Dollar value put on Australia’s biosecurity system – a world first

Australia’s biosecurity system manages the risks of pests and diseases, positioning the country for premium exports. Image: Dr Susie Hester, CEBRA, the University of Melbourne.

Biosecurity experts from the University of Melbourne have successfully valued Australia’s world-leading biosecurity system at $314 billion dollars, reflecting a 30 to 1 return on investment.

In a world first study released jointly with the Minister of Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management, David Littleproud, researchers detail how they analysed and valued the system.

“There are examples of complex system valuation in other disciplines but this is the first successful valuation of a biosecurity system anywhere in the world,” said the lead author of Valuing Australia’s Biosecurity, Dr Aaron Dodd, from the Centre for Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis (CEBRA) at the University of Melbourne.

“Australia’s biosecurity system is recognised internationally as being highly valuable but determining exactly how valuable has proved elusive, until now. By modelling what would happen over a 50 year period if the biosecurity system were to be turned off, we were able to put a credible figure on its value,” said Dr Dodd.

Australia’s biosecurity system manages the risks of pests and diseases entering, establishing and spreading, causing harm to human, animal and plant health, the environment and the economy, positioning the country to export high quality agricultural produce to premium international markets.

Dr Dodd said the findings of Value of Australia’s Biosecurity went beyond the monetary value.

“The real value arising from our project relates to its potential to help biosecurity agencies fine tune their investment in risk controls to ensure they get the maximum return on their investment. Having an accurate understanding of how changes in the patterns of trade and travel translate into potential impacts on the ground is critical for ensuring that system is able to respond effectively,” said Dr Dodd.

The CEBRA research was welcomed by the Government with Mr Littleproud saying “It is clear that Australia’s biosecurity system yields positive benefits for all Australians, our agricultural industries, and the environment we live in.”

“Biosecurity isn’t just about food and fibre, it also protects our environment, infrastructure and other critical assets, which the report values at $251.5 billion a year, and $5.7 trillion over 50 years,” said Mr Littleproud.

Professor Tom Kompas, Chief Investigator at CEBRA and a co-author of the report, said that “the 30 to 1 payoff in the average return on investment shows the substantial value gained from biosecurity measures in Australia.”

“Our results are yet another reminder that an effective biosecurity system is critical to Australia’s long-term prosperity,” said Professor Kompas.