These performance statements present results against the Department of Agriculture's 2019–20 performance measures.
Performance measures were set against objectives that contributed to the department's purpose, and functions to deliver those objectives.
In 2019–20 the Department of Agriculture had one purpose, set out in our Corporate Plan 2019–20:
- We work with national and international governments and industry to grow the value of agricultural trade and reduce risk to Australian agriculture.
In 2019–20 the Department of Agriculture corporate plan had 3 objectives:
- Increase, improve and maintain markets.
- Encourage and manage risk to agricultural productivity.
- Support sustainable, high-quality natural resources.
In 2019–20 the Department of Agriculture corporate plan had 6 functions:
- Regulation and service delivery.
- Policies and programs.
- Trade and market access.
- Research and innovation.
- Enterprise-wide enabling services.
- Forecasting and strategic intelligence.
The Department of Agriculture Portfolio Budget Statements 2019–20 (PBS) had 3 outcomes:
- More sustainable, productive, internationally competitive and profitable Australian agricultural, food and fibre industries through policies and initiatives that promote better resource management practices, innovation, self-reliance and improved access to international markets.
- Safeguard Australia's animal and plant health status to maintain overseas markets and protect the economy and environment from the impact of exotic pests and diseases, through risk assessment, inspection and certification, and the implementation of emergency response arrangements for Australian agricultural, food and fibre industries.
- Improve the health of rivers and freshwater ecosystems and water use efficiency through implementing water reforms and ensuring enhanced sustainability, efficiency and productivity in the management and use of water resources.
Objectives and programs
In 2019–20 we had 3 strategic objectives to deliver our purpose. Table 2 shows which PBS programs contributed to these objectives.
Increase, improve and maintain markets
Encourage agricultural productivity
1.1 Agricultural Adaptation
1.3 Forest Industry
1.4 Fishing Industry
1.5 Horticulture Industry
1.6 Wool Industry
1.7 Grains Industry
1.8 Dairy Industry
1.9 Meat and Livestock
1.10 Agricultural Resources
1.11 Drought Programs
1.12 Rural Programs
1.13 International Market
2.1 Biosecurity and Export
2.2 Plant and Animal
3.1 Water Reform
Summary of performance
Table 3 shows the results against each of the performance measures for 'We work with national and international governments and industry to grow the value of agricultural trade and reduce risk to Australian agriculture'.
Based on these results, the department's assessment is that in 2019–20 we were on track to achieve this purpose.
The real value of agricultural commodity exports (adjusted for inflation) exceeds the average real value of the previous 10 years
Average annual productivity growth for the past 10 years is equal to or exceeds average annual market sector productivity growth over the same period
The status and productivity of agricultural land, water resources and Commonwealth fisheries is at least maintained, accounting for variation in seasonal conditions
Rates of compliance with regulations administered by the department are maintained or improved
The department implements its regulatory practice framework
Agreed standards are met
Policy advice is evidence-based and influential: qualitative assessment using a case study of policy development
Intended program outcomes are being achieved and the department implements improvements from lessons learned
The number of export markets that are gained, maintained or improved
New or improved markets show an increase in export volumes and values in trend terms
Qualitative assessment using case studies of benefits from rural research and development, and innovation programs
Levy collection processes cost no more than 1.2% of levies disbursed
Inspections of levy agents records cover at least 20% of levy revenue over a 3-year rolling average
The department's employee engagement measures in the APS Employee Census are maintained or improved
Unable to measure
The notifiable workplace incident rate is maintained or reduced
The end-of-year financial position is consistent with the budget at the start of the reporting period
The rate of high-severity ICT incidents is maintained or reduced
Economic and scientific modelling outcomes are consistent with forecasts, allowing for unforeseeable events
Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic
We worked to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on Australian agricultural exports during the initial phases of the outbreak of coronavirus. An early focus was on seasonal exports to China, such as seafood. Despite initial supply-chain shocks as the pandemic took hold, Australia's agricultural exporters showed a high level of resilience. Some industries were more heavily affected, but exports of most agricultural products continued as expected during the first quarter of 2020.
We worked with Austrade to implement the Australian Government's International Freight Assistance Mechanism, a $110 million temporary emergency measure to re-establish and maintain existing global supply chains for Australian businesses trading internationally. This included the provision of logistical and administrative support for international freight movements. By 30 June 2020 the initiative had reconnected supply chains to import essential medicines and personal protective equipment, as well as helping producers to meet their contractual obligations with international customers.
We engaged trading partners during the pandemic to support continued confidence in the safety and security of Australia's food and agricultural supply chains. We maintained market access for Australian export establishments where audits could not be physically carried out by trading partners. We achieved this by negotiating to:
- defer audits
- introduce desktop reviews or remote video audits
- remove audits as a prerequisite for market access while the pandemic continues.
Our frontline biosecurity officers played a pivotal role at the border, conducting biosecurity screenings and assisting with health checks of travellers on behalf of the Department of Health. We worked with our border agency partners on the whole-of-government response to the pandemic, assisting visitors returning to their home countries and Australians coming home.
We assessed biosecurity risks, issued import permits and collaborated with industry and the Department of Health to facilitate the clearance of urgent imported medical supplies, diagnostic test kits, laboratory materials for vaccine and medicine research, and food and grocery items.
The pandemic created a critical need to work with all sectors and with other governments to develop policies and assistance measures in very short time frames. We formed a task force to coordinate new policies and share information on COVID-19 control activities within the portfolio and across agencies. The task force helped develop new proposals for funding under the government's $1 billion Relief and Recovery Fund and monitored implementation.
We appointed a senior agriculture industry engagement officer to liaise with stakeholders and ensure that agricultural industry perspectives inform government decision-making. We also supported meetings of Australia's agriculture ministers to discuss COVID-19 issues. An important event was the COVID-19 Recovery Round Table held by the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management in June 2020. Participants provided insights on the global marketplace and regulation and innovation, and identified opportunities for government and industry actions as part of the COVID-19 recovery strategy.
In water resources, we co-chaired the Water Sector component of the National Coordination Mechanism, providing water industry information and contributing to the National COVID-19 Coordination Commission Utilities Working Group. The working group has provided recommendations to commissioners on response and recovery in the water industry.
Increase, improve and maintain markets
Tackling trade challenges
During the year we worked with industries and other government agencies to address the effects of increasing protectionism and a rise in trade-distorting measures that hurt Australian farmers and producers.
We recognise that commercial imperatives will continue to drive export decisions, so we focused some of our efforts on supporting producers to find alternative and emerging market opportunities. We worked with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources and Austrade to implement the whole-of-government Non-Tariff Barriers Action Plan.
Free trade with Indonesia
During 2019–20 we worked to prepare for the smooth implementation of the Indonesia–Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA–CEPA), which entered into force on 5 July 2020. The agreement provides the opportunity for Australia and Indonesia to strengthen agricultural ties and enhance export capabilities to support economic growth and job creation in both countries.
Indonesia's growing middle class and sustained economic growth provides tremendous scope to build on our longstanding and mutually beneficial trade. The IA–CEPA will:
- reduce or eliminate tariffs on more than 99% of Australian goods exported to Indonesia
- remove non-tariff barriers that hold back Australian businesses
- ensure greater certainty in the market including through tariff rate quotas for live cattle, citrus, carrots, potatoes and feed grains
- further enable Australian businesses to take advantage of new opportunities to drive growth and jobs.
As well as maintaining export markets, we made considerable progress in market access improvements. Some of the achievements during the year were:
- access for mainland cherries to the Republic of Korea and reduced inspection and oversight requirements for citrus and table grapes
- approval for in-transit cold treatment for several horticultural products destined for India
- improved import conditions for eggs, pork, poultry and red meat to Singapore
- a memorandum of understanding with Egypt to improve market access conditions for all red meat.
In April 2020 Australia's first shipment of persimmons exported under a new irradiation protocol arrived in Thailand. This was the first Australian irradiated horticultural product to be exported to Thailand. It paves the way to open access to other commodities and treatment-related trade opportunities in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.
We also achieved an agreement with Japan to recognise food safety systems equivalence for Australian meat and poultry. This makes Australia a preferred supplier of meat and poultry products for Japanese importers. The agreement boosts Australia's excellent food safety record and increases access to the Japanese market.
We continue to forge new markets and relationships that promise to yield returns for a range of Australian industries. This includes establishing new market access for seed products to diverse markets, including Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico and Iran.
Live animal exports
We continued to implement the recommendations of the independent review of our capability and culture as the regulator of live animal exports. We have made significant improvements to our regulatory practice in response to the 2018 review by Mr Philip Moss AM.
We suspended the export of sheep to the Middle East from June to late September 2019 (the Northern Hemisphere summer) and delivered a regulation impact statement in March 2020. This followed extensive consultation on policy options to regulate live sheep exports during those summer months.
A decision to shift the focus of performance from indicators based on mortality to measures based on animal welfare is already showing results. Improving animal welfare outcomes by reducing the risk of heat stress benefits the sheep and the farmers and others involved in the supply chain by supporting the sustainability of the live sheep export trade.
Following the review of the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL), we finalised ASEL 3.0 and began the transition to the new version, which will come into effect on 1 November 2020. The new standards will help exporters better prepare animals for export, and ensure their health and welfare is better managed throughout export voyages by sea and air.
In 2019–20 we published 184 Independent Observer summary reports. The independent observer program has benefited the health and welfare of livestock exported from Australia, through improved exporter performance and the identification of issues that were not previously visible. The program has also generated new information that has informed our work on live animal export policies and regulations.
Improving export regulation
We continued our work on improving Australia's agricultural export legislation. The Export Control Act 2020 passed parliament in February 2020. The Act will be supported by the Export Control Rules 2020 and will commence on 28 March 2021.
We implemented deregulation initiatives, including the Dairy Export Assurance Program reforms. This $14 million initiative will help the export dairy industry by raising export awareness, reducing red tape and streamlining audit arrangements.
We are on track to deliver a digitised export certification system, with progressive releases planned over the coming years. Our Next Export Documentation System (NEXDOC) will reduce regulatory burden, improve product integrity, traceability and implementation of market requirements across the export supply chain. It will also increase Australia's capacity to exchange digital certificates with trading partners.
Modernising agricultural trade
We continued to roll out initiatives under the Modernising Agricultural Trade program. The program aims to improve how we regulate Australia's agricultural trade, with an emphasis on enhancing the systems that support trade.
Progress in 2019–20 included engaging new regional assurance managers, and improvements to the national consistency of Property Identification Codes for Livestock and the National Livestock Identification Scheme.
In late 2019 we delivered the National Traceability Framework. This is a tool to help Australian agricultural industries and food producers, governments and related businesses enhance our traceability systems and promote 'brand Australia' in our international markets.
Building on the work of the National Traceability Project, we announced the Traceability Grants Program, providing funding to 16 industry projects to enhance agricultural supply-chain traceability systems.
We have also made significant progress on upgrading the Manual of Importing Country Requirements (MICoR). This project aims to improve digital access to give exporters up-to-date market and export information. Since January 2020 we have made more than 5,500 updates to MICoR. We are also supporting Austrade's new Trade Information Service, which consolidates regulatory information (including MICoR content) for exporters.
Encourage and reduce risks to agricultural productivity
Supporting a $100 billion agricultural sector
We are working to support industry in achieving its aim of an agricultural sector worth $100 billion by 2030.
We set up a task force to consult governments and supply-chain organisations on challenges and opportunities over the next 10 years. Australia's agriculture ministers met twice during the year to discuss joint delivery to support the long-term growth and viability of producers. The ministers have agreed to develop a national program aimed at building business resilience by improving farm business management and planning skills. We and our state and territory colleagues will report to the ministers on the proposed program by the end of 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of a long-term strategy to enable continuing growth and productivity in the agricultural industry. In 2020–21 we will hold a workshop on innovation opportunities and work with the states and territories to align economic and industry recovery planning.
We worked through the year on reforms to rural research and development, building on the 2019 report Agricultural Innovation – A national approach to grow Australia’s future. In late 2019 we released a discussion paper for public consultation. We received 182 submissions from people and organisations including the 15 rural research and development corporations (RDCs), the Council of RDCs, 6 state and territory governments and key peak body and industry groups such as the National Farmers' Federation. Stakeholders made it clear that improving collaboration and partnerships across the system would make Australian agriculture cutting-edge and future ready.
The Australian Government is committed to modernising the agricultural innovation system, driving improvements focussed on 5 'pillars of reform':
- Strengthening ecosystem leadership, cohesion and culture.
- Improving the balance of funding and investment to deliver incremental and transformational innovation and to grow private sector and international investment.
- Embedding world-class innovation practices through greater collaboration and entrepreneurship.
- Strengthening regions to achieve greater uptake of innovation.
- Improving the foundations of agricultural innovation, including data and regulatory settings.
Developing an agricultural workforce strategy
A sustainable and skilled agricultural workforce is key to enabling the agricultural, fisheries and forestry industries to grow into the future.
In December 2019 the government established an 11-member National Agricultural Labour Advisory Committee to prepare a National Agricultural Workforce Strategy. We worked with the committee to prepare a discussion paper and literature review, and provided secretariat support for the committee's public consultation. Between March and June 2020 the committee consulted more than 250 stakeholders from the agricultural, education and training sectors.
The new strategy will help position the agricultural sector to attract, retain and develop the workforce it needs and identify the areas that require access to a migrant workforce. It will also identify options for responding to workforce challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. The strategy is expected to be delivered to the government in October 2020.
The 2019–20 Black Summer bushfires affected thousands of primary producers. In early January 2020 we supported our ministers to host round tables to discuss the impact of the bushfires and engage stakeholders on the government's bushfire response strategy and assistance measures.
We are working with the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, Emergency Management Australia and state and territory governments to ensure farmers and rural communities have the tools and assistance they need to recover from the bushfires. This includes:
- the $75,000 Emergency Bushfire Response in Primary Industries Grants Program to support bushfire-affected primary producers, enabling them to deal with their immediate recovery and clean-up needs
- grants of up to $10,000 for wine grape producers affected by smoke taint, acknowledging that the impact of the fires extends far beyond the burn scar
- grants of up to $120,000 per hectare for apple growers, to help re-establish their orchards and ease the financial burden of a crop that can take up to 5 years to produce income.
We continue to meet other agencies through a primary producer working group to ensure grant funding is delivered consistently across the country.
We are also implementing a funding boost of $15 million to the Rural Financial Counselling Service. This will provide an additional 60 rural financial counsellors and support workers to meet the increased demand from bushfire-affected individuals, families and businesses.
Drought response, resilience and preparedness
During the year we developed and implemented the government's response to the drought. In November 2019 the government released the Drought Response, Resilience and Preparedness Plan to support drought-affected farm businesses and rural communities.
The plan focuses on 3 parts:
- Immediate action for those in drought – focused on measures to support farmers and their families facing prolonged drought conditions.
- Support for wider communities – rural and regional communities depend on our farmers and are at the heart of Australia.
- Long-term resilience and preparedness – building resilience and ability to withstand drought periods in the long term.
The plan considered the recommendations from the report by the Coordinator-General for Drought, Major-General Stephen Day DSC AM.
We worked with states and territories to deliver the 2018 National Drought Agreement and provided an interim report to the Council of Australian Governments in March 2020 on progress in implementing the agreement. Work is continuing on a reporting framework.
We are also responsible for FarmHub, a website covering support from all levels of government, industry groups and not-for-profit organisations. FarmHub was developed to provide easy access to drought support information, but was expanded to include information on bushfire and COVID-19 relief and recovery programs. Key achievements include the Drought Preparedness e-Guide and associated Farm Risk Management Resources, which were launched in February 2020.
In late 2019 we implemented the government’s changes to the Regional Investment Corporation's (RIC) farm business drought loan program, providing for a 2-year interest-free period. We also implemented a new interest-free concessional loan program that the RIC is delivering for drought-affected small businesses. Both loan programs are providing important and practical support to drought-affected farmers and communities.
Future Drought Fund
The Future Drought Fund is an important part of the Drought Response, Resilience and Preparedness Plan. We worked through the year to develop and implement the fund. We provided support to an independent consultative committee that supplied expert advice on programs to give farmers and communities the tools they need to manage and sustain their livelihoods during drought.
The first year of programs under the Future Drought Fund rolled out from July 2020. We will continue to monitor and adapt programs to make sure they are building resilience and delivering for farmers and the community.
Farm Household Allowance
In 2019–20, in collaboration with Services Australia, we finished implementing the government's response to the 2018 Farmer-led Independent Review of the Farm Household Allowance (FHA). These changes have simplified access to the FHA and improved the support available to recipients.
Since its establishment in 2014, the FHA has assisted around 15,000 recipients, providing support payments totalling more than $459 million. Currently the program invests more than $2 million into rural communities each week.
In 2020–21 we will focus on longer-term financial sustainability outcomes for FHA recipients and improving communication to the wider community about the program and its benefits. We want to highlight that the FHA is available to all farming families experiencing financial hardship, and is not just a drought payment.
Rural Financial Counselling Service
In 2019 we conducted a departmental review of the Rural Financial Counselling Service (RFCS). This involved nationwide consultation to consider the efficiency and effectiveness of the current RFCS operations for the 2016 to 2020 funding round.
The review made 30 recommendations to foster a professional workforce and target RFCS activities at an individual level to support outcomes at the industry level. The review proposed changes to improve service delivery and administration, with an emphasis on increasing the number of counsellors and support staff on the ground.
We are implementing the recommendations in consultation with RFCS providers. The current round of funding has been extended for one year to allow time for the design and roll-out of the next funding round from July 2021.
Promoting Australian agriculture
We implemented the Australian Government's program to help communities renew and reinvigorate ageing showground infrastructure and attractions across regional Australia. We awarded $20 million in 122 grants to regional agricultural show societies and peak bodies. Projects range from small-scale upgrades to major overhauls. The grants will benefit showgrounds and their local communities by supporting activities through the year and providing for emergencies such as the Black Summer bushfires. Projects are due to be completed by 30 June 2021.
The $10 million Educating Kids About Agriculture initiative aims to increase children's understanding of where and how their food and fibre is produced, and the importance of agriculture to Australia's way of life, regional communities and the economy. We awarded grants to 7 state farming bodies to sponsor school visits to farms and other primary production worksites, and one grant to establish 'mini farms' in up to 80 city schools.
We also implemented new programs to support the wellbeing and productivity of Australian farmers. We awarded a grant to help farmers, farm workers and their families manage work health and safety risks when operating machinery and farm vehicles. We awarded grants totalling $3 million to 2 organisations to help establish farm cooperatives and other collaborative business models. The projects will give farmers a greater say in the food supply chain, help lower costs and improve the efficiency of production.
Streamlining the regulation of agricultural and veterinary chemicals
We are supporting an independent review of the legislative framework for the regulation of agricultural and veterinary (agvet) chemicals. We worked with the review panel to prepare an issues paper and are supporting the panel's national stakeholder consultations. The panel is expected to report to the government by May 2021.
During 2019–20 we worked to deliver other changes to improve the efficiency of agvet chemicals regulation. We prepared a Bill to streamline the regulation of agvet chemicals and establish a governance board for the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). The House of Representatives passed the Bill on 3 December 2019. We are preparing regulation amendments to support measures in the Bill and have made other regulation changes to update the APVMA's fee-charging arrangements and ensure Australia meets its international treaty obligations.
Helping producers access agvet chemicals
The Access to Industry Priority Uses of Agvet Chemicals Grants program continues to help RDCs generate data. This data is used by smaller industries to support APVMA applications for minor uses of agvet chemicals.
In October 2019 we held a second collaboration forum to identify priority chemical needs for a range of plant and animal commodities. To address these needs, in April 2020 the government awarded 22 grants totalling $2 million.
The grants program has delivered 171 grants totalling $9.86 million. The work funded has resulted in 32 new permits and 5 new label uses for minor-use agvet chemicals. Numbers will increase significantly as more projects are completed.
ABARES conducted a study of a sample of finalised grants. The study estimated an average return to industry of $117 per grant dollar invested, or an average of $17 million per project over 20 years.
Building our policy capability
As a policy adviser to government, we have a strong focus on building our policy capability.
In March 2020 we held a policy masterclass attended by 41 participants from across the department. Our Senior Agriculture Industry Engagement Officer, Mark Tucker, facilitated the class. He drew on real case studies to provide insights into the craft of policy advising, policy in practice, challenges for evidence-based policymaking and fostering policy skills in teams.
In November 2019 we held a policy design workshop to give Environment staff an opportunity to put into practice tools and resources for designing policy, supported by senior executives who shared their policymaking experience.
Both the masterclass and the workshop were a great success. We are using feedback to inform other initiatives that will be delivered through a newly created central policy office. This will provide targeted skills training to build policy capability and strengthen our ability to navigate our complex range of policy issues.
Support sustainable, high-quality natural resources
Supporting bushfire recovery in the forestry industry
The Black Summer bushfires severely affected forestry industries in southern and eastern Australia. More than 2 million hectares of productive forests were burnt, placing significant pressure on the people, businesses and communities that depend on those forests. The fires have depleted the forestry resource that many rural and regional areas depend on, and the effects will be felt over the next 3 decades.
We are working with the NSW and Victorian governments to deliver $15 million in funding for Salvage Log Transport Assistance in 2020–21. This will help move hundreds of thousands of tonnes of burnt wood around the country and deliver immediate relief to affected forestry processors.
We are implementing the $10 million Securing Forestry Resources for Economic Recovery program. This response to the bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic is designed to help industries minimise resource loss and secure their supply chains for economic recovery.
We are also delivering a $40 million Forestry Recovery Development Fund. Grants from the fund will support innovation and product diversity to address future wood supply shortages.
Progress on the National Forest Industries Plan
In the 2 years since the launch of the National Forest Industries Plan Growing a Better Australia–A Billion Trees for Jobs and Growth we have made progress against each of the 4 key themes:
- Creating regional forestry hubs.
- Reducing barriers to forestry expansion.
- Using our forest resources smarter.
- Growing community understanding of forestry.
Progress includes establishing 9 Regional Forestry Hubs, tabling amendments in parliament to the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Regulations 2011, funding an additional centre of the National Institute for Forest Products Innovation and publishing Australia's State of the Forests Report 2018. All of these activities support growth in Australia's sustainable forestry industries.
Regional Forest Agreements
Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs) are long-term, bilateral agreements for the sustainable management and conservation of Australia's native forests. In 2019–20 we reached agreement with the Victorian Government to modernise and extend the 5 Victorian RFAs until 30 June 2030. This is a significant achievement. The extensions will support the continued sustainable management of the state's public and private native forests and plantation estates, and the protection of forest-based wildlife.
The agreement in Victoria marked the culmination of our work to deliver the Australian Government's commitment to extend all RFAs across Australia. The RFAs in New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia are now covered by 20-year rolling extensions.
Carbon credits from plantations
We worked with the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources (DISER) to reduce the regulatory burden associated with plantation expansion. This recognises the role of plantations in carbon sequestration. The work focused on regions that are appropriate for plantations and where sequestration is unlikely to have a material adverse impact on the availability of water.
Following public consultation, in April 2020 the government tabled the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Amendment (Excluded Offsets Projects) Regulations 2020 in parliament. These regulations allow projects to be declared for offsets if they are in a region where tree planting for plantations is unlikely to have a material impact (where the annual average rainfall is above 600 mm).
DISER will maintain a map of these regions on its website. Public consultation identified the 5 pilot Regional Forestry Hub regions established under the National Forest Industries Plan as appropriate sites. These are the first regions being considered for inclusion under the amended regulations.
We are working to implement the $34 million Agriculture Stewardship Package. This initiative aims to encourage improved biodiversity practices on farms and promote greater recognition of best practice biodiversity management by Australian farmers.
The government provided funding to the National Farmers' Federation (NFF) to develop the Australian Farm Biodiversity Certification Scheme Trial as part of the package. The NFF is coordinating research on existing initiatives, management practices and sustainability frameworks. As part of the project, the Australian Farm Institute will consult extensively with stakeholders.
The Australian National University (ANU) has been engaged to lead the development of biodiversity certification. The ANU will use scientific and technical evaluation of biodiversity performance at the farm level, with an initial focus on native vegetation.
The ANU is also providing technical advice for the Agriculture Biodiversity Stewardship Pilot Program, which is developing scientifically robust methods for farmers to increase, maintain and monitor biodiversity on their farms. Small and medium-sized farm businesses will then receive incentive payments to pilot these methods.
Murray–Darling Basin Plan
We worked extensively to support key reforms in the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.
The government launched a comprehensive inquiry into water markets by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The ACCC report will provide options for improving the transparency, regulation, competitiveness and efficiency of the Basin water market.
We helped establish the office of the Interim Inspector-General of Murray–Darling Basin Water Resources. The interim inspector-general provided oversight of compliance with the Basin Plan and worked to improve community confidence in water management arrangements. We provided administrative support to the office.
The government opened a $15 million second round of the Murray–Darling Basin Economic Development Program, bringing total funding for the program to $40 million. This program addresses the socio-economic impacts of water recovery under the Basin Plan by providing funding for economic development projects that diversify, strengthen and increase the resilience of eligible communities
Water for Fodder
We delivered the Water for Fodder drought relief program. The program allowed farmers in the southern connected Murray–Darling Basin to apply to buy South Australian River Murray water at a discounted rate.
The full 40 GL of water entitlements was delivered to successful applicants. Of the 800 irrigators who participated, more than 80% completed the required reporting obligations by 30 June 2020.
Managing the Great Artesian Basin
In 2019–20 there was substantial progress on the management of the Great Artesian Basin (GAB), including the development of a new $27.6 million drought resilience program that will run over 5 years. This program will assist GAB jurisdictions in delivering water-saving infrastructure works, education and communication programs and studies to support new water management arrangements.
All GAB state and territory governments supported an updated Strategic Management Plan that will be released in 2020–21. The updated plan will take a principles-based approach to guiding GAB governments, industry and the community in actions to achieve economic, environmental, cultural and social outcomes.
National Water Initiative
The Productivity Commission's 2017 review of national water reform found that further work is required to complete activities under the National Water Initiative (NWI). This includes responding to the challenges posed by population growth, climate change and changing community expectations.
We worked with states and territories to renew the NWI. Initially we are focusing on water security solutions for cities and towns and the water needs of First Nations communities.
In May 2020 the government announced the next triennial review into national water reform by the Productivity Commission. As well as reviewing progress since 2017, the inquiry will assess whether the reforms in the NWI are achieving their intended outcomes. The commission released a discussion paper on 26 May 2020 and is due to complete its inquiry in early 2021.
The Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme continues to help householders and business owners choose water efficient products such as taps, toilets and showers. This has enabled consumers to reduce their water usage and utility bills. More than 29,000 product models are now registered under WELS.
We are working with co-regulators and industry stakeholders on our compliance monitoring. This year our focus on online sales platforms resulted in an improvement in retailer compliance.
We continued to work with Standards Australia and the International Organization for Standardization to improve product water efficiency standards in Australia and around the world.
Working with India
In June 2020 the Prime Minister of Australia and the Prime Minister of India renewed the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cooperation in water resources management for another 5 years. Through the MoU, Australia and India are deepening policy and technical cooperation to improve water management and sustainable economic development.
Commonwealth fisheries resource-sharing framework
We are working with the Australian Fisheries Management Authority to deliver the government's commitment to develop a Commonwealth fisheries resource sharing framework. The framework will outline how the Commonwealth approaches the sharing of fisheries resources with the states and the Northern Territory and across the commercial, recreational and Indigenous sectors.
During the year we consulted stakeholders across the country to ensure the new framework meets their needs. We released an online survey and a discussion paper, met stakeholders from all sectors and worked with the National Fishing Advisory Council. The draft framework is expected to be released in late 2020.
Southern bluefin tuna
In 2020 we prepared a determination by the Assistant Minister for Forestry and Fisheries to set aside 5% of Australia's share of the global Southern Bluefin Tuna Fishery for Australian recreational fishers. This is the first time that recreational catch has been explicitly recognised in sharing arrangements for a Commonwealth fishery.
Southern bluefin tuna (SBT) is highly prized and was heavily fished in the 1980s. To support the continued recovery of the stock, the international Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna agreed that all sources of mortality should be accounted for in each nation's SBT allocation.
Australia conducted a scientific survey in 2019 to better estimate its national recreational catch. Almost 100% of recreational SBT fishers took part in the survey, which concluded that recreational fishers caught around 270 tonnes of southern bluefin tuna during the survey period. This is well below 5% (308 tonnes) of Australia's share of the global SBT fishery.
Setting aside 5% of the catch for recreational fishers allows for some growth in the SBT fishery and for annual fluctuations in catch rates. The decision enables recreational fishers to continue catching southern bluefin tuna, provides greater certainty to the commercial sector and ensures Australia meets its obligations to conserve fish stocks for future generations.
Manage biosecurity risks to agriculture and the environment
African swine fever
The threat to Australia from African swine fever (ASF) continued to grow in 2019–20, with detections in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste. In September 2019 we conducted a month-long operation that detected ASF viral fragments in almost 50% of banned pork products seized from international passengers and incoming international mail.
Under the government's African swine fever response package announced in December 2019, we implemented additional activities to prevent the disease entering Australia. This included increasing the number of frontline biosecurity officers and detector dogs and using technology such as 3D X-rays. We are undertaking targeted operations including testing some seized and commercially imported goods and checking for fraudulently labelled imported products.
We continue to raise public awareness about the threat of ASF, providing advice to pig producers, veterinarians, trading partners and importers on changes to import conditions and measures to strengthen on-farm biosecurity. In February 2020 the government appointed a National Feral Pig Coordinator to oversee a national approach to feral pig management as part of the defence against ASF.
Brown marmorated stink bug
In 2019–20 we marked our most successful season to date in overall compliance and minimising the biosecurity risk posed to Australia by brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB). This was the result of our increased engagement with industry, mandatory requirements for offshore treatments and the development of new systems.
During the 2019–20 season, detections of live and dead BMSB decreased by 29% and post-biosecurity intervention detections decreased by 72%. We had only 4 post-biosecurity intervention detections of live BMSB, and had to refer only one of those to the Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests.
As part of our defence against BMSB we developed our new seasonal pest system, SeaPest. In our first season using SeaPest, more than 75,000 offshore treatment certificates were lodged in the system. This resulted in overall compliance of more than 97% of master consolidator lodgements.
The fall armyworm is native to tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas. Since 2016 it has spread into Africa, the Indian subcontinent, China and Southeast Asia. The fall armyworm is a priority plant pest in Australia because of the damage it could cause to a range of agricultural crops and native plant species.
We have been monitoring the pest's spread since early 2019 and working with our international partners, industry and governments to prepare for its arrival. In January 2020 fall armyworm moths were detected in our surveillance traps in Torres Strait. In February 2020 the pest was detected on the Queensland mainland.
Discussions between the Commonwealth and states and territories concluded that it is not feasible to eradicate fall armyworm moths because of their reproductive capacity, ability to fly long distances and wide host range. No country with suitable environmental conditions has successfully prevented the natural entry and establishment of fall armyworm once the pest is within the border.
Since the detections in Australia, we have been working with national and international forums to address the issue. We helped organise a national workshop in July 2020 to identify management and control strategies, information gaps and priority research needs, increase outreach activities and support projects to build Australia's capability to manage the pest.
In April 2019 the Australian Government introduced legislative measures to strengthen penalties under Australia's biosecurity laws. If international passengers breach the Biosecurity Act 2015 at the border, the government can now cancel their visitor visa immediately and refuse them entry into the country.
In 2019–20 the Australian Border Force, on referral from biosecurity officers, cancelled 12 visas for biosecurity breaches. Eight visas were cancelled for failure to declare pork and pork products. Other visas were cancelled for failure to declare plant cuttings, meatballs and live bird eggs.
Under the new legislative measures, a person whose visa is cancelled cannot generally apply for another visa for 3 years. If they apply for a visa from another country, they may also be required to disclose the fact that the Australian Government has cancelled their visa.
Biosecurity – Towards 2025 and Beyond
Our Biosecurity – Towards 2025 and Beyond initiative aims to improve our biosecurity systems and processes to assist industries, and at the same time continue to protect human, plant and animal health and the environment. In 2019–20 we used a 'One Audit' approach to develop more efficient audit processes for freight forwarders.
Many freight forwarders are regulated under 3 pieces of legislation covering biosecurity import screening, imported food controls and export controls. These have similar objectives, elements and mechanisms, and manage similar risks, but their requirements have evolved separately. We worked with industry and across our business areas to develop a single audit checklist with consolidated requirements, to reduce duplication in compliance assessments.
The harmonised audit approach has shown a simplified audit process reduces costs and audit times. We are now considering rolling out the One Audit approach across our biosecurity, imported food controls and export controls.
We made a significant step forward in managing feral cats, when we obtained a registration from the APVMA to manufacture and market the Curiosity bait in Australia. Curiosity is Australia's first effective, broad-scale control tool for feral cats. Its development implements one of the highest priority actions in the Threat Abatement Plan for Predation by Feral Cats under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The innovative technology used to encapsulate the toxin ensures that Curiosity targets feral cats but is safe for native animals.
We continued to build Australia's environmental biosecurity preparedness and response. This included:
- supporting the development of the Invasives Plan and National Invasive Ant Biosecurity Plan
- developing the National Priority List of Exotic Environmental Pests, Weeds and Diseases
- leading reviews of the National Environment and Community Biosecurity Research, Development and Extension Strategy 2016–19 and the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement.
Managing biosecurity risk in trade is critically important to protecting biodiversity and Australia's pest and disease status. In March 2020 we hosted the International Symposium on Limiting the Spread of Contaminating Pests. The symposium brought together around 70 government and industry delegates from more than 20 countries. Delegates focused on preventing and managing the global spread of contaminating 'hitchhiker' pests such as BMSB, spotted lanternfly, Asian gypsy moth and tramp ants.
World Organisation for Animal Health
The Australian Chief Veterinary Officer (ACVO) Dr Mark Schipp, is currently the elected president of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). Dr Schipp is leading the organisation through challenging times. He helped implement administrative procedures to keep the OIE operating after COVID-19 forced the cancellation of its 88th General Session.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the ACVO has led initiatives advocating for global reform of wildlife supply chains. As OIE President, Dr Schipp and the OIE Director General released an open letter to OIE delegates calling for reform to minimise the risks of zoonotic disease outbreaks emerging from wild animal wet markets. They encouraged policy discussions by national governments to reduce risks associated with wildlife wet markets, including possibly phasing them out.
Australia has provided financial support to the OIE for a global work program aimed at reducing and managing the risks of future spillover events arising from the wildlife trade.
International Plant Protection Convention
The global movement of pests and diseases threatens biodiversity and agriculture. The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) sets international standards to guide countries on how to protect plant resources and food security by preventing the introduction and spread of plant pests and facilitating safe trade.
During the International Year of Plant Health in 2020, Australia has made a significant contribution to the IPPC's work through the Commission on Phytosanitary Measures and its subsidiary bodies, technical panels and standards groups. Our leadership in these areas is important because Australia, as a contracting party, is obliged to implement the convention and its standards.
Despite the limitations imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, work continued on phytosanitary treatments and audits, diagnostic protocols, guidance on pest status and sea container cleanliness requirements.
The pandemic has raised the profile of the IPPC's electronic certification platform ePhyto. Australia led the first ePhyto workshop in the Pacific to provide insights from a pilot program and to help determine which countries are ready to start implementing the system.
At a regional level, Australia worked through the Pacific Plant Protection Organisation to develop guidance on providing food and other aid to countries experiencing disasters. The guidance aims to reduce the spread of plant pests following a response to a humanitarian crisis.
At the Asia–Pacific Plant Protection Commission, Australia participated in the session meeting in Thailand that adopted a regional standard for the movement of fresh mango fruit. This regional commodity standard will help manage the risk from pests associated with the international mango trade, and inform the IPPC's work in this area.