We live in a country free from some of the world’s most insidious animal diseases. So it’s no surprise that there is a strong will to keep our biosecurity at the top of its game. In September this year, the historic Biosecurity Bill passed through NSW Parliament, and included significant penalties for wilful or reckless acts which threaten biosecurity.
Though we have managed to avoid some significant threats over the years, we have not been completely immune. In the Northern Territory we are currently dealing with Banana Freckle, seriously damaging our backyard and commercial growers. Many will also remember the equine influenza outbreak in NSW in late 2007.
Luckily, Australia was able to avoid the damaging foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). The FMD outbreak in the UK in 2001 led to the destruction of 10 million sheep and cattle, and an approximate cost of $16.5 billion. Our strong biosecurity response prevented the devastating disease reaching Australian stock and cemented our reputation as producers of some of the highest quality products in the world.
It is for these reasons, for the protection of our agricultural industry, that effective and comprehensive biosecurity legislation is necessary to provide the numerous tools and powers to prevent, eliminate or minimise risk.
Arguably one of the most significant pieces of legislation to get passed through NSW Parliament this year was the Biosecurity Act 2015. This act wholly or partly replaces 14 pieces of existing biosecurity legislation with one single, enabling Act.
This Act embeds the principle that Biosecurity is shared responsibility and the onus on detecting, reporting and responding to biosecurity risks applies to everyone. This is not a cost shifting exercise, rather it’s about optimising protection for the state by increasing awareness around what people can do to manage biosecurity risks.
Amongst many other tools, the Biosecurity Act includes significant penalties for wilful or reckless acts which threaten biosecurity. Lessons learnt from devastating outbreaks of disease overseas have shown us how easily disease can spread if correct measures are not followed. These penalties will apply to individuals who trespass on properties without following these biosecurity protocols.
The Act supports and protects the state’s $12 billion primary industries sector and supports jobs growth by helping us maintain internationally recognised biosecurity standards, facilitating faster and more targeted government responses in emergency situations, and supporting industry-led biosecurity solutions and market access schemes.
With this legislation, our Government, industry and the people of NSW will be working together to protect farmers, the economy and the environment from the impacts of pests, diseases and weeds, ultimately benefiting all communities across NSW.