with the potential to devastate Australia’s greenlife industry. Xylella fastidiosa can cause disease in over 550 plant species across ten plant families including native, commercial and ornamental plants3 . This bacterial disease kills plants by damaging their water conducting system (xylem), which presents as leaf scorching. Whilst the glassy-winged sharpshooter, Homalodisca vitripennis, is one vector for X. fastidiosa overseas, some in the industry are concerned that any sap sucking insects, including native species, may relay this disease if it reaches our shores.
Would the country be able to mobilise quickly enough if X. fastidiosa were detected on our shores to stop its spread? Whilst the national and state response to the COVID-19 pandemic has not been ideal, it has shown that resources can be mobilised relatively quickly in the face of a human biosecurity threat. Ideally, our federal and state governments would commit to similarly fast-paced deployments in the face of a serious plant pest or disease incursion. These incursions may be just as impactful as COVID-19 economically and/or otherwise, if not directly, then further down the track.
The $370.9 million biosecurity package announced by the Federal Government shows that it is serious about preventing plant pest and disease entering this country. This commitment was also evident during Glenn Fenton (President) and Peter Vaughan’s (CEO) meeting with the Hon David Littleproud MP, the then Federal Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergence Management*, in June. Glenn and Peter reported that plant biosecurity is indeed very important and ‘high’ on the Minister’s agenda. The Minister was supportive of GIA’s proposed National Nursery Business Register which will provide a ‘track and trace’ system for all nursery stock movements.
The Minister’s commitment to plant biosecurity is welcomed by the greenlife industry. However, the funding announced by this government during the recent Budget is committed over 4 years and a federal election is due within the next year. According to Antony Green, Chief Election Analyst with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), this election could occur anytime from 7 August this year until 21 May 20224.
Peter Vaughan (CEO) and Glenn Fenton (President) meeting with the Federal Agriculture Minister Hon. David Littleproud in Parliament House
To ensure that growers across the supply chain are protected from serious pest and disease incursions, GIA must continue to advocate at the national level to make sure that this funding reaches the areas where it is needed the most. Prevention is always better than a cure.
For more information about the Federal Government’s commitments to the Australian biosecurity system and the Agriculture 2030 2021–22 Budget package, visit awe.gov.au/budget.
* The Hon David Littleproud MP was sworn in as Minister for Agriculture and Northern Australia on 2 July 2021.
Australian Government 2021, Budget 2021-22: Biosecurity, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment fact sheet, page 1