THE number one priority of government, in helping the agricultural sector, is to ensure biosecurity measures are adequate, according to the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA (PGA).
PGA president Tony Seabrook said the organisation was often asked what it wanted the Department of Agriculture to do and it always comes back to biosecurity.
"Research and development has largely been taken away from government and is done by the Grains Research and Development Corporation and other organisations (such as universities)," Mr Seabrook said.
"The one thing is biosecurity.
"If they do nothing else but biosecurity that's the number one priority on the list."
Mr Seabrook's comments come in the wake of incidents that have been reported at Darwin and other airports where illegally imported pork and other products have been discovered through quarantine measures.
"Of all the intercepted pork that has been discovered through random checks and a single sniffer dog at Darwin Airport, half the pork had traces of African swine fever (ASF)," Mr Seabrook said.
"The most important thing for government is making absolutely certain to stop ASF coming into the country.
"Producers are greatly concerned about biosecurity measures at the moment.
"We've been lucky really, so far.
"But with one instance it could all be over.
"Once ASF is here we won't be able to stamp it out, especially if it gets into the feral pig population.
"We'll be done for."
Mr Seabrook's comments came as the State government placed a Quarantine Area Notice in parts of Fremantle, restricting a range of host materials from potentially spreading the Red Imported Fire Ant to other locations after it was detected at Fremantle Port last month.
WA Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan announced on Friday that two specially-trained odour detector dogs from Queensland had been called in to assist authorities to sniff out the ants, which are one of the world's most invasive pests.
It is unclear how long the ants had been in Fremantle and exactly how they got there.
Black Labradors, Willow and Cola, who have nine years of collective experience in detecting Red Imported Fire Ants, have been loaned from the Queensland government to aid WA authorities' surveillance efforts.
The dogs have a 95pc success rate in identifying fire ants, often long before they become visible to the human eye.
Their efforts will support the local biosecurity response to prevent the invasive pest from South America from becoming established in WA and threatening the environment, agriculture, the economy and human health.
The ants have been in Queensland for about 10 years and so far it is unclear how they got to Fremantle.
Ms MacTiernan said it was the first time the ants had been found in WA.
"The pest poses a significant threat to the environment, agriculture, the economy, human health and Australia's outdoor lifestyle," Ms MacTiernan said
"The State government has moved quickly to destroy the ants, and we are undertaking surveillance around Fremantle to determine whether they have spread.
"The public have a critical role to play in this situation - we are calling on Fremantle residents and workers to keep an eye out and to report any unfamiliar ants, to help protect WA from this pest."
Ms MacTiernan said the aggressive ant was known for its fiery sting, its capacity to damage crops and ability to establish 'super colonies'.
She called upon residents and businesses in the Quarantine Area to be mindful of movement restrictions to prevent the possible spread of the pest, which includes conditions on host material, like soil, potted plants, mulch, hay, manure and turf being moved outside the quarantine area.
DPIRD said the ants were found at two adjoining commercial properties within Fremantle port following routine surveillance.
Department biosecurity executive director Katherine Clift said the Quarantine Area runs from Port Beach, as far south as South Fremantle Dog Beach and east to East Street.
The Red Imported Fire Ant looked similar to common native ants, are reddish brown in colour with a darker abdomen, and between two to six millimetres long.
They come in an unusual variety of sizes within the nests.
Nests are often found in open areas like lawns, firebreaks or fence lines.
They can inflict a painful, fiery sting, which in rare cases can cause a severe acute reaction.
WAFarmers president Rhys Turton said he was pleased the State government had acted quickly to address the issue and place the area in quarantine, but questioned whether there was more that government could do to strengthen border security to protect agriculture.
"The minister has reacted quite swiftly and imposing a quarantine area was a responsible thing to do," Mr Turton said.
"But it begs the question, are we doing enough to protect agriculture?
"Should dogs have been in place previously?"
Mr Turton said being proactive is better than reactive and the government should work to ensure enough measures were in place to prevent a biosecurity disaster from occurring.
"Border security needs to be tight as tight," he said.
He said random checking at airports or ports was not good enough when the threat of ASF was on our doorstep.
"The best defence is to keep it out rather than deal with it once it's here," he said.
"It's possible that ASF could come here and it's very frightening.
"It requires stringent controls - and that could be said about any border security issue.
"Let's do it properly."
Federal Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said the government's focus was firmly on keeping ASF out of Australia, which was why it has "zero tolerance for those who do the wrong thing and try to bring pork products through our airports".
She said Australia's defences against ASF incursion have been tested during simulation exercise Razorback which assessed national, jurisdictional and industry decision-making processes in the event of an ASF incursion.
Ms McKenzie said exercising national decision-making arrangements and the pre-established response tools was critical to effectively responding should the need arise.
"But with ASF now on our doorstep in Timor Leste it is timely to conduct an exercise to make sure our preparations are as robust as they can be if the unthinkable happens and ASF arrives here.
"We'd need to shut it down and eradicate it quickly and having strong response arrangements in place is our best insurance.
"Razorback showed my department, industry and State and Territory jurisdictions just what a colossal task responding quickly and effectively to an onshore threat is and that response arrangements need to be routinely practiced and understood by everyone."
She said ASF was not present in Australia and the government was determined to keep it that way, to protect agriculture industries, the environment and our reputation as one of the world's most sought after suppliers of safe, clean and green food and fibre.
Ms McKenzie said an effective, "well-resourced biosecurity system" was all that stood between Australia and the deadly pests and diseases that could obliterate our agricultural exports and standard of living.
"It would devastate Australia's $5.2 billion pork industry and the 34,000 jobs that depend on it in rural and regional communities," she said.
"There's no vaccine and no cure and it kills about 80pc of the pigs it infects."
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