PHA Board meeting 106

The Plant Health Australia (PHA) Board met virtually on 1 and 2 March 2022 for Board meeting 106. The meeting had the full attendance of the PHA Board, as well as Chief Executive Officer, Sarah Corcoran and Chief Financial Officer and Company Secretary, Michael Milne.

Day one’s agenda included discussion of strategic issues, a review of financial reports, risk mitigation plans and policy and the draft Annual Operational Plan (AOP) and budgets for 2022-23. The Board also noted the hard work the PHA team is undertaking to align PHA’s program structures to the new 2022-27 Strategic Plan and the ongoing importance and value of the PHA – Animal Health Australia in delivering national training packages, on farm biosecurity and our roles with stakeholders in Emergency Response and preparedness.

Day two’s agenda featured an in depth discussion of PHA’s people and organisational culture, Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed management and current active incidents, the Mid-Year Performance Report and the strengthening of the national diagnostic system. The Board noted that under the new five-year strategy, the AOP and key performance indicators will look very different to the current format.

The Board also discussed a number of other issues impacting PHA members including:

  • flooding impacts on the Macadamia industry and other plant industries on the east coast of Australia
  • the widespread flooding is likely to promote the emergence of many pests and diseases and continue to place significant pressure on biosecurity staff in government agencies already responding to multiple emergencies
  • the war between Russia and the Ukraine will result in large increases in fuel, chemical and fertiliser costs, and an increase in the price of grains
  • increases in worldwide shipping costs will be passed on to consumers
  • noted the detections in Australia of Japanese encephalitis, a viral zoonotic disease that is spread by mosquitoes, and the human health impact.

Overall, Board Meeting 106 was a productive and successful meeting with Board meeting 107 to be held in Sydney following the members meetings, on 26 May 2022.

The 3rd Australian Native Bee Conference

The 3rd Australian Native Bee Conference will be held in Sydney, 11-12 June 2022. This biennial summit is the only national meeting on native bees, and will focus on unlocking their potential.

Organizers expect several hundred participants to attend this gathering, including researchers, industry leaders, farmers, naturalists, enthusiasts, and educators. The flourishing community of hobby and professional native beekeepers will be represented, and many of these contribute to innovation, research, and development of this growing activity.

Bees are the most important group of pollinators on the planet, in both natural ecosystems and in food crops. Although 1650 different native bee species are known from Australia, the true number is thought to be closer to 2000 as new species are being discovered every year.

Bee researchers around Australia are currently investigating topics that include managing native bees as pollinators of valuable crops, native bee conservation, effects of climate change on native bees, and native bee honey and propolis. Workers are using native bees for community engagement and international development. Close to 40 presenters will share their knowledge, recent innovations, and new methods.

The 1st and 2nd conferences were popular and constructive, and this year’s event is expected to be even better with a hive exhibition, photographic competition, panel discussions and plenary presentations.  A tradeshow will showcase some of the enterprises springing up around native bees, as well as the activities of research groups, professional societies, and education providers. The knowledge sharing along with opportunities for social and networking will create a weekend of learning and inspiration.

The organisers of the conference are respected and highly qualified professionals and include university professors and industry leaders.

The conference is hosted by the Australian Native Bee Association.

“If you are interested in native bees then this meeting offers an abundance of new informative and inspiration. We welcome anyone seeking a deeper understanding of these useful and fascinating insects to attend, learn and share their knowledge,” said Tim Heard, Chair of the organising committee and bee researcher.

Beekeepers supported after severe weather

Recent severe weather events in South-East Queensland and New South Wales have significantly impacted many beekeepers.

Commercial and hobby beekeepers alike found themselves dealing with flood affected hives or had lost hives completely and needed to dispose of hive boxes and equipment in an appropriate manner.

To address the need for assistance, an online information session was hosted by Biosecurity Queensland on Tuesday, 5 April 2022 as part of the Bee Biosecurity Webinar series.

Queensland Bee Biosecurity Officer (QBBO) Dr Dave Schlipalius, in collaboration with Jo Martin, State Secretary of the Queensland Beekeepers Association (QBA), provided timely guidance to beekeepers on how to deal with flood affected hives while minimising biosecurity risks. Sheree Finney, Manager of Natural Disasters and Drought for the Queensland Rural Industries Development Authority (QRIDA) also provided information on flood recovery support options available to Queensland’s commercial beekeepers.

Attendees also participated in a live question and answer session on the night giving them direct access to the expert advice important to them.

View a recording of the webinar

A factsheet is also available that outlines the key management options for flood affected hives and how to properly dispose of damaged boxes, equipment, and spoiled product.

For more information about the QBA and how they can assist beekeepers: www.members.qbabees.org.au

For more information on Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements visit: https://www.qrida.qld.gov.au

Combatting biosecurity threats with science

The recent two-day Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative (PBRI) Symposium held in Adelaide, attracted 150 pest and disease experts from around the country and overseas, keen to share new information on the fast-travelling fall armyworm, among a host of other issues.

The symposium showcased the latest research on combatting threats to Australian plants with scientific experts, growers and others sharing valuable information at the bi-annual event.

Presentations focused on all pests and diseases, with local researchers sharing new findings and breakthroughs, and overseas counterparts imparting valuable lessons learnt.

The program included three keynote presentations. Ben Harris, Viticulture Manager, Australia & New Zealand Treasury Estate, Wynns Coonawarra, presented ‘Biosecurity insights from the vineyard’. Joel Willis, Principal Director – Detection Capability and Emerging Technology, Biosecurity Operations Division, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE), focused on ‘Advances in technology for biosecurity risk detection’. Dr Beth Woods delivered the dinner address on ‘Partnerships for impact’.

Stuart Kearns, National Manager, Preparedness and RD&E at PHA, presented ‘Fall armyworm continuity plan (grains) and contingency plans.
Francisco (Paco) Tovar, National Forest Biosecurity Coordinator at PHA, delivered a presentation on ‘Forest surveillance – connecting different surveillance types’.

Dr Mila Bristow, General Manager, Partnerships and Innovation at PHA, and Dr Geoff Pegg, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, presented ‘Building capability in northern Australia: supporting indigenous forest communities’.

Sarah Corcoran, CEO at PHA, chaired a session on ‘Biosecurity and industry resilience’, and Dr Sharyn Taylor, PHA’s National Manager, Surveillance, moderated question sessions on day 1.

PBRI program director Dr Jo Luck said pests and diseases put Australia’s more than $29 billion of plant and broadacre industry at risk.
“Industries working together through platforms such as the Plant Biosecurity Research Symposium is vital,” she said.
“This event provided attendees with insight into the latest innovations to help limit the destruction of our crops and support the longevity of Australian plant industries.”

Message from the CEO May 2022

This month we’ve seen a flurry of face-to-face interactions with the Myrtle rust field day in Tullebudgera valley, the 2nd Australian Biosecurity Symposium (ABS) on the Gold Coast and the Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative (PBRI) Symposium in Adelaide.

After three years, the much-anticipated 2nd Australian Biosecurity Symposium brought over 400 of Australia’s key agricultural, government, research, and community sectors together to build a stronger biosecurity system. This included the three producers sponsored under the Farm Biosecurity Program.

With five plenary sessions and over 100 concurrent sessions over two days, the event provided a space for biosecurity stakeholders to converge, brainstorm and unite under a common purpose to accelerate reform.

We also launched the ‘Decade of Biosecurity’ an initiative that seeks to engage all Australians and mobilise a 25 million strong mass movement, encourage sustainable investment and build strong partnerships. If you haven’t already, join the movement to help us amplify our message and make noise in cementing 2021-30 the decade of biosecurity.

Last week, the two-day PRBRI symposium attracted pest and disease experts to share new information on the latest research combatting threats. It is the first time since 2019 that the plant health research community had gathered in person to hear about the latest developments in preparedness, diagnostics, surveillance, pest management, capability building, and industry resilience.

The symposium theme was collaboration for greater research impact. A trans-Tasman session highlighted the collaboration between Australia and New Zealand on plant biosecurity research. An industry resilience session included Barry Large (Chairman of Grain Producers Australia) speaking on the importance of biosecurity to the grains industry, in particular the recent khapra beetle scare. Other speakers included PHA staff as well as industry and government representatives. The event reinforced the benefit of working together on research across sectors to support and protect our vibrant plant industries.

Also last week, we celebrated the inaugural International Day of Plant Health, a day set aside to highlight how protecting plant health can end hunger, reduce poverty, protect biodiversity and the environment, and boost economic development.

Later this month, PHA will host our member meetings over two days in Sydney. The hybrid meetings will include the 33rd Plant Industry Forum, 21st General Meeting, Members Forum, 3rd EPPRD debrief forum and the 35th EPPRD Signatories meeting. The National Fruit Fly Council will also be hosting a second webinar series on ‘Coordinated national research of Australia’s fruit flies’.

This month we farewelled Joanne Lee who has taken on a preparedness role at the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment where I have no doubt she’ll apply her skills and knowledge to continue to build a resilient plant biosecurity system. At PHA, we are passionate about developing and recognising staff contributions and we congratulate Karin Steenkamp on her new role as  Communications Manager within the Marketing and Communications team.

Next month, Hort Connections is taking place in Brisbane and once again PHA is proud to sponsor Australia’s largest annual horticulture conference which will provide an opportunity for the entire fresh produce industry to network in order to build a resilient food system.

If you haven’t already had a look, our comprehensive events webpage continues to help you plan your network and engagement opportunities for the rest of the year.

International Day of Plant Health: Healthy Plants Start with Healthy Seeds

Today’s inaugural International Day of Plant Health is a great opportunity to highlight the importance of healthy seed to healthy plants.

Mr Osman Mewett, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Seed Federation (ASF), the peak national association for Australia’s seed for sowing sector said, “The seed industry has been supportive of the idea of celebrating an International Day of Plant Health from the very beginning.”

“Keeping seeds, and consequently, plants, healthy is crucial to ensure sustainable agriculture and food systems, as well as protecting the environment and ecosystems” Mr Mewett said.

Building on the achievements of the International Year of Plant Health in 2020, the International Day of Plant Health has five specific objectives:

  1. Increase awareness of healthy plants contribution to food systems,
  2. Campaign to minimise risk of spreading plant pests,
  3. Strengthen monitoring systems to protect plant health,
  4. Enable sustainable pest and pesticide management, and
  5. Promote plant health innovations.

Mr Mewett continued, “The seed industry works hard to ensure that healthy, quality seeds reach growers around the world, starting with production and hygiene measures and concluding with state-of-the-art seed health testing.”

“Seeds are the foundation of crop, forage and vegetable production, and therefore healthy seeds, which have gone through stringent processing and testing procedures are a prerequisite for sustainable food production.” “The private seed sector words closely with the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment towards making the best quality seed accessible to all, to support plant health, food security, and sustainable agriculture,” concluded Mr Mewett.

Sarah Corcoran, Chief Executive Officer of Plant Health Australia (PHA), the coordinator of the Australian plant biosecurity system said “Australia has a long history of protecting plant health. For over 21 years, PHA has improved plant biosecurity outcomes by bringing together government, industry and researchers to work collaboratively to address plant biosecurity threats.”

“Plant pests and diseases are responsible for the loss of up to 40 per cent of global food crops. The 2021-2031 National Plant Biosecurity Strategy released earlier this year provides a framework to strengthen and build a resilient and contemporary plant biosecurity system that will continue to support Australian plant industries, economy, environment and communities.”

Connecting the biosecurity dots

After three years, the much-anticipated 2nd Australian Biosecurity Symposium brought over 400 of Australia’s key agricultural, government, research, and community sectors to the Gold Coast last week.

The symposium is a flagship event of the Biosecurity Collective – a shared initiative consisting of Animal Health Australia (AHA), Invasive Species Council (ISC), Centre for Invasive Species Solutions (CISS) and Plant Health Australia (PHA) intended to influence the direction of Australia’s biosecurity system towards 2030, particularly in engaging all Australians in building a stronger biosecurity system and building a mass biosecurity movement.

The event is proudly sponsored by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, Biosecurity Queensland, the National Biosecurity Response Team (NBRT), James Cook University, CEBRA, Wildlife Health Australia and Thermo Fisher Scientific.

Day 2 focused on connecting the dots between broader national activities that enhance and strengthen the Australian biosecurity system and mainstreaming biosecurity to the general public.

“We all know that biosecurity outbreaks are continuing to rise in volume and complexity. Over the next decade, Australia needs a biosecurity movement to meet the challenges facing the national biosecurity system and influence the direction of the future biosecurity system,” said Sarah Corcoran, CEO of Plant Health Australia in the opening address.

One of Australia’s most well-respected health journalists and host of Radio National’s Health Report and Coronacast, Dr Norman Swan shared his experiences and knowledge in mainstreaming important messages to a broad audience in the keynote address.

Dr Swan’s address provided delegates with key takeaways on how we can mainstream the importance of biosecurity practices, bringing about positive and sustained engagement from the broader population.

He said every pandemic in history has highlighted the poverty gap and that we need to bridge the gap from awareness to practice change.

“We need to have a plan, it needs to flexible, sustainable and we cannot leave people high and dry,” Norman said. “Biosecurity is not a nice to have or a five-year plan, we need to get communities mobilised.”

“A lack of cooperation provides a fertile environment for biosecurity risks to spread,” he said.

In the first panel discussion of the day, environmental, agricultural and industry leaders explored a range of measures to help strengthen Australia’s biosecurity system. The panel focused on key activities such as the national biosecurity strategy and how it can effectively integrate to ensure a resilient Australian biosecurity system.

Dr Bruce Christie, Chair of the Centre for Invasive Species Solutions, has always been a strong advocate for a National Biosecurity Strategy.

“A National Biosecurity Strategy is really important to give us the direction we need to manage risks on a national scale. We now have a workable version that all parties can talk to,” he said.

Invasive Species Council Ambassador, Christine Milne AO, urged delegates to join the dots and make themselves heard to ramp up the movement to make biosecurity a bigger issue with more funding.

“The key in joining the dots, is for people working in government to bridge to the community, get activists to act and to put pressure on decision makers to free up dollars,” she said.

Nathan Hancock, CEO of Citrus Australia and Chair of the Plant Industries Forum Committee said that it is important to consult with industry in biosecurity matters.

“We need to engage more. We need to allow industry to participate and set the direction of biosecurity decision-making,” he said.

“Primary industries are at risk of incursions and many of us have had personal experience dealing with incursions,” Nathan said. “Having dealt with an incursion, my mission is to communicate to industry on the importance of being prepared and involved with biosecurity.”

President of Agforce, Georgie Somerset said: “Biosecurity has been an industry focus because it’s an economic driver. Primary industries are engaged in biosecurity, we are aware, we have biosecurity plans, but it’s about how we engage the community.”

Sal Milici, Head of Border & Biosecurity with the Freight and Trade Alliance said khapra beetle incursions have quadrupled over the past few years. He also said risk is usually based on the quality of a container or where it ships from, but the latest pests were found in low-risk goods from low-risk countries.

“Khapra beetle recently made its way from a shipping container into packaging and when it was found by the community, they didn’t know what to do and rang Crime Stoppers. It is clear that we need to educate the community, but we also need some sort of contact tracing for shipping containers.”

Concurrent Session #4

Genetic technology 2030

Social attitudes to mainstream biosecurity

Advances in science and engagement for invasive ant management

One Health

In the session about Genetic technology 2030, Stacey Lynch from Agriculture Victoria, presented ‘Infectious disease high-throughput sequencing, setting us up for 2030’.

“High-throughput sequencing allows us to understand and control infectious diseases,” she said.

In the panel discussion about social attitudes to mainstream biosecurity, Sonia Graham, Senior Research Associate at the University of Wollongong said: “To create movement, we need to get emotional, talk to people’s hearts and connect on a deeper level.”

Concurrent Session #5

Turning data into intelligence and information

Northern Australia/ Indigenous

Digital surveillance innovation

Citizen science/general surveillance reporting

CSIRO’s Rieks van Klinken set the scene for a panel discussion on turning data into biosecurity intelligence, saying there is huge potential to generate insights from biosecurity for businesses, industry and government.

Panellist Rich Keane, Chief Data and Analytics Officer from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE), presented the department’s data intelligence vision.

“DAWE’s vision is a robust, risk-based, data-driven biosecurity system that protects Australia’s health, economic, environmental and national security interests against biosecurity threats,” he said.

David Gale from PHA’s presentation was about using AUSPestCheck™, a data aggregation software system designed to collate and provide disease and pest surveillance data, to connect the dots.

“Opportunities exist for industry and government to work together to collate data for specific pests to support trade and market access,” David said.

In the session about digital surveillance innovation, Alexander Schmidt-Lebuhn, Research Scientist at CSIRO, presented: ‘Mobile identification of biosecurity threats using image recognition’.

“Fast and reliable identification is critical. The earlier we detect something, the sooner it is less likely to establish,” he said.

In a panel discussion on the Northern Australia Biosecurity Surveillance Network (NABSnet), Pauline Brightling, Harris Group Principal, said: “We’ve been talking about connecting the dots and NABSnet has been doing this for a long time by bringing private vets into the biosecurity system.”

Greg Owens, Industry Development Manager, NT Farmers Association, talked about an integrated approach to biosecurity and a shared vision for Northern Australia.

“In the Territory we’ve built a community of trust that underpins biosecurity resilience. We’ve built a strong system through a series of very small steps,” Greg said.

Concurrent Session #6

Empowering action

Connecting the dots

Myrtle rust advances

Opportunities to mainstream biosecurity

Talking about myrtle rust, Michael Robinson from the Plant Biosecurity Science Foundation, called for an action plan with national coordination, developed over several years, and underpinned by a substantial technical review.

“What is good for the land must come first. This sentiment needs to drive us with more courage,” he said.

Dr Lucy Tran-Nguyen, National Manager, Diagnostics at PHA, presented: ‘The evolution of technologies in plant pest diagnostics – where are we now? What is on the horizon?

“Accurate and timely diagnostic identification is critical to manage plant pest incursions,” she said. “Diagnostics support surveillance programs, pest control and risk mitigation.”

Callum Fletcher, Biosecurity Coordinator at AUSVEG, presented: ‘Solving the collaboration conundrum: a meaningful approach to improving industry and government collaboration in biosecurity’.

“We’ve taken a systematic approach to recommendations and actions in various strategies relating to Northern Australia to highlight key areas and how to address them. We’ve also looked at creating legacies with things that can be done,” he said.

Marta Hernandez-Jover, Professor in Veterinary Epidemiology and Public Health at Charles Sturt University, presented: ‘Small-holder, big biosecurity opportunity’.

“Only 51% of small holders surveyed belong to a group that offers support,” she said.

In closing, the Biosecurity Collective’s four CEO’s, Kathleen Plowman from AHA, Andrew Cox from ISC, Andreas Glanznig from CISS, and Sarah Corcoran from PHA, concluded the symposium.

“It’s been an amazing symposium that has highlighted the enormous amount of change that has happened over the past three years since the last symposium. I was really pleased to see how we are gaining momentum in innovation and transformation of the biosecurity system, the progress in environmental DNA detection, and the work by the University of Adelaide around e-commerce surveillance,” said Andreas.

“The top outcomes for me over the past two days have been the linked themes on connecting the dots and mainstreaming biosecurity. We’ve heard about programs already in place delivering on this,” said Sarah.

“In order to achieve our reach, we need to amplify the biosecurity message. This means more engagement, more participation, and more space for diverse views,” she said.

In closing, Kathleen reiterated what Norman Swan said about community-based action, and what Christine Milne said about a bottom-up approach to sharing the biosecurity message.

“We need guerrilla campaigning – it’s communities and people who are going to lead us out of this. We need to have a platform at the top, so the people at the top can hear us. We need parliamentary friends of biosecurity,” she said.

Andrew Cox said invasive species are the biggest driver of environmental loss and extinctions, the destroyer of whole industries and livelihoods.

“Biosecurity is our problem. It’s our chance to make things right to save what we believe in, and what we value,” he said.

“As part of the Decade of Biosecurity, we can only reach our goal of 25 million biosecurity champions by all bringing a spirit of generosity and courage. And by living and breathing biosecurity,” he said.

During the symposium, PHA held an online biosecurity resilience survey to assist in understanding biosecurity resilience perspectives. Key biosecurity stakeholders shared their thoughts on how biosecurity resilience could be supported, boosted and enhanced. Kevin Taylor from the Nature Conservation Council of NSW completed the survey and won a $200 gift card.

Outcomes from the 2nd Australian Biosecurity Symposium and the launch of the Decade of Biosecurity will be made available online in the coming weeks. Follow the discussion and keep the conversation going by using and following #BioSym2022 on social media.

Building a biosecurity mass movement

Following the resounding success of the inaugural Australian Biosecurity Symposium in 2019, over 400 of the country’s leading innovative minds and influential players converged on the Gold Coast to network, brainstorm and unite under a common purpose to accelerate biosecurity reform.

The 2nd Australian Biosecurity Symposium offers an opportunity to share research outcomes, explore outside-of-the-box thinking and exchange knowledge and ideas across the biosecurity collective – agriculture (animals and plants), pest animals, weeds, wildlife, aquatics, humans and the environment.

This year’s symposium theme is ‘a decade of biosecurity: turning a moment into a movement’. Australia’s biosecurity system faces unprecedented pressure. To address this pressure, strong leadership and innovation are essential. The symposium provides the ideal platform to explore how to transform Australia’s biosecurity systems to better protect our economy, environment and way of life.

The symposium continues the work of the Biosecurity Collective – a shared initiative consisting of Animal Health Australia (AHA), Invasive Species Council (ISC), Centre for Invasive Species Solutions (CISS) and Plant Health Australia (PHA), to define and influence the direction of Australia’s biosecurity system towards 2030, particularly in engaging all Australians in building a stronger biosecurity system and building a mass biosecurity movement.

Presentations and panel discussions are positioned around four themes:

  1. Connecting the dots: enhancing the system and its resilience
  2. Empowering action: working together for transformational change
  3. Future-focused: how science and tech are paving the way forward
  4. Mainstreaming biosecurity: turning buzzword into a way of life.

The symposium commenced with well-known environmental educator and television presenter Costa Georgiadis, who drew on his all-consuming passion for plants and people in his introduction.

Costa reminded delegates of their role as communication amplifiers and encouraged them to use their reach to share biosecurity moments.

“The symposium offers an opportunity to influence the direction of Australia’s biosecurity system,” he said.

“We’re focusing on biosecurity preparedness, as it’s not a case of if, but when a new biosecurity threat arrives,” Costa said.

Plenary session #1

Dr Anika Molesworth, a farming thought-leader, researcher and future shaper, delivered the first keynote address on ‘Empowering action: working together for transformational change’.

Anika, who has a PhD in international agriculture and environmental management and lives on a family farm in far west New South Wales on the lands of the Wilyakali people, spoke from personal experience about climate change and her work with rural communities.

Anika took delegates on a climate change journey, reflecting on where we have come from and where we are going, instilling courage to enable us to choose the story we want to create for our land and the legacy we want to leave.

“We have commonality in complex problems. We are here because we are problem solvers. We all believe there is a better way of doing things,” she said.

“I walk alongside others who are on a climate change journey, trying to find ways to shift the trajectory so that we have the best future imaginable,” Anika said.

Concurrent session #1

  • Advances in e-DNA surveillance
  • Surveillance: new thinking
  • Hot topics
  • Behaviour change

In her presentation about Holding back the tide: science-based tools for biosecurity risk management and incursion response, Jane Muller from CSIRO, said that Australians eat almost 4 million tonnes of fresh fruit and vegetables each year of which 96% is grown in Australia.

“Phytosanitary risk management tools open up opportunities to harness emerging technologies and existing datasets,” Jane said.

Samantha Allen from AHA presented on Lumpy skin at the border: are we making the right moves to prevent an outbreak within the cattle sector?

“There is growing recognition that we need to get smarter with surveillance rather than just upscaling the things we’re doing now, so we can remain disease free for the next 20 years,” Samantha said.

Gabrielle Vivian-Smith, Australian Chief Plant Protection Officer, presented Australia’s biosecurity outlook: a plant health perspective.

“In 2020 over 56,000 overseas seed parcels failed to meet import conditions,” she said.

Aaron Dodd from CEBRA talked about Biosecurity is valuable, right?

“The thing about biosecurity is that we are trying to protect assets and we need to focus on that – environment, agriculture, infrastructure and social amenity,” he said.

Kirsten Phillips, Engagement Manager at Biosecurity Queensland, spoke about Defining behaviour change priorities for biosecurity.

“Lets focus on good biosecurity behaviour …. what we can do versus what we shouldn’t do,” she said.

Plenary session #2

Dr Debbie Eagles, Deputy Director, Australian Centre for Disease Preparedness at CSIRO, an epidemiologist with a background in vector-borne diseases and extensive experience in animal health and biosecurity preparedness and response in Australia, delivered today’s second keynote address.

She highlighted how research and innovation is fundamental in transforming the national biosecurity system and how a transformed national biosecurity system needs to be underpinned by digital and genetic surveillance systems supported by citizen science, big data analytics and fully integrated pre-border and post-border systems.

“Speed of detection is imperative to effective, efficient control,” she said.

“The biosecurity sector is facing significant threats but through science and technological innovation, and engagement of the broader community, we are capable of transformational change,” Debbie said.

Concurrent Session #2

  • Modelling risk for resilient biosecurity systems
  • Shared responsibility
  • Advances in e-commerce surveillance
  • New connections

In his session about Shared responsibility for biosecurity: beyond educational and compliance-based approaches, University of Tasmania Researcher, Vaughan Higgins encouraged delegates to take an alternative approach through relational responsibility. He spoke about shifting emphasis from key target audiences to those influencers on the periphery to increase adoption of biosecurity practices.

Rob Delane, the Inspector-General of Biosecurity presented Towards a more accountable biosecurity system. “The rhetoric about ‘shared responsibility’ and ‘biosecurity partnership’ articulated by the department and the post-border beneficiaries of effective prevention biosecurity measures, is not matched by a genuine, practical and sustained commitment to ‘partnership,” he said.

“The fundamental nature of biosecurity demands that all parts of the biosecurity system are alert, inquisitive, communicative, decisive and operationally disciplined,” Rob said.

Sandra Steele, a lecturer in Veterinary Epidemiology and One Health, presented Shortcomings in companion animal biosecurity and disease surveillance. “There is a need for structures, specific companion animals, alongside animal health systems,” she said.

In his presentation about Online compliance and engagement strategy tackles prickly situation, Chris Hollingdrake from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, said: “Engagement and enforcement need to be integrated. Neither work in isolation.”

Concurrent session #3

  • Connecting the dots
  • Building resilience
  • Future-focused
  • Advances in pig biosecurity

In his presentation about Ensuring Tasmania’s biosecurity future: 15 years of the Tasmanian Biosecurity Strategy, Andrew Bishop, Tasmania’s Chief Plant Protection Officer, said following the progressive implementation of the Biosecurity Act, work on progressing a third iteration of the Tasmanian Biosecrity Strategy is almost complete.

“The new edition of the Strategy is expected to be released this year and once implemented it will take us past two decades of a strategic approach to biosecurity in Tasmania,” Andrew said.

Wee Tek Tay from CSIRO presented East and West: working together to disentangle fall armyorm global introduction pathways.

His speedtalk covered multiple introductions of fall armyworm in Asia and Southeast Asia and multiple pathways into Australia, looking at the significant structures and gene flow of the western versus eastern populations of fall armyworm.

“We’re only as prepared as our neighbours are,” he said.

Fiona Constable, Research Leader at La Trobe University, presented the International trade of seed: science informing risk.

“We tested four online platforms and seeds from 20 suppliers and found booklice, grain beetles and lepidopterans,” she said.

Grower managed plant protection and biosecurity systems was presented by John McDonald, National Biosecurity Manager at Greenlife Industry Australia where he presented the biosecure Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system.

“80 per cent of nursery industry time is spent in compliance,” he said.

Nathan Hancock, CEO of Citrus Australia and Chair of the Plant Industry Forum, presented CitrusWatch: launch of a multi-pronged, multi-stakeholder approach to commodity protection.

“16,460 citrus interceptions occurred in 2017, which is approximately 5.5 per cent of biosecurity interceptions for that year,” he said.

“When industry is motivated, resourced, and has the capacity, it can be a powerful contributor to biosecurity resilience,” Nathan said.

In her presentation about Plant health in One Health – critical for safeguarding life, Lois Ransom, a plant pathologist, said you need healthy plants to ensure a healthy environment.

Plenary session #3

Today’s final session launched the 2020s as the ‘Decade of Biosecurity’, a collaborative initiative seeking to engage all Australians in a stronger biosecurity system. The initiative began as an outcome of the 2019 Australian Biosecurity Symposium to future-proof Australia’s biosecurity system.

With a special address by the Hon Mark Furner, MP, Queensland’s Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries and Minister for Rural Communities, the program aims to mobilise a 25 million strong mass movement, secure sustainable investment in biosecurity, foster innovation and create a formal partnership between government, industry and the community.

This initiative is being advanced by the ISC on behalf of the National Farmers’ Federation, Landcare Australia, National Landcare Network, AHA, PHA, NRM Regions Australia, and the CISS.

“Through the Decade of Biosecurity, we seek to put industries, businesses and community members at the centre with governments so that together we can achieve a stronger biosecurity system to better protect our economy, environment and way of life” said Andrew Cox, CEO of ISC.

“We need to build a biosecurity system ready for 2030. And we need to start now. We want to ensure that every individual Australian, business and organisation recognises and understands their role and the important contribution they can play in creating a stronger and more resilient biosecurity system” he said.

National Plant Biosecurity Strategy released

The 2021-2031 National Plant Biosecurity Strategy (NPBS) released today by Plant Health Australia (PHA) provides a framework to strengthen Australia’s plant biosecurity system over the next decade.

The second-generation strategy outlines four focus areas needed to build a resilient and contemporary national plant biosecurity system that will continue to support Australian plant industries, economy, environment and communities.

“Plant biosecurity risks are mounting as is the challenge of maintaining Australia’s pest free status,” says PHA Chief Executive Officer, Sarah Corcoran. “The strategy sets the direction for activities across the system and drives the way for effective collaboration and action by governments, plant industries and the community to protect our producers and the end-to-end supply chain.”

Designed to inform investment across all aspects of the system, guide efforts to address the most important priorities and effectively manage current and future biosecurity challenges, the updated NPBS builds on the achievements of the 2010-2020 strategy while remaining agile and responsive to the changing biosecurity environment.

The Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) will fund PHA to coordinate a National Plant Biosecurity Strategy Implementation Group to oversee implementation of the strategy.

DAWE’s Chief Plant Protection Officer, Dr Gabrielle Vivian-Smith, said the investment recognised the importance of effective coordination to successful implementation of the strategy.

“Delivery of the strategy requires collective effort nationally. The implementation group will play a key role aligning efforts of participants across our system and highlights PHA’s strong record bringing stakeholders together,” Dr Vivian-Smith said.

Australia’s Chief Environmental Biosecurity Officer, Dr Robyn Cleland said the strategy recognises the importance of protecting Australia’s environmental assets and highlights the value of collaboration between industry and the community.

“Community awareness and participation are critical in an effective biosecurity system. We all have a role to play in protecting our unique environment and way of life”, Dr Cleland said.

Development of the strategy was informed through consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, including governments and plant industry bodies as well as environmental and community groups.

The Plant Industries Biosecurity Committee Chair, John McDonald, said that this new plant biosecurity strategy lays a sturdy, decade long foundation and plant industries are pleased to be participating in guiding the implementation.

“Australia’s plant industries play a critical role in our national plant biosecurity system underpinning Australia’s high health food, fibre and foliage production. Through careful implementation of these strategies, we can help safeguard Australia’s trade, economy, way of life and the environment”

The National Plant Biosecurity Strategy follows the release late last year of national sub-strategies and implementation plans on preparedness, surveillance and diagnostics that sit under the National Plant Biosecurity Strategy and support its implementation.

Message from the CEO April 2022

The first quarter of 2022 has been busy with building our 2022-23 Annual Operational Plan (AOP) that presents key activities and targets for the next financial year. This is the first AOP under the new Strategic Plan 2022-27 and the draft which outlines the actions required to support our vision of being a valued leader of a strong, integrated Australian plant biosecurity system was presented to our Members at the end of last month.

At the end of March, PHA’s Executive Management Team attended a two-day off-site workshop to map out our activities under the new Strategic Plan 2022-27, and address the capability, capacity and organisational structure needed to support implementation. We had an in-depth analysis of the plan and focused on aligning business activities to the strategy, as well as discussing key topics of risk and powering up our workforce.

Also last month, our Native Bee Workshop attracted more than 170 participants discussing topics such as biosecurity risk mitigation and best-practice conservation methods.

In the first week of April, the National Fruit Fly Council hosted an online webinar on interspecies competition in fruit flies, sponsored by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment under the Smart Fruit Fly Management Measure. Several more fruit fly webinars are planned for the remainder of the year, so please keep an eye on our upcoming events page and social media.

Earlier this month, the Australian Government announced the awarding of a $2,040,000 grant to Hort Innovation to strengthen horticultural exports and help industry identify opportunities and develop trade expansion plans in 13 export markets. The Hort Innovation project will focus on what international customers want across 20 product categories of fruits, vegetables, and nuts to better position Australian horticultural exports to negotiate and achieve their trade goals.

Last week, PHA also hosted a successful Joint Industry-Government Stakeholder (JIGS) workshop focussing on the value of data. Keep an eye out for the post-event survey. Details of the next JIGS workshop in July will be shared.

The Farm Biosecurity program, a joint AHA-PHA initiative and a flagship program, continues to produce online tools and resources to assist producers and growers in making biosecurity business as usual. I am proud to say that over the past twelve months the website has seen good growth with users accessing essential farm biosecurity information, toolkits, crop-specific biosecurity information and the latest pest and disease alerts, videos, apps and facts sheets.

Australian’s are no strangers to extreme weather events but as producers and communities commenced recovery from the February floods in Queensland and New South Wales, extreme rainfall in these areas caused renewed flooding. Not only were thousands of homes destroyed, but many growers had to deal with road closures and floodwater contamination. We are proud of all the producers and growers for keeping the supply chain going and getting fruit, vegetables, fibres, oils and grains back into the marketplace at such a remarkable speed.

Sarah Corcoran
CEO, Plant Health Australia