A 3D x-ray unit is now in place permanently at Melbourne airport to protect and grow our $11 billion horticultural industries from passengers bringing pests and diseases into the country.

Minister for Agriculture Bridget McKenzie said the new unit was automatically detecting biosecurity risks in fruit and vegetables that passengers fail to declare and could be expanded to target significant biosecurity threats such as high-risk seeds and meat.

“Biosecurity is an investment in protecting jobs and the economy,” she said.

“The new x-ray units are part of a $7.5 million investment in the 2018–19 Budget.

“They are helping to protect the 73,000 jobs in the horticulture industry, using 3D images to automatically detect risk items in luggage and alerting biosecurity officers to the threat.

“To date the 3D x-ray at Melbourne airport has screened 18,000 bags and detected more than 1200 risk items, at a detection rate of 7 per cent, with early signs showing it is significantly better at detecting items than the current system.

“This is helping keep out diseases like citrus canker, which has led to extensive production losses in citrus industries across the globe and would wreak havoc on our million-dollar citrus industry if it established here.

“Now the technology is proven it is being trialled at the Melbourne International Mail Centre to detect fruit and other biosecurity risks in mail items. 

“My department is also looking to use it to target other significant biosecurity threats such as high-risk seeds and meat that could carry damaging diseases such as African swine fever and Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

“FMD is one of the world’s most serious livestock diseases and could cost our economy billions and take a decade to eradicate.

“Fragments of FMD were recently detected in pork products intercepted at Australia’s airports and mail centres, so the risk is real.

“Biosecurity risks will only increase with the volume of cargo entering Australia expected to double between 2015 and 2030.

“The government is investing in the national biosecurity system to work smarter to address current and emerging risks.”

This world first innovation is part of a joint project with Biosecurity New Zealand, which is trialling the same 3D x-ray unit at Auckland Airport.

The x-ray images generated from both the Melbourne and Auckland units will be combined to create an extensive biosecurity risk image library.