New taskforce to enhance Australia's biosecurity preparedness

A new Commonwealth taskforce will be established to ensure Australia is fully prepared to respond swiftly to growing biosecurity threats.

The Exotic Animal Disease Preparedness Taskforce will be co-chaired by a senior official from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) and the Director-General of Emergency Management Australia (EMA) and will include officials from the Australian Defence Force, Australian Border Force and Animal Health Australia.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said while the risk of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) or Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) entering Australia is low, it is not zero.

“Australia remains FMD and LSD free, but we cannot afford to assume it will stay that way,” Minister Watt said.

“Expert judgment has assessed the risk of an FMD incursion in the next five years as 11.6% and 28% for LSD, so it is prudent to prepare now.

“While the Federal, State and Territory Governments all have well-developed biosecurity response plans in place, we will leave no stone unturned to ensure we are ready, should an outbreak occur.

“That’s why I have directed the establishment of this taskforce, to thoroughly assess our current level of national preparedness and advise of any improvements needed.
“Importantly, this taskforce will be co-chaired by senior experts in DAFF and EMA, bringing together the experts in biosecurity and animal health, along with the experts in disaster management, to work with States, Territories and industry.

“The Taskforce will get to work immediately, conducting a series of scenario-based exercises within the next month. This is the next logical step in Australia’s strongest ever biosecurity response and builds on the range of measures we have already announced to keep Australia FMD and LSD-free, both at home and abroad.”

Minister Watt said the government had learned the lessons from the outbreak of COVID-19 and the previous administration’s lack of preparedness.

“We are determined to not make the same mistakes they made,” he said.

“They were too slow on vaccines and too slow on Rapid Antigen Tests, if there was a major biosecurity outbreak in Australia, there is simply no time for delay.
The taskforce will report back to the Minister by September 5, providing advice on any additional measures that need to be taken to strengthen our biosecurity response.