Media Release

Changing times ahead for Australian biosecurity

27 November 2014

Legislation to strengthen Australia’s biosecurity system, simplify and streamline regulation and increase flexibility in how biosecurity risk is managed was introduced into Parliament today.
 
Agriculture Minister, Barnaby Joyce, said Australia’s world class biosecurity system was still relying on a legislative framework that was designed more than 100 years ago, and it was time to update it to match the changing global environment.
 
“When the Quarantine Act 1908 was written people and goods arrived only by sea and biosecurity threats included diseases like the bubonic plague, leprosy, yellow fever and smallpox,” Minister Joyce said.
 
“The world has, and will continue to change. The legislation I have introduced today is designed to flexibly support Australia’s biosecurity system in any age, regardless of future challenges, including advances in transport and technology.
 
“For example, the Bill provides a range of enforcement powers rather than relying, as the Quarantine Act did, on criminal penalties.
 
“Biosecurity risks can be complex, and so our biosecurity requirements are grounded in science. Not everyone who breaches the rules will have understood why or done so deliberately – so it is appropriate to have a range of enforcement powers. 
 
“In this Bill we have criminal penalties that allow us to respond to those who deliberately do the wrong thing, as well as other powers to proportionately respond to those who inadvertently do the wrong thing.
 
“Should the legislation pass it will cut unnecessary red tape by reducing compliance costs on businesses by nearly $7 million a year.
 
“As we continue to strengthen biosecurity management, the Bill will provide national capability to respond to pest and disease incursions within Australia – including in our marine environment.”
 
The Bill will be broadly broken up into three categories:
  • Operational chapters that support daily biosecurity business – such as assessing and managing biosecurity risk in relation to goods, transport and technologies.
  • Stand-alone chapters that support specialised biosecurity situations – such as the management of human health and ballast water, emergency responses and partnerships with business.
  • Administrative chapters that apply across the entire Bill that are designed to provide a framework for the smooth administration of the biosecurity system – such as compliance and enforcement.
“Agriculture is a key pillar of the Australian economy and must be supported by a strong and robust biosecurity system. Any adverse changes to our world-class biosecurity status would have a direct impact on domestic productivity, farm-gate returns and export opportunities,” Minister Joyce said.
 
“This legislation, jointly undertaken by the Agriculture and Health portfolios, will underpin a strong and seamless biosecurity system to cover human, environment, plant and animal health.
 
“This Bill will allow our systems to get smarter, our penalties to be fairer and our people to work where the risk is greatest."
 
The Bill is supported by four other Bills that are designed to help ensure the smooth transition from the Quarantine Act 1908 to the enactment of the Bill.
 
For more information on the Biosecurity Bill 2014 and the supporting legislation, visit www.agriculture.gov.au/biosecuritylegislation or subscribe to the Biosecurity Bill 2014 subscription list at https://agriculture.custhelp.com/.