Public private collaborations amidst an emergency plant disease outbreak : The Australian experience with biosecurity for Panama disease

Cruz, Jaye de la


The past decade has seen a steady transitioning from a framework where the State has been the provider of production-oriented agricultural services to a ‘user pays’ philosophy that emphasises the role of the private sector in the provision of these services – even in agricultural biosecurity which has been historically considered a public good. This paper analyses the contours of public private collaborations in agricultural biosecurity services in the context of an emergency outbreak of Panama disease Tropical Race 4. We ask: does the transition to a market-led, industry-led approach shift perceptions on who should bear the burden for addressing Panama disease risk, and to what extent does it influence risk decisions taken by the different actors and stakeholders during an agricultural biosecurity emergency? Using data from field work carried out primarily in Brisbane, Australia in July 2015, as well as a review and content analysis of documents obtained from Australian government instrumentalities and research organizations, such as policy briefs, some themes emerge. The first is that while Australia's biosecurity plant disease strategy clearly shows coordination, there are still gaps in service delivery, such as delayed response time. Secondly, the industry-driven R&D system still finds itself navigating tensions between responding to the direct and immediate needs of the industry and supporting more long-term and explorative research trajectories. Thirdly, while there appears to be a greater trust in industry than in government in rapid emergency response, both the growers and the peak industry body want more, not less, government biosecurity regulation.