Terms of reference
On 23 June 2010, the Senate referred the following matter to the Senate
Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport (the committee) for
inquiry and report by 22 November 2010:
the adequacy of [Australia's] current biosecurity and quarantine
arrangements, including resourcing;
projected demand and resourcing requirements;
progress toward achievement of reform of Australian Quarantine and
Inspection Service (AQIS) export fees and charges;
progress in implementation of the 'Beale Review' recommendations and
their place in meeting projected biosecurity demand and resourcing; and
any related matters.
The inquiry was subsequently re-adopted by the committee in the 43rd
On 22 November 2010, the Senate granted an extension of time for reporting
until 28 April 2011. The reporting date was further extended to 21 March
2012 and 4 April 2012.
Conduct of the inquiry
The inquiry was advertised in The Australian on 30 June 2010 and 13
October 2010. The committee also sought submissions from interested
organisations, agencies and individuals. Notice of the inquiry was also posted
on the committee's website.
The committee received 79 submissions, including 12 supplementary
submissions and two confidential submissions. A list of submissions is provided
at Appendix 1.
Throughout the inquiry process, the committee took a specific interest
in the progress toward reform of the AQIS export fees and charges regime. In
addition to holding hearings directly related to these reforms, committee members
pursued specific issues through the Senate Estimates process. The committee
also wrote directly to a number of key stakeholder groups, organisations and
individuals seeking submissions specifically in relation to term of reference
The committee held a number of public hearings relating to this inquiry.
The dates, and issues raised during these hearings are as follows:
Response to Beale Review recommendations
Funding for national plant biosecurity
Facilities to replace Knoxfield and Eastern Creek Quarantine
Responses to disease incursion and eradication
Thursday, 7 and Friday, 8 July 2011
Removal of the fee rebate for AQIS certification functions
Importation of apples from New Zealand
A list of witnesses who attended these hearings is provided at Appendix
On 27 and 28 June 2011, the committee conducted inspections and site
visits in Sydney in order to gain a more detailed understanding of AQIS
facilities and services. The committee visited:
AQIS Central East Regional Office – Rosebery;
Eastern Creek Quarantine;
Sydney Gateway Facility (International Mail), Clyde;
Sydney International Airport; and
Previous committee inquiries
Inquiries into the import (or
proposed import) of specific plant or animal products
The committee notes that it has, over the past decade, undertaken a
number of inquiries which have examined biosecurity and quarantine arrangements
in relation to the importation (or proposed importation) of specific plant or
animal products. These inquiries include:
2001, 2005 and 2007 – inquiries into the importation of New
June 2009 – inquiry into the Import Risk Analysis (IRA) for the
importation of Cavendish bananas from the Philippines; and
June 2010 – inquiry into the possible impacts and consequences
for public health, trade and agriculture, of the Government's decision to relax
import restrictions on beef.
Inquiries into the management of
incursions of particular pests and diseases
A number of the committee's past inquiries have also considered issues
surrounding the management of particular incursions of pests and diseases into
Australia, such as:
June 2006 – inquiry into the administration by Department of
Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) of the citrus canker outbreak;
August and November 2010 – inquiry into the Australian horse
industry and an Emergency Animal Response Agreement; and
June 2011 – inquiry into the science underpinning the inability
to eradicate the Asian honey bee.
A number of the issues raised by submitters to the current inquiry were
raised by stakeholders during a number of these previous inquiries. Whilst a
number of submissions raised concerns in relation to the IRA process for
specific products, stakeholders also expressed concerns in relation to the IRA
process generally. Concerns were also raised in regarding Australia's current
definition of Appropriate Level of Protection (ALOP), the current arrangements
as they relate to import processes and the status of the Eminent Scientists
The committee also received submissions which provided comment and
raised concerns in relation to outcomes, possible future problems, and lessons
to be learned from the management of incursions of specific pests and diseases
Interim report – reform of export fees and charges
As noted above, part of the terms of reference for this inquiry required
the committee to examine the 'progress toward achievement of reform of
Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) export fees and charges'.
Given the timing of the reforms, the committee resolved to inquire into
the issues raised regarding term of reference (c) separately, and table an
Interim Report on its findings. The committee tabled Biosecurity and
quarantine arrangements – Interim report: the management of the removal of the
fee rebate for AQIS export certification functions on 12 December 2011.
As noted above, the committee has, over a number of years, taken a keen
interest in biosecurity and quarantine arrangements in relation to the importation
(or proposed importation) of specific plant or animal products. The committee
has also undertaken a number of inquiries which have reviewed the management of
specific incursions of pests and diseases into Australia.
In addressing the remaining terms of reference (a), (b), (d) and (e) the
committee is conscious that proposed new legislation to replace the Quarantine
Act 1908 is close to finalisation. DAFF have indicated that 'the new
Biosecurity Bill exposure draft and a consultation regulation impact statement
is expected to the released in the first half of 2012'.
DAFF also anticipates that the Biosecurity Bill will be introduced into
Parliament in the second half of 2012.
The committee signals its interest in conducting a detailed examination
of the exposure draft and/or conduct a further inquiry following the tabling of
the proposed Biosecurity Bill. Therefore, the committee's current report will
essentially provide a brief overview of Australia's current approach to
biosecurity and quarantine and outline several issues raised by submitters (and
the evidence received from industry stakeholders and DAFF) during the current
Evidence provided to the committee's current inquiry has enabled the
committee to gain a further appreciation of the operation of Australia's
biosecurity and quarantine arrangements and examine a number of issues from a
more strategic viewpoint. The examination of these issues has provided a valuable
source of background material which will assist the committee to conduct a more
detailed examination of the exposure draft and/or the Biosecurity Bill when
introduced later this year.
Structure of the report
Chapter 2 of the report outlines Australia's existing administrative and
legal arrangements in relation to biosecurity and quarantine. The chapter also
provides a brief overview of Australia's current approach to managing the risk
of incursions of exotic pests and diseases.
Chapter 3 outlines the issues and common themes which have been raised
by key stakeholders; both during both past inquiries and in evidence to the
current inquiry. The issues raised include concerns about the IRA process
generally, Australia's definition of ALOP and Australia's current preparedness
for a major pest or disease incursion.
Chapter 4 outlines the committee's examination and response to term of
reference (c) – the reform of AQIS export fees and charges, and term of
reference (d) – progress toward the implementation of the Beale Review
The committee appreciates the time and effort of all those organisations
and individuals who provided submissions and attended public hearings. Their
work has assisted the committee considerably and has provided the committee
with valuable evidence for the purpose of this and potentially future inquiries.
A note on references
References in this report are to individual submissions as received by
the committee. The Hansard transcripts of the committee's hearings are
available on the Parliament's website at www.aph.gov.au. References to the
Hansard throughout the report are to the proof transcript. Page numbers may
vary between the proof and the official transcript.
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