Improving quarantine risk communication: Understanding public risk perceptions
Maintaining the health and wealth of Australia depends vitally on protecting the nation's environmental and cultural treasures while capitalizing on the opportunities presented by new technologies and products. Achieving a balance between protection and progression, however, is influenced considerably by prevailing perceptions of the risks associated with imported commodities. A persistent community view is that a "no risk" quarantine policy is a viable option. In contrast, import risk analysts view the expectation of a "no risk" policy as untenable, given that Australia is a major agricultural trading nation and has international obligations as a member of the World Trade Organization and a signatory to the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade. Biosecurity Australia, a group within the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry Australia (AFFA), recognizes that public consultation and communication must be an essential part of the import risk analysis process if the community is to share the ownership and responsibility of effective quarantine policies. However, efforts to improve public participation so far have paid little attention to understanding what determines public perceptions of import risks and what methods will effectively engage the public in meaningful dialogue about their expectations and responsibilities.