By Growcom CEO David Thomson

In January Growcom celebrated the beginning of 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health, as declared by the United Nations.

Sadly for those many people affected, human health has since stolen the spotlight. Despite this, plant health and biosecurity generally continues to attract necessary attention.

Last week Federal Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud announced a renewal of funding for R&D into plant health priority issues through the collaborative Plant Biosecurity Research Initiative.

Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Biosecurity, appointed by the Federal Government, is currently reviewing how well the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment is playing it’s part in our biosecurity system.

This comes hard on the heels of a much broader review of the whole biosecurity system completed in 2017 by an independent panel, chaired by eminent public administrator and advisor Dr Wendy Craik AM.

We expect the Inspector-General to cover some of the same ground as Dr Craik and her panel, including the perennially challenging question for biosecurity of who pays for what.

The trouble with biosecurity being a shared responsibly is that it makes it hard to pin down who foots the bill. The logic and reason widely accepted and applied by Dr Craik to this question, is that the revenue for biosecurity should be raised as close as possible to where the risk is being created.

The resulting recommendation from the independent panel, and agreed to by Ministers, was an onshore biosecurity levy on shipping containers and people coming into the country as likely paths of future pest and disease incursions.  

The Federal Government even went so far as announcing the levy would commence, but made the mistake of forming a committee of importing industries to tell them how it would be paid.

Without a clear scope, rather than a methodology for implementing the new levy the committee recommended the levy not be levied at all. A recommendation the Federal Government unfortunately accepted in May.

Growcom joins with all other plant and animal industry bodies in calling for secure and sustainable funding for biosecurity as a key condition for our future growth and prosperity.