Inspector-General of Biosecurity report on uncooked prawn imports
12 December 2017
Today I met with the Inspector-General of Biosecurity, Dr Helen Scott-Orr PSM, to discuss the findings of her review into the circumstances leading to the 6 January 2017 suspension of uncooked prawn imports into Australia and biosecurity considerations relevant to future trade in uncooked prawns.
I am pleased the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has already made several improvements to the way it manages biosecurity controls consistent with the recommendations of Dr Scott-Orr's report and the report of the recently completed Senate inquiry.
This includes enhanced import conditions and inspection and testing measures being put in place at the border to support the safe resumption of trade in uncooked prawns and prawn meat.
These conditions are proving effective in managing the risk of white spot syndrome virus (WSSV) and yellow head virus (YHV) in imported uncooked prawns and prawn meat, with three out of 114 consignments testing positive despite receiving negative results in the exporting countries.
I am advised that these conditions will remain in place pending the outcome of the department's broader review of the biosecurity risks of, and import conditions for, prawns and prawn products for human consumption.
There have been no positive test results returned over the last eight months, from samples of farmed and wild prawns and crabs in Queensland and New South Wales.
This is good news for our $3 billion fisheries and aquaculture industries and our marine environment, reflecting the strength of Australia's biosecurity system in helping us respond to significant biosecurity risks.
We have invested an additional $200 million over four years to strengthen the national biosecurity system through the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper. The total expenditure for biosecurity this financial year is $752.7 million (which is an increase of $149.3 million or 25 per cent) since the Coalition came into government.
I was also pleased that the Coalition Government was able to provide $20 million in financial assistance for the six prawn farms in the Logan River area.
The assistance package will help reimburse costs for prawn farmers in the initial response to the White Spot disease outbreak, including recognition of the stock destroyed, as well as the costs of their farms being out of action for a season as part of the agreed eradication response plan.
Biosecurity is an ongoing battle from a number of fronts, including regulation of goods, vessels and people at our borders and offshore through setting import requirements for goods arriving in Australia and our work to build biosecurity capability of our neighbouring countries.
As an island nation, biosecurity will always be critically important for Australia to safeguard our farms and broader agriculture industries, the environment and the community from pests and diseases. Biosecurity also underpins our growing agricultural export industries, and supports Australia's tourism industry by keeping our nation and unique environment clean and healthy.