Muscling up on biosecurity, mate | OPINION

Muscling up on biosecurity, mate (or "Ya can't bring that in here, ya dolt!") | OPINION

Opinion
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Australia is upping the ante with biosecurity, and for good measure.

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EDITORIAL

AUSTRALIA - land of the laid-back, "she'll be right" attitude.

It's one of the drawcards to the land Down Under and possibly while Aussies are generally liked by most other nations. That attitude however does not extend to biosecurity.

In fact, various incidents in recent months have trumpeted the fact that when it comes to trying to smuggle in foreign material, Australia will burr up.

In the horticulture sector, the former head of the Australian Garlic Industry Association was sentenced to 11 months jail time for illegally importing garlic bulbs over a three year period for the purposes of commercial cultivation, without the required import permit.

A Vietnamese woman was sent packing from Sydney Airport after biosecurity officers discovered 4.6kg of pork and 470g of eggs, along with kilograms of quail, pate, fruit, garlic and squid in her luggage.

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Last month, a shipment of luxury cars from Europe was directed to leave Australia after the discovery of an infestation of Heath snails (Xerolenta obvia) which feed on a variety of plants including alfalfa, lupins, clover, wheat, barley and fruit trees as well as native plants and weeds.

A newly installed sniffer dog in Darwin detected 69 biosecurity risks in just her first month working at the Darwin International Airport. Of that, 24 were fruit items - double the number of the next commodity which was fresh meat products.

These incidents highlight that Australia is increasingly taking a no-nonsense attitude to foreign pests and diseases, which is good for agriculture.

These procedures probably aren't going to make the next Tourism Australia commercial.

Even before disembarking from the plane, travellers to Australia are shown a video about the need to get rid of plants, vegetables, fruit, meats, grass, seeds and anything else that might pose a risk.

They are then handed a declaration card to fill out. Apart from contact details, it asks questions about the person's travels in the past week, particularly if they've been on farms.

If this hasn't made them sit up straight, the numerous warning signs in airports, followed by the no-nonsense, sometimes curt, immigration staff reinforces the "don't mess with our fragile ecosystem or else" status.

Visitors have to realise that, beautiful as this land is, it comes with responsibilities to protect it, and that means holding a line.

These procedures probably aren't going to make the next Tourism Australia commercial. (Although Chris Hemsworth could capably play an immigration officer, which may actually lure a few people.)

Our biosecurity system is the gold standard but it's not perfect. The discoveries that make the media reports are just the ones that get caught, not the ones we don't see.

Visitors have to realise that, beautiful as this land is, it comes with responsibilities to protect it, and that means holding a line.

Keeping the nasties out of the rainforest, coral reefs, wildflower plains and high country scrub is critical, as is preventing anything that could cripple an agricultural commodity.

Farmers are the side beneficiaries of all this. In fact, entire industries are.

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