Government to beef up biosecurity budget

Matt CoughlanAAP
A serious biosecurity breach could cost Australian agriculture about $50 billion.
Camera IconA serious biosecurity breach could cost Australian agriculture about $50 billion. Credit: AAP

Australia is set to beef up its biosecurity controls in a bid to protect agriculture from devastating diseases and pests.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will on Tuesday travel to Beef 2021 in Rockhampton to make a funding announcement one week ahead of the federal budget.

Agriculture Minister David Littleproud confirmed the government's focus for the sector would be on safeguarding against threats.

"We'll now look and put our energy into biosecurity protecting brand Australia," he told Sky News on Monday.

The government last year dumped a troubled biosecurity levy that was slated to raise $325 million through taxing sea freight.

It was a 2018 budget announcement but shipping companies and importers successfully lobbied against two versions of the levy.

A serious disease or pest outbreak could cost Australian agriculture about $50 billion.

Traces of foot and mouth disease and African swine fever were recently found in intercepted parcels of illegally imported pork.

The National Farmers' Federation is pushing for the government to spend $400 million over four years on expanding and modernising biosecurity systems.

NFF chief executive Tony Mahar said the commitment would target activities that create risk and boost trading partners' confidence in Australia being disease free.

"The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the wrecking ball effect a biosecurity outbreak can have," he said.

Mr Littleproud said the government had increased fines and cancelled 14 visas of people found with banned products trying to enter Australia.

He foreshadowed a significant investment in the federal budget.

"We'll then be saying to the states you have to kick the tin too. It's important it's an integrated biosecurity system," Mr Littleproud said.

"This is going to make sure we protect not only agriculture, we're protecting the environment as well."

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