The Invasive Species Council welcomes the opportunity to provide comments on options for sustainable funding and investment to strengthen biosecurity.
We strongly support the initiative to explore sustainable funding solutions as a priority, as it is a critical step to enabling our biosecurity system to be prepared for future challenges and move beyond a reactive approach to resourcing. Integral to the challenge of delivering sustainable biosecurity funding will be ensuring that environmental biosecurity is on equal footing when compared to efforts that are focussed on protecting Australia’s primary industries. The discussion paper focuses strongly on the activities performed by the federal government primarily at the border. In line with the National Biosecurity Strategy, a stronger biosecurity system requires sustainable funding across the whole system.
To inform the investigation of funding options, it is important to estimate the future funding levels needed for Australia to achieve the Appropriate Level of Protection (ALOP) and other biosecurity goals, including targets under the Convention on Biological Diversity. As the 2017 Inter-Governmental Agreement on Biosecurity (IGAB) review concluded, one of the highest priorities for increased funding should be environmental biosecurity. Although considerable progress has been made since that review – for example, the establishment of an Environmental Biosecurity Office and the development of the National Priority List of Exotic Environmental Pests, Weeds and Diseases – there are still major gaps in environmental biosecurity. It particularly lags behind agricultural biosecurity in the level of preparedness for new incursions, surveillance and research.
Although allocation priorities are not the focus of the discussion paper and this submission, it is important to keep in mind that some options for increased funding, such as some forms of cost-recovery and industry levies are not suitable for funding environmental biosecurity. The department should specify and investigate the most promising options for increasing funds for the predominantly public good elements of environmental biosecurity.