Leo Terpstra and Roger Beckmann
The 2012–13 Budget commits $364.7 million over four years for Reforming Australia’s Biosecurity System:
- $67.3 million in 2012–13
- $141.4 million in 2013–14
- $102.2 million in 2014–15, and
- $53.8 million in 2015–16
The most significant measure is the construction of a new post-entry quarantine facility that will be in Melbourne. Post-entry quarantine is when live plants and animals are held in the country while their status is assessed. The new facility is designed to consolidate all existing post-entry stations into one site. Currently, the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) operates five such facilities on leased sites. These will be closed as their leases expire.
The biosecurity budget 2012–13 factsheet shows the Government’s commitment to biosecurity and quarantine of $524.2 million in the period to 2018–19. This comprises:
- $379.9 million over seven years to construct a new Commonwealth-operated post-entry quarantine station. The facility will commence operations in 2015–16 and be fully operational on completion in 2018–19
- $144.3 million over four years to fund core biosecurity operations, including $124.5 million for “core frontline biosecurity operations and external review and verification processes” and $19.8 million for biosecurity information technology.
In addition to the $524.2 million, $65.9 million from the Caring for our Country program (2011–12 to 2015–16) is allocated to supporting eradication programs for nationally significant agricultural and environmental pests and diseases (see separate brief Environment and Natural Resources). This is proposed to be continued in 2016–17 and 2017–18 with $15 million per annum, bringing the measure to $95.9 million over seven years.
This budget continues the government’s reform agenda in relation to quarantine and biosecurity of a system based on ‘a risk management approach’. All known high risk species brought into the country are quarantined. But frontline inspections are critical in preventing incursions that are less readily identifiable, and the $124.5 million mentioned above is to continue this. However, critics contend that frontline inspection rates are too low.
The Budget also supports the modernisation of the current legislation (Quarantine Act 1908) and in the latter half of 2012 new biosecurity legislation will be introduced into Parliament.
Industry and opposition response
The response by industry has generally been positive, in light of the pre-budget commentary and media coverage on how severe the funding cuts to agriculture (and quarantine and biosecurity) might be.
The National Farmers Federation (NFF) gave cautious support to the budget announcements, and it was pleased that the Beale Review recommendations on biosecurity would progress with the budget commitment towards a new post-entry quarantine centre, as well as funding towards pest and disease eradication efforts. 
The Opposition has said that the Government ignores the recommendations from the Beale Review, despite new money in the budget, and that they have concerns that replacing five quarantine stations with one new facility in Melbourne is risky and will be expensive for importers.
. Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2012–13, op. cit., p. 295.
. The Beale Review was a report to the Minister in December 2008 by the independent quarantine and biosecurity review panel, chaired by Mr Roger Beale. The report emphasised that quarantine is but one aspect of biosecurity, and that greater attention needed to be paid to pre-border and post-border risks.
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