​Media Release

High-tech biosecurity hub to protect the north​

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce
Northern Territory Minister for Primary Industry and Resources, Ken Vowles

1 September 2017​​

  • More than $8 million committed to diagnostics lab in northern Australia
  • $500,000 committed to better diagnostic testing for bluetongue virus
  • Initiatives part of $200 million White Paper investment in biosecurity across Australia

A new biosecurity hub will be built in Darwin as part of an $8 million joint project by the Australian and Northern Territory Governments to guard against foreign pests and diseases.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the Australian Government was delivering $3.5 million to create a cutting-edge biosecurity hub at the NT Government's Berrimah Farm facility in Darwin, plus $500,000 to fight bluetongue virus.

"The new biosecurity hub will be more than ten times the size of the current facility and will house the latest technology in molecular diagnostics, a technique to diagnose and monitor disease and detect risk," Minister Joyce.

"This significant investment in biosecurity in the north under the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper will support faster testing of potential biosecurity threats as they emerge. This includes quickly separating local, sometimes beneficial, insects from exotic fruit flies that could devastate our horticulture exports.

"It also means a more effective early warning system for destructive threats such as new banana diseases. And it means expert rapid diagnosis of exotic diseases that could cripple Australian agriculture."

Northern Territory Minister for Primary Industry and Resources, Ken Vowles, said the improvements made possible through this joint investment, which includes $4.535 million from the Northern Territory Government, included modernised molecular diagnostic techniques for biosecurity threat species.

"Alongside improved training for diagnostic specialists and better intelligence sharing with other states and territories, this is an essential investment to ensure that Australia remains at the cutting edge of modern biosecurity analysis," Minister Vowles said.

"This specialist lab will also help maintain an expert national network of labs that helps keep Australia free from rabies, foot and mouth and other devastating diseases."

Minister Joyce said the Australian Government's $500,000 for better diagnostic testing for bluetongue virus will help define area freedom and maintain market access for our livestock exports.

"While a number of bluetongue serotypes are present in Australia, the severe clinical disease seen in other countries has not occurred here," Minister Joyce said.

"The more effectively we can keep track of, and help control, bluetongue virus, the more it will support our international reputation as a trusted beef exporter as well as our ongoing access to overseas markets."

​Fast facts

  • North Australia's 183 million hectares of agricultural activity represents 46% of Australia's total agriculture area
  • Australian Government resourcing for biosecurity programs in the 2017-18 Budget totals $752.7 million, compared with $603.4 million in 2012–13
  • Australia's biosecurity system saves farmers an average of $17,500 each year
  • The most important commodities in the Northern Territory based on the 2014-15 gross value of agricultural production were cattle and calves ($722 million), followed by melons ($42 million) and other livestock ($25 million)
  • In 2014–15, the gross value of agricultural production in the Darwin region was $55 million, which was 7 per cent of the total gross value of agricultural production in the Northern Territory ($835 million).
  • These investments are funded through the up to $200 million allocated for biosecurity under the Australian Government's Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.