Australia has grown
up as an agricultural export country, and in recent decades minerals export has taken over as the principal export commodity
range. However, the value of our agricultural industry cannot be understated, nor can it be threatened
by lax security on the bio-hazards that exist to Australian agriculture from outside our borders and shoreline.
lax security allowed Equine Influenza into Australia and estimates of its cost to Australia range from $500,000 to one billion
dollars. Australia is one of the few countries on the planet without the bug that destroys honeybee hives.
Experts say it’s not a matter of if, but when it arrives in Australia, our honey industry will be decimated also.
We let fire ants into Australia somewhere around the year 2000, and we MAY have beaten them, perhaps the first time
ever, anywhere in the world, that they have been eradicated. However, we still have Cane Toads and a number
of other introduced pests that are and will continue to cause incredible damage to both our economy and ecosystems.
the problem where corporate and individual greed often tries and sometimes succeeds in getting past the current fairly casual
AQIS and Quarantine/Customs checking arrangements. It has to stop.
technology can provide an answer. Whether drugs, biohazards or pests, we DO have the technology to prevent
their entry to Australia. Sniffer dogs currently check passengers at airports and luggage systems for drugs.
However, they can be trained to sniff out more pests and contraband than just drugs. Technology
has taken a dramatically larger step. In recent years, incredibly sensitive instrumentation has been developed
to test substances as varied as wine aromas and proven more accurate than the connoisseurs noses, perfumes, a very wide range
of biohazards, drugs, smoke and many more scents far too subtle for the human nose to detect, and more sensitive than many
sniffer dogs noses.
Aside from the cost, there is little practical reason why this technology could
not be installed in every airport in Australia, every port, with portable devices for checking every container and every ship
that enters Australian waters. Every air cargo hold, before opening, could be tested to warn customs officers
that some of the cargo was suspect. If the political step was taken to install this equipment, then quarantine
issues would be a minor issue as the deliberate attempts to breach it would virtually cease.
leaves negligence and natural transmission to be dealt with. Negligence is what caused the Equine Influenza
outbreak and there have been sackings over it. The recommendations and the lessons from this hopefully
will be implemented so that negligence is not and will not be an issue. Areas to be watched include ballast
water from cargo shipping, freight loading and handling in general, and pest infestation of cargo or cargo packaging and international
pleasure yachting vessels carrying pests without realising.
Natural transmission could occur from such obscure
factors as migratory birds, driftwood, and quarantine periods shorter than incubation periods of diseases or insects blown
across sea regions such as Torres Strait in North Queensland. There are possibilities that indigenous traffic
in northern regional areas could also perhaps unwittingly introduce pests on animals, boats or other vehicles.
There is little defence against this natural traffic, and only vigilance in eradication as our safeguard.