They would decimate some of our industries if they got in, particularly because we’re an export nation.Unusual and illegal items entering our borders in the past year include a mummified pig foetus and freeze-dried quails – both posing a possible animal health risk. A taxidermied rear-end of a rat with a modelled mouth and prosthetic teeth was intercepted at Melbourne international mail centre in May.
“That presents a risk for us in terms of plant diseases, pests and things like African swine fever and hand, foot and mouth disease,” Ms Cooper said.
“They would decimate some of our industries if they got in, particularly because we’re an export nation.”
Camera IconAustralia’s biosecurity is at risk with our frontline workforce battling unrelenting smugglers using new and innovative ways to break through our borders. Credit: Australian Border Force/ Australian Border Force
Camera IconThe West Australian can reveal that an average of 56 fines are being issued by biosecurity officers each month at airports, compared to about 410 a month before the pandemic. Credit: Australian Border Force/ Australian Border Force
Seeds are the biggest risk through the post – accounting for 40 per cent of illegal items coming into the country this year alone.
This is followed by meat — mostly pork — as well as animal products like pet food, and plants, such as succulents.
At airports, Ms Cooper said the chance of a biosecurity breach slipping through the cracks was low despite fewer staff being rostered on to monitor for risks.
“We’ll still have the necessary number of staff to process the number of passengers coming through,” she said.
“We’re using different technologies to improve biosecurity risks. We’re looking at using 3D technology and algorithms to better detect it.”
This comes after the Federal Government announced a $371 million biosecurity package in the May Budget, with funds allocated for pre-border screening and technology to improve the speed and accuracy of pest and disease identification.
Edith Cowan University Security and Intelligence program Masters candidate Deborah Evans said new biosecurity threats had emerged from biotechnology and gene editing tools.
“Border control and preventing smugglers from getting past our defences is only one aspect of managing biosecurity threats,” Ms Evans said.
“The do-it-yourself biology revolution has increased the number of citizen scientists which is great for science, but can inadvertently create biosecurity risks.
“People could use gene editing tools to modify plants or other organisms including viruses and bacteria, which could then cause harm to the environment. While this is illegal to do in Australia, the tools and methods are still available.”
The dark web is another platform being used to try and get biosecurity threats into Australia and work around the authorities.
“The dark web is used for many nefarious purposes and there is every possibility malicious actors might try to import materials which pose risks to Australia’s biosecurity,” Ms Evans said.