By HARRY CLARKE

AFTER spending hours mingling through an Akubra-clad crowd at BEEF21, Prime Minister Scott Morrison used his event press conference to announce a $371 million biosecurity package aimed to help protect Australian agriculture.

Impacts of the major budget announcement will help prevent disease such as African swine fever, khapra beetle and foot and mouth disease entering Australia, Mr Morrison said.

Among a raft of measures, the money will be spent improve screening facilities for international passengers, data and technology advancements to better identify potentially hazardous containers and 3D x-ray screening technology for incoming mail and passenger luggage.

The announcement brings the government’s biosecurity spend since October last year to $1.25 billion.

“Border security has many elements to it. A key aspect of border security is to protect our livestock industry and how we protect our grains industry around Australia.” Mr Morrison said.

“We’ve seen how important that is with Covid. Its the same when it comes to African swine flu or lumpy skin disease… which can be absolutely devastating when it comes to a agricultural sector and particular our beef and cattle producers”

Mr Morrison said from 2.5 million shipping containers which came into Australia last year and 60 million mail items, there were 35,000 pest and disease detections put in place by border agencies.

The Prime Minister was joined at BEEF21 by Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, who said the funding was aimed to address recommendations made by the independent Inspector-General of Biosecurity.

“We are investing in technical solutions to keep biosecurity threats out of Australia, including through new screening technologies for people and goods at the border,” Mr Littleproud said.

“We will fund a series of ground-breaking trials to screen for biosecurity risks offshore and continue the development of modern, innovative detection systems.

“We are investing in better management of hitchhiker pest risk before they reach Australia, through expanding offshore management of risks and strengthened border interventions of shipping containers, while ensuring the safe, efficient clearance of low-risk commodities.”

Part of the money is about making sure that we can run a national exercise whereby we can simulate an outbreak across the country and make sure that our state counterparts are able to work with us to lock it down as quick as we can, we can trace it and we can protect as many producers as we possibly can

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