Australia's current approach to biosecurity and quarantine
The terms of reference for the inquiry required the committee to examine
the adequacy of Australia's current biosecurity and quarantine arrangements,
including the adequacy of resourcing. The following chapter 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
National administrative and legal
arrangements for biosecurity and quarantine
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry's (DAFF) Import
risk analysis handbook 2011 (the risk analysis handbook) notes that the
objective of Australia's biosecurity and quarantine measures is:
...the prevention or control of the entry, establishment or
spread of pests and diseases that could cause significant harm to people,
animals, plants and other aspects of the environment.
The Commonwealth does not have exclusive power under the Constitution to
make laws in the area of biosecurity and quarantine. The administration of
Australia's biosecurity and quarantine is, therefore, governed by both
Commonwealth and state and territory laws. The states and territories are, for
example, responsible for the intra- and inter-state movement of goods of
The Commonwealth's quarantine laws are contained in the Quarantine Act
1908 (the Quarantine Act) and associated subordinate legislation, including
the Quarantine Regulations 2000 and the Quarantine Proclamation 1998. The
proclamation identifies goods which cannot be imported into Australia unless
the Director of Animal and Plant Quarantine grants an import permit or unless
they comply with other specified conditions.
The Biosecurity Services Group (BSG) in DAFF is responsible for
Commonwealth biosecurity policy development and the establishment of risk
management measures. DAFF is also responsible (through Biosecurity Australia)
for undertaking risk analyses.
The BSG was formed on 1 July 2009 in response to the Beale Review,
which recommended the consolidation of the biosecurity activities of the
Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS), Biosecurity Australia (BA)
and the Product Integrity, Animal and Plant Health division of DAFF.
Managing biosecurity risks
DAFF describes the Government's approach to managing the risk of
incursions of exotic pests and diseases as "multi-layered" in that it
involves a series of "complementary measures applied along the biosecurity
continuum – offshore, at the border and onshore".
Offshore (or pre-border) activities are described as those which seek to
prevent biosecurity risks reaching Australia. In addition to understanding
global risks, working with international trading partners and the private
sector and engaging with travellers about Australia's biosecurity requirements,
specific offshore activities include:
participation in international standard-setting bodies;
co-operation in multilateral forums;
development of offshore quarantine arrangements;
undertaking of risk analyses; and
intelligence gathering and audit activities.
AQIS is responsible both for the making of quarantine decisions under
the Quarantine Act and for the development of border operational procedures.
Border activities seek to intercept biosecurity risks that present at
airports, seaports, mail centres and along Australia's coastline. Activities
are therefore centred around the screening of mail, vessels (including
aircraft), people and goods entering the country. Border activities also
import permit decisions;
audit activities; and
In the event that there is an incursion of a pest or disease of
biosecurity risk, Australia's onshore arrangements aim to reduce the likelihood
that the pest or disease will become established. Formal national arrangements
exist for managing responses to both emergency animal and plant pests and
diseases and food safety issues in aquatic and terrestrial environments.
Onshore (or post-border) activities include:
monitoring and surveillance activities (for exotic animal and
plant pests and diseases);
development of emergency response plans; and
coordination of national responses to pest and disease
Appropriate Level of Protection
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement on the Application of
Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) underpins the biosecurity
approaches of many WTO members, including Australia. The SPS Agreement defines
the concept of an 'appropriate level of sanitary and phytosanitary protection'
...the level of protection deemed appropriate by a WTO member
establishing a sanitary or phytosanitary measure to protect human, animal or
plant life or health within its territory.
Australia expresses its ALOP in qualitative terms, and the risk analysis
handbook states that Australia maintains a "conservative, but not a
zero-risk, approach to the management of biosecurity risk".
The Commonwealth, with the agreement of all state and territory governments,
has described Australia's ALOP as:
...providing a high level of sanitary and phytosanitary
protection aimed at reducing risk to a very low level, but not to zero.
This approach is identified as being consistent with the international
standards established by the SPS Agreement.
In setting an ALOP, WTO members are required to take into account "the
objective of minimising negative trade effects".
The risk analysis handbook notes that, in conducting risk analyses, Australia
takes into account the following economic factors:
the potential damage in terms of loss of production or sales in
the event of the entry, establishment or spread of a pest or disease in the
territory of Australia;
the costs of control or eradication of a pest or disease; and
the relative cost-effectiveness of alternative approaches to
The risk assessment process
The undertaking of a risk analysis in relation to a proposed importation
(or where new circumstances arise in relation to an existing importation) is a
critical element of Australia's biosecurity and quarantine framework. The risk
assessment handbook explains:
Within Australia's quarantine framework, the Australian
Government uses risk analyses to assist it in considering the level of
quarantine risk that may be associated with the importation or proposed
importation of animals, plants or other goods.
In conducting a risk analysis, BA:
identifies the pests and diseases of quarantine concern that may
be carried by the good/s;
assesses the likelihood that an identified pest or disease or
pest would enter, establish or spread; and
assesses the probable extent of the harm that would result.
If the assessed level of quarantine risk exceeds Australia's ALOP, BA
then considers whether any risk management measures could reduce quarantine
risk to achieve the ALOP. If there are no risk measures that reduce the risk to
an appropriate level, the importation of the good in question is not allowed.
Types of risk analysis
On receiving an import proposal (or notification of a change to the risk
profile of existing trade in a good), BA considers whether a risk analysis is
required. A risk analysis may take the form of:
a non-regulated analysis of existing policy or technical advice
to AQIS; or
an import risk analysis (IRA), in which the key steps of the
analysis are regulated under the Quarantine Regulations 2000.
A non-regulated analysis of existing policy could take the form of, for
example, a pest risk analysis or a relatively narrow course of consultation
with relevant stakeholders.
This approach could be taken where, for example, BA has previously undertaken
significant analysis in relation to the crop that is the subject of an import
The Chief Executive of BA determines whether a risk analysis will be
conducted as an IRA. An IRA will generally be undertaken when:
relevant risk management measures have not been established; or
relevant risk management measures for a similar good and
pest/disease combination do exist, but the likelihood and/or consequences of
entry, establishment or spread of pests or diseases could differ significantly
from those previously assessed.
An IRA can be undertaken in either a 'standard' or 'expanded' format.
The regulated steps for both types of IRA's include:
consultation – on scope and approach with the proposer,
industry and other stakeholders;
announcement and commencement – which triggers the
regulated timeframe for the IRA;
issues paper preparation – expanded IRA only;
consultation on issues paper – expanded IRA only;
risk analysis and draft IRA report preparation;
consultation on draft IRA report – through publication on
the BA website and an invitation for public comment;
review of draft report by the Eminent Scientists Group (ESG)
– The ESG is a high level review group, independent from BA that is tasked
with providing external scientific and economic scrutiny of expanded IRAs. The
ESG is required to take into account any relevant new information and to assess
conflicting scientific views to ensure that:
all submissions received from stakeholders in response to the
draft IRA report have been properly considered;
all relevant matters relating to the likely economic consequences
of a pest or disease incursion have been properly considered; and
the conclusions of the revised draft IRA report are
scientifically reasonable, based on the material presented;
preparation and publication of the provisional final IRA
report – taking into account stakeholder comments and, in the case of an
expanded IRA, any recommendations made by the ESG;
appeal on the provisional final IRA report – a right of
(non-judicial) appeal is available to the Import Risk Analysis Appeals Panel
(IRAAP) for any stakeholder who believes there was a 'significant deviation
from the [prescribed] IRA process...that adversely affected their interests';
provision of final IRA report and recommendation – for a
policy determination to the Director of Animal and Plant Quarantine;
determination by the Director of Animal and Plant Quarantine
– the determination provides a policy framework for decisions on whether or not
to grant an import permit and any conditions that may be attached to a permit.
In making the determination, the Director considers:
the final IRA report and its recommendations;
the outcome of any appeals;
the ESG report;
BA's response to the ESG report; and
any other relevant information, including Australia's
international rights and obligations.
The steps outlined above reflect a number of changes to the IRA process
that were introduced in 2007 to:
increase its transparency and timeliness;
regulate key steps, such as timeframes for completing IRAs; and
enhance consultation with, and scientific scrutiny of IRAs by the
Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement
In Australia, animal health emergencies are coordinated nationally, with
responses underpinned by the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement
(EADRA) which was ratified in March 2002.
The EADRA was developed to facilitate rapid responses to, and control and
eradication or containment of certain animal diseases (Emergency Animal
Diseases or EADs). Under the EADRA, the costs of responding to EADs are shared
by the affected parties, including the Commonwealth, all state and territory
governments and livestock industries.
The current EADRA is an agreement between the peak body, Animal Health
the Commonwealth government, all state and territory governments and the
following industry signatories:
Australian Chicken Meat Federation Inc;
Australian Egg Corporation Limited;
Australian Dairy Farmers Limited;
Cattle Council of Australia Inc;
Australian Pork Limited;
Sheepmeat Council of Australia Inc;
Australian Lot Feeders' Association Inc;
Goat Industry Council of Australia;
Australian Honey Bee Industry Council Inc;
Australian Racing Board Limited;
Harness Racing Australia Inc;
Australian Horse Industry Council; and
Equestrian Australia Limited.
Under the terms of the EADRA, signatories are required to commit to:
minimising the risk of EAD incursions by developing and
implementing biosecurity plans for their jurisdictions of industries;
maintaining capacity to respond to an EAD by having available
adequate numbers of trained personnel to fill roles specified in AUSVETPLAN;
participating in decision making relating to EAD responses,
through representation on the Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal
Diseases (CCEAD) and a National Management Group (NMG); and
sharing the eligible response costs of EAD incursions.
The terms of the EADRA include an agreement from the Commonwealth to
underwrite the costs of an emergency response to an EAD. In the event of an
emergency, however, industry signatories to the EADRA must have in place plans
to meet their obligations under the agreement. The proportion of signatories'
payments depend on the disease category.
There are four disease categories which determine the proportions paid
by government and industry (see Table 1).
Table 1 - EADRA –
Category of Disease
Category 1: EADs
that predominantly seriously affect human health and/or the environment
(depletion of native fauna) but may only have minimal direct consequences to
the livestock industries.
100% government funding
Category 2: EADs that have the potential to cause major
national socio-economic consequences through very serious international trade
losses, national market disruptions and very severe production losses in the
livestock industries that are involved. This category includes diseases that
may have slightly lower national socio-economic consequences, but also have
significant public health and/or environmental consequences.
80% government funding
20% industry funding
Category 3: EADs that have the potential to cause significant
(but generally moderate) national socio-economic consequences through
international trade losses, market disruptions, involving two or more states
and severe production losses to affected industries, but have minimal or no
affect on human health or the environment.
50% government funding
50% industry funding
Category 4: These are EADs that could be classified as being
mainly production loss diseases. While there may be international trade
losses and local market disruptions, these would not be of a magnitude that
would be expected to significantly affect the national economy. The main
beneficiaries of a successful emergency response to an outbreak of such a
disease would be the affected livestock industry(s).
20% government funding
80% industry funding
Cost of Disease Response
The cost to industries of a disease response is determined in relation
to their Gross Value of Production (GVP). The government costs for a response
is shared – 50 per cent by the Commonwealth – and the remainder shared
between the state and territory governments.
National Management Group
The National Management Group (NMG) is the decision making body that
determines whether to respond to an animal disease, and the direction of that response.
The NMG has two primary functions:
to consider EAD response issues; and
to consider general issues around the EADRA (including regular
reviews of the agreement).
In the event of an EAD response, the NMG will be made up of a
representative of each of the affected parties:
the Secretary of DAFF (Chair)
the CEOs of the state and territory government departments;
the President/Chairman of each of the relevant industry parties;
AHA (as an observer).
The NMG is responsible for:
approving the EAD response plan (including an indicative budget);
reviewing the EAD response plan when it believes the cost may
exceed the agreed limit (1 per cent of the GVP of the affected industry(s) – 2 per cent
for Foot and Mouth Disease); and
determining whether a party has acted appropriately in the matter
of reporting an EAD in the first place.
Consultative Committee on Emergency
The Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Diseases (CCEAD) is the
key technical coordinating body for animal health emergencies.
The CCEAD provides the link between the Commonwealth, states and
territories, industry and AHA. The members of the CCEAD are:
the Australian Chief Veterinary Officer (who chairs the CCEAD);
all state and territory Chief Veterinary Officers (or their
one representative nominated by CSIRO Animal Health;
one representative of AQIS nominated by the Australian Chief
one representative nominated by BA;
one representative of AHA as an observer; and
members of the relevant industry parties (generally including one
member representing a non-affected industry).
Under the EADRA, the CCEAD has the following responsibilities:
assessment of EAD Response Plans submitted by affected
jurisdictions (in order to advise the NMG whether they should be approved);
provision of advice regarding whether an EAD can be eradicated or
monitoring of progress in relation to the response and provision
of regular updates to affected parties and the NMG;
determining when a disease has been contained or eradicated under
an EAD Response Plan; and
recommending when 'proof of freedom' has been achieved.
Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed
The eradication of emergency plant pest incursions which pose a
potential threat to Australia's agricultural industry is conducted in
accordance with the National Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan (the
response plan). The response plan specifies the procedures for handling
emergency plant pest incursions at the national, state, territory and district
Following the detection of an emergency plant pest and declaration of an
outbreak, the Consultative Committee on Emergency Plant Pests (CCEPP) meets to
determine the feasibility of eradication. The CCEPP is Australia's key
technical body for co-ordinating national responses to emergency pest
incursions and assessing the technical feasibility for their eradication. The
CCEPP makes recommendations to the National Management Group (NMG), which is
the decision making body that determines whether to proceed with an eradication
campaign and, if so, approves the national cost sharing arrangements to fund
the campaign. The NMG is made up of the following representatives:
the Secretary of DAFF (Chair);
the CEOs of the affected state and territory government departments;
the President/Chairman of each of the affected industry parties;
Plant Health Australia (PHA) (as an observer).
Funding for eradication campaigns is allocated under the Emergency Plant
Pest Response Deed (EPPRD), a formal cost sharing agreement covering industry
and government funding arrangements for the eradication of emergency plant
pests. The current EPPRD, which came into effect on 26 October 2005, is an
agreement between PHA, the Commonwealth government, all state and territory
governments and the following plant industry signatories:
Almond Board of Australia Inc;
Apple and Pear Australia Limited;
Australian Banana Growers' Council Inc;
Australian Cane Growers' Council Ltd;
Australian Dried Fruit Association Inc;
Australian Honey Bee Industry Council Inc;
Australian Macadamia Society Limited;
Australian Mango Industry Association Ltd;
Australian Olive Association Ltd;
Australian Onion Industry Association Inc;
Australian Plantation Products and Paper Industry Council;
Australian Processing Tomato Research Council Inc;
Australian Table Grape Association Inc;
Australian Walnut Industry Association Inc;
Avocados Australia Ltd;
Canned Fruit Industry Council of Australia Ltd;
Cherry Growers of Australia Inc;
Citrus Australia Ltd;
Cotton Australia Ltd;
Grain Producers Australia Ltd;
Nursery and Garden Industry Australia Ltd;
Queensland Fruit and Vegetable Growers Ltd;
Ricegrowers Association of Australia Inc;
Strawberries Australia Inc;
Summerfruit Australia Ltd; and
Wine Grape Gowers Australia Inc.
Under the EPPRD, Emergency Plant Pests (EPPs) are determined to be in
one of four 'Categories'. It is these 'Categories' which determine the cost
sharing split between affected government and industry parties, based on the
relative private and public benefits of eradication of the pest (see Table 2).
Table 2 – EPPRD cost
Category of disease
Category 1: Large impact on
the environment, human health or amenity flora values and relatively little
impact on commercial crops
100% public funding
Category 2: Significant
impact on amenity flora and/or environmental values and/or effects on
households, or very severe regional and national economic impacts
80% public funding
20 % private funding
Category 3: Minor adverse
impact on public amenities, households or the environment, and/or moderate
trade implications and/or national and regional economic implications
50% public funding
50% private funding
Category 4: Primarily
affects commercial cropping industries, with minor or no economic, trade or
20% public funding
80% private funding
If a national emergency response is agreed under the EPPRD, the Commonwealth
pays 50 per cent of the government share in all instances, with the balance of
the government share divided between the relevant states and territories.
Under the EPPRD the Commonwealth has agreed to initially meet an
industry party's cost sharing obligation where that industry party is unable to
do so. The Commonwealth's payment is made on the basis that the industry party
will repay the Commonwealth within a reasonable period of time (generally no
longer that ten years) using a pre-agreed funding mechanism, such as an EPP
Parties to the EPPRD can establish an EPP Response Levy to meet
financial liabilities for responses under the EPPRD. While this is not the only
option, many industries have chosen this approach, as it provides the greatest
flexibility in relation to adjusting levy rates to suit particular needs. Other
options available include using funds held by the industry in trust accounts,
voluntary levies or funds raised by other means.
The committee acknowledges that Australia's biosecurity system has, over
some years, been the subject of a number of major reviews – starting with the
1995 review chaired by Professor Malcolm Nairn.
The latest review, chaired by Mr Roger Beale, found that whilst Australia's
"biosecurity system has worked well in the past, and is often the envy of
other countries" ... "the system is far from perfect".
The Beale Report also noted that a number of systemic deficiencies have been exposed
over recent years and concluded that there is certainly room for improvement.
The committee notes that a number of major reforms have been proposed by
the Beale Report with the intention of strengthening Australia's biosecurity system.
Proposed reforms include the revision of legislation, improved targeting of
resources, more efficient timelines and operations, improved risk management
and increased transparency.
The committee agrees with the Beale Report's statement regarding the
importance of developing a "seamless biosecurity system that fully
involves all the appropriate players"
and notes that it has, over many years, stressed the importance of promoting an
increased level of cooperation between all stakeholders; including trading
partners, Commonwealth, state and territory governments, industry and the
The committee notes that, consistent with the Beale Review, DAFF is
currently moving away from mandatory intervention targets and working toward a more
risk-based strategy. The committee understands that in moving toward a risk
based approach to biosecurity operations, resources will be focused on the risk
of greatest biosecurity concern. The committee agrees, in principle, to DAFF pursuing
a more risk-based approach to biosecurity. However, the committee also believes
that it is vital that an appropriate level of resources continue to be
allocated to maintain assurance on what DAFF describes as "lower-risk
items and pathways".
The committee understands that proposed new legislation to replace the Quarantine
Act 1908 is close to finalisation. DAFF has indicated that the new
Biosecurity Bill exposure draft and a consultation regulation impact statement
is expected to be released in the first half of 2012. DAFF has also indicated
that it is proposed that the new Biosecurity Bill will be introduced to Parliament
in the second half of 2012. As previously noted, the committee is interested in
conducting a detailed inquiry of the exposure draft and/or the new legislation.
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