Media Release

Historic Biosecurity Bill 2014 to safeguard Australia

7 July 2014

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, today announced the government’s plans to progress the Biosecurity Bill 2014 to replace the Quarantine Act 1908.

“Replacing the Quarantine Act will be the biggest change to our biosecurity system in more than one hundred years,” Minister Joyce said.

”The biosecurity risks Australia faces have changed significantly since the Quarantine Act was drafted in 1908 –  a period when policy makers had at the forefront of their minds protecting Australia from outbreaks of small pox and the bubonic plague.

“In 2012–13, the Department of Agriculture cleared about 186 million international mail items, 16 million arriving international passengers, 1.7 million sea cargo consignments and 26 million air cargo consignments.

“More people, animals, goods and vessels are moving through Australia’s borders than ever before—and this is only going to increase.

“In the past decade alone, we’ve seen the volume of air passengers grow by 80 per cent, sea containers by 82 per cent and bulk cargo increase by 16 per cent—so we need legislation that not only safeguards our primary industries and our environment from the increased threat of pest and disease, but also allows us to manage these threats in the most efficient way.”

Recognising the true importance of our biosecurity system, the Bill will be administered by both the Agriculture and Health portfolios.  The Biosecurity Bill 2014 will simplify and streamline Australia’s biosecurity laws whilst still ensuring the high standard of protection of Australia’s human, environmental and animal health that the community expects.

Some of the Bill’s improvements include:

  • a reduction of more than $6.9 million a year in business compliance costs because of clearer, easier to use legislation and the improved processes it will enable
  • new powers to allow the Commonwealth to respond to biosecurity risks within Australia and help state and territory governments manage a nationally significant pest or disease outbreak – including in our marine environment
  • allowing the general compliance history of a business or individual to be considered when deciding whether to let them import a good, or undertake biosecurity activities— whereas the current Quarantine Act only allows for assessment of the risks associated with the goods themselves.

“Getting our biosecurity system and the underpinning legislation updated will benefit everyone,” Minister Joyce said.

Minister Joyce acknowledged that this Bill was first introduced in 2012, referred to committee for inquiry, but never reported on, due to the proroguing of Parliament in 2013.

“A number of concerns were raised by stakeholders as a part of the inquiry process, many of which this government has already addressed, however I am committed to improving this important legislation further with ongoing targeted consultation before the Bill is introduced,” Minister Joyce said.

“For the Australian farmer, a strong biosecurity system means crops will be safer from exotic pests and livestock better protected from diseases such as foot-and-mouth—which a recent ABARES report found could cost our economy more than $50 billion over a decade.

“For the Australian economy, it means an increased capacity for sustained domestic production and international exports from a competitive and profitable agricultural sector.

“For the Australian community more broadly, it means everyone can continue to have confidence in the biosecurity systems which protect our nation.”

For more information on the Biosecurity Bill 2014, visit daff.gov.au/biosecuritylegislation.