Media Release

Regional partnerships a cornerstone of Australian biosecurity

8 October 2014

Australian Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, today thanked Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, East Timor and the Solomon Islands for cooperation and partnerships that have become the cornerstone of strong biosecurity management for all countries in the region.

Speaking from Boigu Island in the Torres Strait, Minister Joyce said regional partnerships between Australia and our closest neighbours were vital to mutual biosecurity and the productivity of our respective national agriculture industries.

“Boigu Island is one of the closest Australian land areas to any neighbouring country. At just 5 kilometres away, you can see Papua New Guinea on a clear day up here,” Minister Joyce said.

“While that’s very romantic, it also means that the Torres Strait island chain forms natural ‘stepping stones’ for a number of exotic plant and animal threats to reach the Australian mainland.

“These threats – such as varroa mite, foot-and-mouth disease, classical swine fever, avian influenza, old-world screw-worm fly, limnocharis, black sigatoka, fusarium wilt, citrus greening disease and citrus canker – could cause great damage to Australian agriculture and its contribution to the national economy. 

“It’s essential that we work closely with neighbouring countries to protect Australian industries from these potentially devastating pests and diseases.

Minister Joyce said that rather than waiting for diseases to arrive, officers from the Department of Agriculture work closely with neighbouring countries to develop plans and share expertise that mitigates the risk of pests and diseases arriving in the first place.

“The Australian Department of Agriculture works closely with PNG’s National Agriculture Quarantine and Inspection Authority (NAQIA) by helping out with plant and animal disease surveillance and animal disease preparedness.

“It’s a two-way street: a number of years ago when PNG suffered an outbreak of Newcastle disease – a serious threat to the poultry industry – Australia provided practical assistance to help them contain the disease.

“Since that outbreak we have also helped PNG develop emergency response plans to quickly manage any possible future incidents, which have been put to the test as recently as last year.

“We’re also training NAQIA staff and local villagers to identify and report any suspected cases of rabies. A key initiative has been to introduce mobile phone technology for villages to quickly report possible disease threats.”

Minister Joyce said initiatives such as these were mutually beneficial, provided stronger biosecurity protection for Australia in the long run and ensured that agricultural industries in both countries were better protected.

“The work that we do to maintain Australia’s unparalleled reputation as a clean and green producer often begins far from our shores,” Minister Joyce said.

“Neighbouring countries play a very important role – on behalf of all Australian farmers they have my deepest respect and thanks for that dedication.”