First $5,500 biosecurity infringement issued under tougher biosecurity laws

24 May 2023

A traveller has been stung by Australia’s toughest biosecurity infringement to date, after attempting to bring plant seeds through Brisbane International Airport recently.

On May 5, an Australian passenger was found to be carrying seeds concealed within various items including a pamphlet, knitted baby clothing and tissues whilst entering the country.

The passenger is the first person to be issued with Australia’s new 20-point penalty infringement notice of $5,500 for deliberately concealing biosecurity risk materials. The Albanese Government introduced this new offence under the Biosecurity Act 2015 in December 2022 for those intentionally trying to circumvent our laws with concealed undeclared biosecurity goods.

Biosecurity officers inspected the passenger’s luggage, including 290g of seeds, 1g of tamarind seeds and 860g of bark for therapeutic use. These items were seized and destroyed.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt said biosecurity officers continue to crack down on travellers caught doing the wrong thing.

“This is exactly why our Government introduced these penalties - banned items can pose a serious risk to the agriculture industry and we make no apologies for coming down hard on people who gamble with our production value and food security,” Minister Watt said.

“To knowingly try to sneak items into Australia is extremely disappointing, and that’s why these penalties are the toughest we’ve seen to date.”

Seed for sowing can pose a major risk to Australia’s plant health status if they are not inspected and cleared by a biosecurity officer. Seeds can introduce unwanted weed species or exotic viral pathogens such as tobamoviruses that impact vegetable crops including melons, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, and capsicum.

The new 20-point infringement is in addition to increased financial penalties introduced on January 1 2023, which saw penalty units increase from $222 per penalty unit to $275 per penalty unit.

Images from the seizure can be downloaded here.