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Biodiversity security requires independence and socialism

Written by: Nick G. on 23 November 2020


Biosecurity, in its broadest sense (incorporating the inter-related human, agriculture, environment and marine health and referred to as One Health) is under serious threat in Australia.

Of course, we are not alone. Globally, protections in place around biosecurity are failing to keep up with the increasing threats. Throughout the entire capitalist world, resistance to regulations by private corporations seeking growth in profits, and demands by finance capital for ongoing reductions in government expenditure, have seen the risks intensify. 

The crisis in Australia has been made clear in a new CSIRO publication, Australia’s Biosecurity Future: Unlocking the next decade of resilience (2020-2030). It is an impassioned plea by scientists to the federal and state governments for a change in direction – from business-as-usual to what it calls a “transformational trajectory”. 

In relation to the former, it notes that “Between 2012 and 2017, the annual number of interceptions of biosecurity risk materials at Australian borders rose by almost 50%, to 37,014.”

Current funding and staffing levels are deemed inadequate to deal with this.  Even a three-fold increase in funding will not help us get ahead of risks already in the system: “Scaling the current system through additional funding allocation will not be enough. Modelling shows that even almost tripling investment in interventions out to 2025 will still result in increased residual biosecurity risk compared to 2014–2015 levels.”

The authors make it clear that they are not only referring to introduced weed and pest species. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, they explain that “environmental biosecurity in the context of One Health should involve understanding the increasing risks and likelihoods of infectious zoonotic diseases due to environmental destruction, urbanisation, encroachment on natural habitats, increased global trade and travel, and the increased resistance of pathogens to new antimicrobial drugs.” Zoonotic diseases are those transferred to humans from animals. 

The CSIRO lists a number of emerging challenges to Australia’s biosecurity including urbanisation, growing trade and travel, anti-microbial resistance, biodiversity loss, climate change and agricultural intensification. It points to problems with resourcing: “The biosecurity system is challenged by eroding budgets and declining and uneven biosecurity capability, coordination and expertise across jurisdictions. Examples of declining capabilities include taxonomists, plant pathologists and entomologists. A lack of biosecurity specialists and investment could limit Australia’s ability to prevent and respond to shocks.”

Among the different directions promoted by the CSIRO are greater community and Indigenous engagement and changing the focus from a reactive “response and recovery” model to one of “prevention and detection”.

These and other suggestions are all to the good, but the CSIRO fails to adequately address the political issues embedded in a system which, as we said earlier, is characterised by “resistance to regulations by private corporations seeking growth in profits, and demands by finance capital for ongoing reductions in government expenditure.”

It notes in relation to reporting of biosecurity risks that “some lack incentive to report detections where this may have a detrimental impact on their livelihood.” It adds, “From large industry through to smallholders and hobby farmers, there are portions of these groups who are not complying with biosecurity standards.” It is really saying that capitalism is in conflict with the protection of biodiversity. The report goes as far as it can in pointing out that governments need stronger non-negotiable standards to ensure greater private sector biosecurity responsibility.  The CSIRO calls for greater incentives for compliance – we call for heavy penalties up to and including jail time for non-compliance.

It is not for nothing that at our last Party Congress in June 2019, we wrote into our Program that “Biodiversity matters to the working class. The planet is facing an alarming rate of species extinctions. Habitats of other species must be rehabilitated and expanded. Research into the biology of other species must be ramped up in order to create programs for the restoration of their numbers.”

Our view is that biodiversity risks will only be seriously addressed when we take the power of the great corporations over society away from them and vest all economic, political and social control in the people.

That requires nothing short of genuine national independence and socialism.

Further reading: No cuts to biodiversity staff! (4 May 2018)


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