Ensuring Australia’s biosecurity

Budget Review 2012–13 Index

Leo Terpstra and Roger Beckmann

The 2012–13 Budget commits $364.7 million[1] 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.[2] 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.[3] 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[4]
  • $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.[5]

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.[6]   

This budget continues the government’s reform agenda in relation to quarantine and biosecurity of a system based on ‘a risk management approach’.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10] [11]

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.[12]

[1].       Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2012–13, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2012, p. 79 and p. 295, viewed 9 May 2012.

[2].       Australian Government, Budget strategy and outlook: budget paper no. 1: 2012–13, Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra, 2012, pp. 1–36, viewed 9 May 2012.

[3].       Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Building a sustainable biosecurity system 2012-13, factsheet, May 2012, viewed 9 May 2012.

[4].       Australian Government, Budget measures: budget paper no. 2: 2012–13, op. cit., p. 295.

[5].       Ibid., p. 79; J Ludwig, (Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry), Boosting biosecurity to protect Australia, media release, 8 May 2012, viewed 10 May 2012.

[6].       Australian Government, Budget Measures: Budget Paper No. 2 2012–13, op. cit., p. 267.

[7].       S Crean (Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government, Minister for the Arts), Ministerial statement 2012–13: Stronger Regions, Stronger Nation, 8 May 2012, pp. 24–5, viewed 10 May 2012.

[8].       L White, ‘Ag’s mixed bag in a tough Budget’, Weekly Times Now, 8 May 2012, viewed 16 May 2012.

[9].       C Bettles, ‘Ag spared slashing, but still no vision’, The Land, 10 May 2012, viewed 11 May 2012; J Cobb, (Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Food Security), Labor delays biosecurity priorities to try for a surplus, media release, 1 May 2012 viewed 11 May 2012.

[10].     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.

[11].     C Bettles, ‘Agriculture unscathed in budget cuts’, The Land, 10 May 2012 p. 6; National Farmers Federation, Ag survives tough budget, but more investment needed for growth, media release, 8 May 2012, viewed 9 May 2012.

[12].     A Vidot, ‘Opposition attacks closure of quarantine stations’, ABC Rural News, 9 May 2012, viewed 11 May 2012.

For copyright reasons some linked items are only available to members of Parliament.

© Commonwealth of Australia

In essence, you are free to copy and communicate this work in its current form for all non-commercial purposes, as long as you attribute the work to the author and abide by the other licence terms. The work cannot be adapted or modified in any way. Content from this publication should be attributed in the following way: Author(s), Title of publication, Series Name and No, Publisher, Date.

To the extent that copyright subsists in third party quotes it remains with the original owner and permission may be required to reuse the material.

Inquiries regarding the licence and any use of the publication are welcome to webmanager@aph.gov.au.

This work has been prepared to support the work of the Australian Parliament using information available at the time of production. The views expressed do not reflect an official position of the Parliamentary Library, nor do they constitute professional legal opinion.

Feedback is welcome and may be provided to: web.library@aph.gov.au. Any concerns or complaints should be directed to the Parliamentary Librarian. Parliamentary Library staff are available to discuss the contents of publications with Senators and Members and their staff. To access this service, clients may contact the author or the Library‘s Central Entry Point for referral.