InQueensland reported on the Queensland Biosecurity Capability Review of 2015 which said Biosecurity Queensland does not have the capability to respond to current of future threats because it: • Cannot give funding agencies reasons to fund programs because it does not collect reliable and consistent performance data. • Cannot build relationships with industry and other stakeholders. • Lacks leadership skills. • Cannot plan strategically. The review made many recommendations which Minister Furner said have been implemented. They have not. Instead of working with the Biosecurity Queensland Ministerial Advisory Committee to establish joint governance arrangements, Biosecurity Queensland shut down the Committee for two years. Biosecurity Queensland agreed to appoint properly qualified leaders if the budget allowed for it. The current General Manager of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program was simple asked to take on the job. Biosecurity Queensland agreed to invest in an information management system and collect more specific performance measures, if it didn’t cost too much. They didn’t. In 2017, the Queensland Audit Office said Biosecurity Queensland does not capture reliable and consistent performance data. Biosecurity Queensland agreed to engage better with stakeholders if it doesn’t cost too much. When they do, they ignore the feedback. The Queensland Biosecurity Queensland Capability Review recommended transferring all biosecurity responsibility to the Commonwealth and making Biosecurity Queensland a stand-alone authority. I agree. Time for a Royal Commission. 2nd March 2020.
Queensland is on the front-line of threats to Australia’s biosecurity. Queensland responds to more incursions than any other State or Territory and is critical to Australia’s biosecurity.
On 27th February 2020, InQueensland reviewed three independent reviews that slammed Biosecurity Queensland’s ability to keep Queensland and Australia safe. The reviews said Biosecurity Queensland lacks any strategic direction, lacks the ability to secure proper funding and is unwilling to engage properly with industry partners.
In particular InQueensland reported on the Queensland Biosecurity Capability Review, commissioned by the Queensland government in 2015. The review said Biosecurity Queensland does not have the capacity to meet current or future biosecurity threats. The review made many recommendations which Minister Furner assured InQueensland had been implemented in 2018. They have not. Nothing has changed.
The 2015 Queensland Biosecurity Capability Review said:
Biosecurity Queensland suffers from funding uncertainty because Biosecurity Queensland managers cannot give national funding bodies business cases for continued funding, based on a sound investment framework and reliable and consistent performance data.
Biosecurity Queensland lacks the ability to prioritise activities based on a risk analysis. Biosecurity Queensland responses are often high-cost emergency responses, with variable rates of return, rather than lower cost activities like surveillance for early detection that are likely to have higher rates of return.
Biosecurity Queensland lacks an effective performance management information system and does not collect high quality, timely performance data. Consequently, Biosecurity Queensland’s uses of resources like staff time and funds is often sub-optimal and inconsistent.
Biosecurity Queensland lacks the ability to build partnerships inside and outside government. Biosecurity Queensland treats sharing responsibility with industry and other stakeholders as an opportunity to regulate them rather than engage them in a partnership.
Biosecurity Queensland’s leaders lack appropriate leadership skills because they have not been selected through sound recruitment processes. Current leaders have emerged through incremental changes to their previous roles.
Biosecurity Queensland lacks the ability to plan strategically. Biosecurity Queensland treats strategic planning as simply a compliance exercise – consequently they do not translate well into operational plans.
The review made many recommendations which Minister Furner said have all been implemented. This is not true. Biosecurity Queensland’s very qualified responses to the review’s recommendation were more ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ than actual actions.
The review recommended that Biosecurity Queensland work with the Biosecurity Queensland Ministerial Advisory Council to develop formal governance arrangements and joint biosecurity strategic and action plan with partners.
Biosecurity Queensland said it would work with the Council IF the Council could reconcile competing stakeholder interests. Clearly Biosecurity Queensland does not understand the reason to engage stakeholders in a governance process IS to find the path between stakeholder interests. As InQueensland reported, Biosecurity Queensland thought it just easier to just shut down the Advisory Council for two years.
The review recommended that Biosecurity Queensland appoint senior leaders with appropriate skills, to undertake a skills audit and to develop a leadership development plan.
Biosecurity Queensland agreed ONLY take part in a whole-of-department skills audit and would appoint appropriate senior staff, IF the budget allowed. Senior Biosecurity Queensland managers are still appointed by a tap on the shoulder. The current General Manager of the National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program was simply ‘asked’ to take on the job after the previous one left for unknown reasons.
The review recommended that Biosecurity Queensland conduct a systematic review of its investments against a risk-based investment framework and lock-in investment in a Biosecurity Information Management System.
Biosecurity Queensland said it would ONLY take part in a whole-of-department investment review and would invest in an information system and collect more specific performance measures IF the results would be worth the expense.
The irony in this response is amazing! Biosecurity Queensland lacks funding certainty from national funders because it cannot give funders sound cases for continued funding supported by reliable and consistent performance data. But they didn’t.
In 2017, the Queensland Audit Office said Biosecurity Queensland cannot ‘always demonstrate it has successfully achieved the ultimate aims of its programs’ because it does not capture adequate, reliable and consistent performance data, its programs do not have specific, measurable program performance indicators, Biosecurity Queensland has no methods for evaluating its programs and Biosecurity Queensland reports inputs and activities but not progress towards program goals.
The review recommended that Biosecurity Queensland develop a coherent surveillance strategy, guided by risk-management principles that better engage service providers, other jurisdictions, environmental and community groups and the broader community, create incentives for the community to report pests and diseases, improve how it recorded those reports and establish a biosecurity network with other response agencies and private sector organisations.
Biosecurity Queensland agreed, ONLY in principle, to develop a new surveillance strategy, implying it had an old one and, would ONLY engage stakeholders to the extent they could without additional funds and agreed ONLY to conducting a scoping study to encourage better stakeholder reporting and feedback, not actually implementing better processes.
Even when stakeholders give Biosecurity Queensland feedback, they ignore it. In May 2018, stakeholders with an interest in Biosecurity Queensland’s National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program told program managers the same things reviewers have been telling them for years: it is too slow to respond to new detections, it is not controlling the movement of fire ant carriers, it is not giving the community the most basic information about fire ants and the program and is not engaging with stakeholders. Biosecurity Queensland did not listen. The National Red Imported Fire Ant Eradication Program has no surveillance plan – 70%-80% of new detections are made by the public.
The Queensland Biosecurity Capability Review of 2015 recommended transferring all responsibilities for the nation’s biosecurity to the Commonwealth and removing Biosecurity Queensland from inside the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and establishing it as an independent statutory authority.
Time for a Royal Commission.