Working together to protect agriculture

Nobody is above the law on biosecurity - not even Hollywood actors

Opinion
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GPA and Plant Health Australia (PHA) are vigilent in protecting growers and the ag industry

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Grain Producers Australia and Plant Health Australia (PHA) work together, collaborating with other responsible stakeholders, to protect growers and the agricultural industry against pests and diseases, according to GPA president Barry Large.

Grain Producers Australia and Plant Health Australia (PHA) work together, collaborating with other responsible stakeholders, to protect growers and the agricultural industry against pests and diseases, according to GPA president Barry Large.

Reports of a new investigation into Johnny Depp's former partner, Amber Heard, for allegations relating to the enforcement of Australia's biosecurity laws is sure to set tongues wagging again.

Who could forget the ongoing war of words between the then Federal Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce and Hollywood heartthrob Depp when Ms Heard's two Yorkshire Terriers - Boo and Pistol - arrived in Australia via a private jet and bypassed strict local biosecurity controls?

At the height of the infamous feud, Mr Joyce quipped "I don't expect to be invited to the opening of Pirates of the Caribbean".

Eventually, in 2016, the two Hollywood stars appeared before the Southport Magistrates Court on the Gold Coast where Ms Heard pleaded guilty to charges related to the biosecurity breaches.

The actress was placed on a one month, $1000 good behaviour bond for making a false declaration on her Incoming Passenger Card, in declaring she wasn't travelling with any live animals.

For their sins, Ms Heard and Mr Depp also put their screen-skills to good use, appearing in a 40-second video clip expressing apparent remorse for their actions.

"Australia is free of many pests and diseases that are common-place around the world - that is why Australia has to have such strong biosecurity laws," Ms Heard said in the clip.

As the latest scene of this saga ignites renewed media interest and emotions - along with the odd comedy sketch - it is important to look beyond the headlines and consider the serious underlying issues that exist for our farmers, and all Australians for that matter.

Firstly, biosecurity is everyone's responsibility and business - especially for protecting Australian agriculture.

This means no individual is above the law, no matter how many Hollywood movies they make - good or bad.

The risks posed in a biosecurity outbreak to Australia's farmers and the broader economy are huge and devastating.

Nobody understands this more acutely than Grain Producers Australia (GPA).

That's why GPA has backed Agriculture Minister David Littleproud in upping the ante on biosecurity protections.

We recognise the need to invest more and prevent outbreaks such as Khapra Beetle, which could conservatively cost Australia $15.5 billion over 20 years.

Khapra is a devastating stored grain pest which has increasingly been found in sea containers and packaging in recent times.

Khapra is also Australia's number two National Priority Plant Pest, and the number one plant priority pest for grains.

While this pest is not present in Australia, the increased movement of goods across borders world-wide - especially as they re-open following COVID-19 lockdowns - multiplies the risks significantly.

Many other biosecurity threats carry the same potential to severely cripple or disrupt the profitability and sustainability of our farmers and rural economies.

This is what keeps driving GPA and Plant Health Australia (PHA) to continue working together diligently and vigilantly behind the scenes, collaborating with other responsible stakeholders, such as State and Federal Governments, to protect growers and our industry.

GPA represents the biosecurity interests of grain producers and the broader grains industry as members of PHA and as signatories to the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed.

In addition to the responsibilities which accompany being a signatory to the Deed, GPA is responsible for the award-winning Grains Farm Biosecurity Program.

This program was launched in 2007 and improves the management of, and preparedness for, biosecurity risks in the grains industry at the farm and local industry level.

It is managed by PHA and funded by growers through GPA with the New South Wales, Queensland, South Australian, Victorian and Western Australian governments.

Grains Biosecurity Officers in these five states develop and deliver materials to raise awareness and training to growers, consultants and other industry stakeholders.

As these new matters involving Ms Heard take shape and create headlines and diversions, it's important to remember who the real heroes are, and who is taking real action to protect others, when it comes to biosecurity and protecting farmers.

*NOTE: the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (the department) is investigating allegations of perjury by Ms Heard during court proceedings for the 2015 illegal importation of (her) two dogs into Australia. The department is seeking to obtain witness statements and, when obtained, the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions will consider whether the evidence is sufficient to warrant pursuance of the matter. As the matter is ongoing, the department cannot make any further comment.

The story Working together to protect agriculture first appeared on Stock & Land.

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