Western Australia’s current biosecurity status, processes and funding could be improved by the appointment of an independent Auditor General who could make recommendations on how to improve outputs and efficiencies, according to WAFarmers.
Speaking on one of the Policy Priorities as part of their State Election Policy Platform, WAFarmers President Tony York said WA’s enviable biosecurity status yielded significant benefits but that there was scope for streamlining and amalgamating of biosecurity resources, and providing transparency and accountability to industry, government and the state.
“In addition to benefiting public health, our status as a clean and green state has helped to provide WA’s agricultural industries with access to premium export markets, which has generated significant revenue for the state,” he said.
“Despite this advantageous position, exotic and other emergency livestock and arable diseases remain ongoing threats, the complexity of which is increasing in line with growing international trade and travel, changing agricultural practices and the impact of climate change.
“While the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act functions well to protect WA biosecurity interests, there are significant program and funding overlaps between state and federal biosecurity activities.
“Over the last 12 months, WAFarmers and other stakeholders have encountered considerable difficulty in obtaining funding details and records regarding the plethora of biosecurity related activities, which is a serious discrepancy that needs urgent attention.
“To this end, we request the appointment of an Auditor General to audit current biosecurity program management processes, outputs and funding in WA, and make recommendations on how program delivery, funding transparency and accountability changes could improve program outputs and efficiencies by reporting findings back to the industry and government.”
Mr York said a core function of the Auditor General would be to conduct and report on financial and performance indicators, meaning dismissal would only be by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament, which is a key protection of independence.
“The Auditor General would be an independent officer who would not be directed by anyone – including Parliament and the State Government – appointed to examine the management of resources within the public sector on behalf of Parliament and WA,” he said.
“Even in the absence of a significant disease outbreak, shortfalls in frontline biosecurity resources are limiting the state’s ability to demonstrate the quality and health status of its livestock, cropping and horticultural products.
“WAFarmers believes an independent audit of the biosecurity continuum by the Auditor General would identify the weaknesses in existing programs and funding mechanisms, whilst identifying initiative improvements to achieve greater transparency, resourcing and operational efficiencies.”