Key issues – Biosecurity Bill 2014
Submitters to the inquiry supported, in principal, the repeal of the Quarantine
Act 1908 and the introduction of the Biosecurity Bill 2014 and
related draft legislation. However, suggestions for improvement were made.
highlighted issues with aspects of the bill, including offshore
quarantine zones, cost recovery requirements, and offences and enforcement
noted with concern apparent differences between the bill and the
2012 draft legislation; and
questioned whether the bill would provide sufficient and
transparent review processes, particularly regarding the biosecurity import
risk analysis process.
Additionally, submitters commented on issues relevant to the
implementation of a new biosecurity system, and questioned the merit of the
consultation processes for the bill and the proposed subordinate legislation. This
report reflects the main themes and issues brought to the attention of the
committee by submitters to this inquiry.
General support for the bill
Submitters expressed strong general support for the introduction of the bill.
It was recognised that the ageing Quarantine Act can no longer
support modern demands. Submitters characterised the regulatory framework
established by the Quarantine Act as both outdated and out of touch with
Australia's current biosecurity needs.
As the Australian Forest Products Association submitted, 'it is high time to
revise and consolidate the archaic Quarantine Act 1908...with a modern and
effective regulatory framework'.
Submitters were generally satisfied the bill, if passed, would significantly
address deficiencies in the Quarantine Act and lead to a more efficient
regulatory system. The Tasmanian Salmonid Growers Association considered that
'many of the proposed changes to the legislation address the weaknesses in the
Overall, it was evident that industry expects that the bill, if passed, would
reduce existing complexities within the biosecurity system. AUSVEG noted 'the
bill intends to bring much greater simplification to the existing system',
while the Food and Beverage Importers Association (FBIA) submitted the bills
would provide a 'more systematic and clearer' regulatory system.
Several submitters highlighted areas of present confusion for which the
bill, if passed, would provide much needed clarity. Notably, Ports Australia
commented that the new legislation would address uncertainty about the
processes for proclaiming first points of entry:
[T]he current Quarantine Act has no provision for
establishing a first point of entry. This was a matter of some concern to ports
who wanted to become first points of entry and we are accordingly pleased that
the new bill will establish a clear process for securing and maintaining this
Similarly, the FBIA submitted that the Approved Arrangements provisions
in Chapter 7 of the bill would significantly remedy issues with antecedent provisions
in the Quarantine Act that are 'cumbersome' and out of step with industry practice.
There was general industry consensus that the proposed system would
reduce over-regulation, and promote flexibility and consistency between regulatory
requirements and businesses' operational arrangements.
The Australian Forest Products Association Ltd (AFPA) approved the introduction
of the principle of 'shared responsibility' between government and industry.
The Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia Inc (CBFCA) submitted:
It is an industry expectation that the bill will cut red tape
and reduce the regulatory burden on compliant businesses which interact with
Australia's biosecurity system. The bill is seen as providing a strong
regulatory framework to enable the management of biosecurity risks in a
responsive manner, to enhance Australia's capacity to manage biosecurity risks
into the future in partnership with industry and ensures Australia remains
competitive in the international trade environment.
Submitters approved the risk-based approach to biosecurity regulation, arguing
the policy would strengthen Australia's capacity to respond to biosecurity
threats. The AFPA approved of the proposed regulatory approach, stating that it
would provide 'more outcomes focus to the legislation'.
Australian Pork Limited noted it is 'supportive of the bill and is confident
that it will improve the function of Australia's world-class biosecurity
The CBFCA advised the council:
actively supports the proposed new biosecurity legislation
which will create a responsive and flexible operating environment...The new
legislation will provide a better management of the biosecurity security risks
of animal, plants, pests and diseases entering in Australia through the
international trade pathway.
However, many submitters offered recommendations for improvement and
identified areas where their concerns had not been satisfactorily addressed. Submitters
highlighted issues with both provisions of the bill and concerns with the
likely implementation of the proposed new regulatory system.
The committee recognises the need for comprehensive revision of
Australia's biosecurity legislation. On the whole, the Quarantine Act has
served Australia well. However, the piecemeal approach to amendment and update
over the past century has led to legislation that is at best inefficient and,
at worst, unworkable. The identified problems with prescribing a port as a
'first point of entry' is a key example of the need for a new legislative
approach to biosecurity. The committee commends the introduction of the
Biosecurity Bill 2014 and related bills. However, the committee notes
submitters' views on, and concerns with, aspects of the draft legislation. To
ensure the Quarantine Act is replaced with the most appropriate and effective
biosecurity legislative scheme, these views warrant more detailed consideration
and are discussed below.
Differences between the 2012 bills and the 2014 legislative package
The bill before the committee is substantially similar to the 2012
iteration that was considered by the committee in 2013. However, there are differences
between the two bills—some welcomed by stakeholders and others less so. The
Invasive Species Council identified 19 key differences.
These were disputed by the department, which advised that the Council's list
'is not complete nor correct'.
Overall, submitters noted with concern two key differences between the bill and
the 2012 draft legislation: requirements for the regulation of domestic ballast
water and the role of the Inspector-General of Biosecurity.
Proposed regulation of domestic ballast water
The bill proposes to regulate the use of ballast water and management
sediment by Australian and foreign vessels in Australian seas. These changes
would implement Australia's obligations under the International Convention
for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments.
The ballast water and sediment held on board domestic and international ships
have the potential to damage industries that rely on the maritime environment,
such as fisheries and tourism.
The Australian Shipowners Association (ASA) welcomed the management of international
ballast water, observing that 'the industry has long called for consistent
international arrangements and for a single national regime rather than
piecemeal State-based arrangements'.
However, the ASA was critical of the government's decision to introduce
controls over domestic ballast water 'before appropriate treatment systems had
been fitted to vessels'. The ASA reported that the economic impact would be
'considerable', cost 'tens of millions of dollars' and result in delays.
The ASA called for the implementation of the domestic ballast water provisions
to be delayed for a period of six years, to enable all vessels to be fitted
with ballast water treatment systems.
Shipping Australia Ltd (SAL) echoed these concerns, arguing that 'while
consistent national standards for domestic ballast water are supported, the
timing of their introduction is not.'
SAL cited practical and logistical problems with the timing of the proposed new
requirements, advising that 'it is not certain how the additional ballast water
reporting arrangements will be implemented in the Maritime Arrivals Reporting
Systems (MARS), which is still to be rolled out.'
SAL further emphasised that the proposed domestic ballast water provisions had
not been subject to prior industry consultation.
In stark contrast to the advice provided by industry representatives,
the Department of Agriculture advised that the proposed ballast water
provisions were the subject of industry consultation in 2012 and October 2014.
Further, the department advised '[t]here has been no change to the government's
ballast water policy position between the two versions of the bill'.
The regulation of domestic ballast water is not unique to the 2014 bill, but
was a feature of the Biosecurity Bill 2012:
The Biosecurity Bill 2012 included an Australia-wide ballast
water and sediment management regime, which included the management of both
international and domestic ballast water.
This advice was also provided in the department's submission to the
committee's inquiry into the Biosecurity Bill 2012.
However, the department did advise that requirements for pre-arrival
reporting have been extended in the 2014 bill to encompass all vessels
intending to discharge ballast water.
The Department of Agriculture further advised that a six year delay in
implementing the domestic ballast water requirements is unnecessary as the bill
would allow several options to manage domestic ballast water. These options
would include ballast water exchanges and obtaining exemptions from the
Director of Biosecurity, which would 'limit the regulatory impact of the
requirements of the bill whilst industry prepares for the changes.'
Further, department stated its 'intention, where appropriate, to liaise with
regulated stakeholders regarding the development of any regulations and administrative
The regulation of ballast water would clearly have an impact on the
shipping industry. However, the department has provided assurances that it
would work with industry to facilitate its transition to the new requirements.
The committee considers that this is an appropriate response, especially given
Australia's international maritime obligations.
Inspector-General of Biosecurity
As detailed in chapter 1 of this report, the 2012 draft legislation
included the Inspector-General of Biosecurity Bill 2012 that, if passed, would
have transformed the Office of the Inspector-General of Biosecurity from an
administrative to a statutory position. The bill would have clearly defined the
role and responsibilities of the Inspector-General of Biosecurity. Prescribed
responsibilities would have included reviewing and publicly reporting on the performance
of biosecurity officials and the process for conducting biosecurity import risk
As noted in the explanatory memorandum to the 2012 bill, it was intended that
this independent oversight would 'provide an assurance framework for stakeholders'
and encourage continual improvement.
Overall, submitters to the 2012 inquiry supported the objectives of the
Inspector-General of Biosecurity Bill 2012. However, submitters sought
additional measures to further the Inspector's independence.
While the review process would differ, the Biosecurity Bill 2014 does
include a framework for the review of the exercise of the powers and functions
of biosecurity officials. Clause 567 would authorise the Minister to review the
administration of the biosecurity regulatory requirements. Clause 643 would
allow the review powers to be delegated. The explanatory memorandum clarifies
that it is envisaged the review function would be undertaken by the
Inspector-General of Biosecurity.
Submitters were highly critical of the proposed review process under
clauses 567 and 643. The process was condemned a 'backwards' and
'retrograde' step that would potentially allow conflicts of interest.
Submitters highlighted key differences between clauses 567 and 643 and the review
process designed under the Inspector-General of Biosecurity Bill 2012.
Specifically, submitters noted with concern the proposed discretionary timing,
conduct and scope of the reviews and the internal, confidential nature of
Submitters concluded that the bill would not guarantee independent,
transparent review. The Law Council of Australia advised that 'the lack of a
statutory basis for the Inspector-General of Biosecurity has the potential to
reduce the independence of that office.'
Similar concerns are evident in AUSVEG's comment that clauses 567 and 643
'cannot legitimately be described as an independent review process'.
One submitter questioned the legitimacy of an internal review framework,
characterising the 2014 proposal as 'a major step backwards in the necessary
integrity of Australia's biosecurity system.'
There was evident concern that the proposed review framework is not
aligned with the object of shared responsibility between government and
industry. As AUSVEG stated:
[a]s it stands the Department is not subject to any form of
mandated review. This is a retrograde step and only serves to reinforce the
impression that the Department does not want any meaningful dialogue with
industry unless it is on their terms.
Accordingly, there was strong support for a return to the 2012 approach.
It was put to the committee that, contrary to what is proposed in the
Biosecurity Bill 2014, the office of the Inspector-General of Biosecurity
should be a statutory position.
The department took a different view, and informed the committee that
the Inspector-General would continue to have broad investigatory powers.
Further, the department advised that, should the Minister's powers be delegated
to the Inspector-General, the bill would enhance the Inspector-General's
capacity to compel information and would essentially 'enable the existing
Inspector-General of Biosecurity to do things that a statutory position would
be able to do.'
The bill does not seek to diminish the role of the Inspector-General of
Biosecurity. Rather, through delegation, the Inspector-General's review powers
could increase. The committee notes with interest advice in the explanatory
memorandum and evidence before the inquiry that it is envisaged that the Inspector-General
would be integral to the maintenance and ongoing improvement of Australia's
However, the committee respects submitters' views that there is
potential for the independence of internal reviews to be compromised. It is of
concern that the bill does not contemplate that review findings will be
publicly released. This seems contrary to the shared commitment between
government and industry to biosecurity management. It is the committee's view
that review findings should be publicly released and reports tabled in
Parliament. Additionally, it would benefit Australia's biosecurity management
system if reviews were routinely conducted.
The committee recommends that the findings of reviews conducted
under clause 567 of the Biosecurity Bill 2014 be publicly released and
reports tabled in Parliament.
Concerns with provisions of the bill
Submitters noted concerns with a number provisions in the bill; of
particular note were:
the Biosecurity Risk Analyses process;
offshore quarantine zones;
cost recovery requirements; and
enforcement provisions, including proposed offences and entry,
search and seizure powers.
The Biosecurity Risk Analysis process
The Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis (BIRA) process proposed by the bill
was the source of much concern amongst submitters. The committee heard that
particular issues arose from the role of the Eminent Scientists Group (or
similar body), regional difference and transparency. Some submitters also
expressed dissatisfaction with the consultation process conducted by the
The current import risk analysis process is not specifically referred to
in the Quarantine Act; however it is referred to in the Quarantine
Regulations 2000 and the IRA Handbook 2011.
Part 2, Division 2, of the bill sets out the proposed scheme for BIRAs. Clause
165 contains a simplified outline of the part, stating that:
This part provides for the Director of Biosecurity to conduct
Biosecurity Import Risk Analyses (BIRAs) in relation to particular goods, or a
particular class of goods, that may be imported, or are proposed to be
imported, into Australian territory.
A BIRA is an evaluation of the level of biosecurity risk
associated with the goods or the class of goods.
A BIRA may identify conditions that may be met to manage the
level of biosecurity risk associated with the goods, or the class of goods, to
a level that achieves the ALOP [Appropriate Level of Protection] for Australia.
A note has been added, stating:
The level of biosecurity risk associated with the goods may
vary according to the place in Australian territory at which the goods are to
enter Australian territory or be unloaded, so the conditions may vary
The ALOP is defined in the bill as 'a high level of sanitary and
phytosanitary protection aimed at reducing biosecurity risk to a very low
level, but not to zero'.
The Director of Biosecurity may conduct a BIRA, and decide in which
order BIRAs are conducted. The Minister for Agriculture may also direct the
Director of Biosecurity to commence a BIRA in relation to particular goods or
class of goods. The direction must be in writing, provide reasons and be tabled
in both Houses of Parliament.
The bill does not set out the process the Director of Biosecurity would
have to follow when making a BIRA, other than to state that s/he must follow
the process set out in the Regulations and any guidelines created by the
Director of Biosecurity. The guidelines may provide matters to be taken into
account when conducting a BIRA. Any such guidelines would need to be published
on the Department of Agriculture's website, and would not be a legislative
The bill would require the regulations to require the Director to
prepare three reports and as part of the BIRA process: a draft report, a
provisional report and a final BIRA report. Each of these reports must include
any information prescribed by the regulations and be published in accordance
with the regulations.
The explanatory memorandum to clause 170 states that it is intended that
stakeholders can comment on the draft reports and that these comments would be
taken into account when preparing the provisional and final reports.
The bill provides neither a right to request review of a BIRA nor a
right to request reasons for a BIRA.
The draft regulations and guidelines for making a BIRA are yet to be released
by the department. The department has provided a table setting out the
differences between the current process and the process proposed by the bill.
Criticism of the BIRA process
Some submitters strongly criticised the BIRA process in the bill,
arguing that the bill does not improve transparency, accountability or reduce
conflicts of interest.
Curiously, the bill reserves all relevant direction about the process itself to
be dealt with in the regulations, and the person who conducts the BIRA process
is the same person who sets the guidelines to be followed when conducting a
BIRA: the Director of Biosecurity.
For example, AUSVEG observed that Part 2 of the bill 'does not include
any requirement for the Director of Biosecurity to provide stakeholders with
the reasoning behind decisions for having or not having a BIRA'; nor is there a
requirement for BIRAs to be subject to external review.
More generally, the Australian Honey Bee Industry Council (AHBIC) emphasised
that the BIRA process must be timely, and gave the example of the drone semen
import analysis that has been ongoing since 2001.
The AHBIC recommended that the bill or regulations be amended to provide that a
BIRA is completed within a 'reasonable time frame'. Delays can result in damage
or disadvantage to particular industries and 'tempts illegal importation'.
The following section discusses the key issues.
Criticism of the BIRA process: The
role of the Eminent Scientists Group
A number of submitters criticised the removal of the Eminent Scientists
Group (ESG) from the decision making process in the new BIRA.
The AFPA observed that the bill in its current form may be deficient in
relation to the BIRA process, submitting that:
[a]ppropriate provisions should be included for expert input
with relevance to industry, to ensure scientific rigour and impartiality.
Further, an independent appeal process based on facts and science should be
The NSW Natural Resources Commission drew the committee's attention to
the difficulty with making an accurate risk assessment when it comes to
invasive species, and the need for expert advice:
[T]here is often insufficient information to perform an
accurate quantitative risk assessment. Further, risks and impacts to the
environment can be difficult, if not impossible, to quantify in economic terms.
Given the limitations of quantitative risk assessment, a range of experts
should be involved in evaluating outcomes and deliberating responses.
The unique nature of biosecurity risks should be considered
in designing any risk assessment process so that long-term impacts are properly
evaluated. It may be difficult to assess long-term risks of invasive species
relative to emergencies such as disease outbreaks.
The Australian Banana Growers Council (ABGC) submitted that the role of
the eminent scientists group in the BIRA process must be 'maintained and strengthened'.
In response to questions asked by the committee, the department
emphasised that science is at the centre of its 'evidence based policy
development, decision-making and service delivery', and that the department
employs a large number of scientists with specialisations in a variety of
Specifically, in relation to the ESG, the department advised that:
[d]uring the examination of the IRA process the department
found that the ESG is highly valued in the IRA process but that improvements
could be made to increase its value to the department and to stakeholders.
Views from stakeholders supported the continuing use of the ESG or similar
external expert group in the IRA process. However many stakeholders made
comments about its structure, role and timing within the process.
The draft regulations released in 2012 noted that the Director of
Biosecurity may commission research or advice when s/he considered that such
advice is essential.
The National Farmers' Federation (NFF) observed that the wording in the 2012
draft regulations may go some way to addressing its concerns, however
'there remains a lack of independent scientific oversight that, while possibly
finding agreement with the Director's final decision, will assist in placing
any accusations levelled at the Director for the decision.'
In response to questioning, the department assured the committee that it would
consult further with stakeholders on the use of external scientific advice when
the draft regulations and guidelines are released for consultation later this
As the regulations and guidelines have not yet been released by the
government the committee is unable to make any further comment on the adequacy
or otherwise of these documents as they relate to the BIRA process. Nevertheless,
it is clear to the committee that the success of the BIRA process will rest, in
part, on the contributions of independent scientists with the appropriate
Criticism of the BIRA process:
The committee heard that the bill does not adequately account for
regional differences across Australia. This was also a criticism of the 2012
As outlined earlier, a BIRA may 'identify conditions that must be met to
manage the level of biosecurity risk associated with the goods, or class of
goods, to a level that achieves the appropriate level of protection for
The ABGC expressed concern that the 'generality' of this clause will mean a
BIRA could permit certain geographic areas to import particular items because
the appropriate level of protection is low in that region. Using the example of
fruit importation, the council submitted that once the fruit is in Australia it
is very difficult to then prevent the fruit being brought into another area,
especially as this responsibility would fall to state governments.
In the case of bananas, the council submitted that:
[i]t is not acceptable to suggest that the protection of a
domestic industry from exotic pests and diseases will rely upon the public's
goodwill to appropriately dispose of fruit when travelling interstate or
between restricted zones. Given that bananas are the single most commonly
purchased item in Australian supermarkets, the ABGC considers both the
likelihood and consequences of the travelling public transferring disease into
commercial growing regions as high.
The Tasmanian Salmonoid Growers Association were also critical of the bill's
failure to formally recognise regional differences when assessing biosecurity
risk, submitting that 'the removal of current regional differentiation fails to
prevent accidental or mischievous introduction of disease by even a single
Cherry Growers Australia submitted that:
[t]he one size fits all does not suit the continent of
Australia and the Federal Government in conjunction with the State and
Territory jurisdictions should work together to ensure this occurs and can be
flexible to changes over time.
The department, in its submission, advised that it had addressed these
concerns in the 2014 bill:
[T]he provisions in the Biosecurity Bill 2014 have been
strengthened to include a note in the provisions for conducting biosecurity
import risk analyses which explicitly states that the department can and will
consider areas of different pest or disease status when conducting IRAs under
the Biosecurity Bill 2014.
Clause 166 of the bill states that a BIRA will identify the risk posed
by a particular good, or class of goods, and detail any necessary biosecurity
risk management conditions. The note to the section acknowledges that risk
level, and therefore necessary conditions, may vary between geographical areas:
Clause 166: Note
The level of biosecurity risk associated with the goods may
vary according to the place in Australian territory at which the goods are to
enter Australian Territory or be unloaded, so the conditions may vary
The department assured the committee that regional difference would be
taken into account, and that the differences between regions in Australia are
During the hearing the department advised that it did not consider it
appropriate to use the term 'regional difference' in the legislation because
'it is not a term defined in relevant international agreements or standards'.
Ms Debbie Langford, Assistant Secretary, Department of Agriculture, explained
the measures in the bill that would address the regional differences in
Firstly, I would point you towards the actual definition of
biosecurity risk, and that is in section 9, on page 13 of your copy. In there
it says that biosecurity risk is the likelihood of a disease or pest entering,
establishing et cetera, and the potential for causing harm. I think the key
there is that we will see that it is entering Australian territory or part of
Australian territory. And that is so that when we are looking at risk we can
say that it is one risk to the country but a different risk to a part of the
country. That is something we can do because of that definition.
The BIRA process is a cornerstone of the bill, and it is important that
the framework is fair, accurate and achieves the intended purposes. The
committee is concerned that the BIRA process as it is currently articulated may
be deficient in these respects. The committee seeks assurances from the
department that BIRA reports released by the Director of Biosecurity are
subject to review, that reasons for BIRAs will be given, and that there is
recourse for stakeholders who disagree with a BIRA made under this Part. The
committee also seeks assurances from the department that the regulations will
require that reasons for a BIRA be provided to stakeholders, and that, where
appropriate, expert scientific assistance will be sought.
Australia is a large country with diverse regions. Different regions
have different risk profiles. The committee recognises the concerns expressed
by stakeholders as valid: a one size fits all approach is not appropriate.
Pleasingly, this is a view also shared by the department. The committee is
satisfied that the department has given weight to the valid concerns expressed.
The note to clause 166 would recognise that 'the level of biosecurity risk
associated with the goods may vary according to the place in Australia at which
the goods are to enter Australia or be unloaded'. The committee is satisfied
with the department's advice that this will ensure that regional differences
can be taken into account when assessing biosecurity risk.
The committee recommends that the government ensure that the Biosecurity
Regulations state that the Director of Biosecurity must request expert scientific
advice when conducting Biosecurity Import Risk Analyses.
The committee recommends that the government ensure the regulations
state that the Director of Biosecurity must provide all stakeholders with a
reasonable opportunity to comment on each Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis report.
The committee recommends that the Biosecurity Regulations require that
the Director of Biosecurity provide reasons for the conclusions reached in each
Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis report.
The committee recommends that the government ensure that the Biosecurity
Regulations provide a process for internal review if an interested party
disagrees with a final Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis report.
Offshore quarantine zones
Clause 191 would establish the boundaries of Australia's quarantine zone
by making all aircraft and vessels entering 'Australian territory' subject to
biosecurity controls. Relevantly, clause 12 would define 'Australian territory'
to include the 'coastal sea of Australia'. While not explored in the
explanatory memorandum to the bill, Australia's coastal sea, and therefore
'Australian territory', extends to 12 nautical miles off the Australian coast.
This figure is the culmination of definitions spread across the bill, the Acts
Interpretation Act 1901, the Seas and Submerged Lands Act 1973 and
the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
At present, Australia's quarantine zone encompasses Australia's 'exclusive
economic zone', which is 200 nautical miles from the Australian coast. The bill
would have the effect of moving the quarantine boundary from 200 nautical miles
to 12 nautical miles.
As the department acknowledged, this substantial change in the jurisdiction of
Australia's quarantine zone would shift the regulatory focus from sea-based installations
to vessels travelling from installations to Australia's coastal sea. As the department
regulation under the Quarantine Act largely focuses on
interactions between an installation and an international conveyance. However,
this is not the primary area of biosecurity risk...It is movements by domestic
conveyances travelling between the installation and mainland Australia that
pose the greatest biosecurity risk.
The department acknowledged the jurisdictional change would transfer the
regulatory burden, with the effect that 'conveyances travelling between
Australia and an installation outside 12 nautical miles would be subject to
However, the committee was informed that this is necessary to appropriately
target biosecurity risks:
The bill will achieve better risk management outcomes by
shifting legislative focus to conveyances entering Australian
territory...Installations are remote and located in deep waters beyond the 12
nautical mile mark. This remoteness means that the installation itself and any
interaction with international conveyances that do not travel on to mainland
Australia do not pose a significant biosecurity security risk.
The Australian Shipowners Association was critical of this proposed
change, submitting that:
[t]his change will result in an enormous compliance and
operational burden for thousands of vessel movements compared to the handful of
international facilities that previously required quarantine clearance each
The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) shared
these concerns, estimating that compliance costs would exceed $10 million
per year. APPEA also advised that imposing biosecurity regulations on currently
unregulated activities would present operational difficulties that could
substantially increase business costs.
APPEA also warned that the additional regulation would undermine the industry's
The Department of Agriculture advised it intends to deal with this
change in policy through Approved Arrangements, exemptions and standing permissions;
the particulars of which will be dealt with in the regulations.
However both APPEA and the ASA were sceptical of this approach, questioning the
form and content of the proposed regulations.
As the ASA stated:
"We'll sort it out in the regulations" is not a
satisfactory basis for industry to be assured that the requirements will not
pose an excessive burden.
The ASA also questioned the process for obtaining exemptions, advising
that such arrangements would be:
an acceptable outcome provided that such exemption is
automatic or deemed and the vessel itself...does not have to apply to be
granted such exception.
The associations also disputed the necessity for the new regulatory
approach, arguing that the process would not improve biosecurity management but
would increase red tape and be inconsistent with the policy to remove unnecessary
Retracting Australia's quarantine zone from 200 nautical miles to 12
nautical miles is a significant change. While the committee considers that it
is an appropriate and proportionate response to targeting the biosecurity risks
presented by vessels entering Australian territory, the effect on Australia's
shipping industry should not be underestimated.
The committee agrees with the intended approach to develop Approved
Arrangements, exemptions and standing permissions to ensure that biosecurity
requirements are not only robust and effective but are appropriately tailored
for industry participants. The committee anticipates that a broad cross-section
of affected industries would seek Approved Arrangements and related instruments.
This would foster a culture of working partnership between government and
industry and, in turn, strengthen Australia's biosecurity response.
However, the committee has not received assurances that Approved
Arrangements, exemptions and standing permissions will be finalised before the
new biosecurity requirements would commence. As new regulatory requirements,
the affected vessels could not access the three year transition period that
would be afforded to vessels currently regulated (as detailed in chapter 1 of
this report). Industry's concern is therefore understandable.
The committee recommends the Department of Agriculture commit all
resources necessary to ensure that Approved Arrangements, exemptions and
standing permissions arising out of the proposed jurisdictional change would be
in force before the bill, if passed, would commence. The committee will be
seeking the department's advice on its progress with this matter.
The committee recommends that the Department of Agriculture commit all
resources necessary to ensure that Approved Arrangements, exemptions and
standing permissions arising out of the proposed change in Australia's quarantine
zone from 200 nautical miles to 12 nautical miles are in force before the bill,
if passed, would commence.
The committee recommends that the Department of Agriculture provide
updates to the committee on its progress with developing Approved Arrangements,
exemptions and standing permissions arising out of the proposed change in
Australia's quarantine zone from 200 nautical miles to 12 nautical miles.
The committee also notes that neither the explanatory memorandum nor the
bill clearly define the territorial limits of Australia's quarantine zone.
Legislation, and its requirements, should be clear, easy to interpret and to apply.
It is of some concern to the committee that it requires interpretation of
multiple pieces of legislation to understand the extent of the proposed
biosecurity zone. The committee recommends that a note be added to clause 12 of
the bill to clearly advise the reader of the legislative basis for the
boundaries of Australia's quarantine zone. At a minimum, the explanatory
memorandum should be amended to provide an overview of the relevant sections in
the Acts Interpretation Act, the Seas and Submerged Lands Act and the United
Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The committee recommends that a note be added to clause 12 of the
Biosecurity Bill 2014 to clearly advise the reader of the legislative basis for
the boundaries of Australia's biosecurity zone.
The committee recommends that the explanatory memorandum to the
Biosecurity Bill 2014 be amended to clearly outline the legislative basis for
the 12 nautical mile quarantine boundary proposed under the Biosecurity Bill 2014.
Part 3, Chapter 11 of the bill would allow the government to charge fees
for activities carried out under the bill, if passed. Part 3 would also
authorise the government to take certain actions, including the selling of
goods, to recover unpaid cost recovery charges. The department advised that the
proposed cost recovery provisions adhere to the Australian Government's Cost
As the committee was informed, cost recovery extends only to the cost of
biosecurity services. It does not include general and unrelated government
Consistent with the Australian Government cost recovery
policy, the Department recovers the costs of biosecurity activities from
recipients of the activity. Those that create the risk or need for regulation
are charged the cost of the activity. Other costs that are not related to the
provision of cost recovered activities, and those mandatory functions due to
the Department being a government entity, are funded by government.
The NFF noted its support for the proposed sale of withheld goods to
recover unpaid fees.
While not necessarily supporting the policy to transfer cost to industry, both
the CBFCA and the Tasmanian Salmonid Growers Association called for
cost-effective and cost efficient, equitable and transparent cost recovery
arrangements. Industry consultation was seen as key.
A number of submitters drew the committee's attention to the fact that
there is a public benefit arising from appropriate biosecurity risk management,
and submitted that costs should not be borne by industry alone. For example, in
relation to Australian forests, the committee heard that plant species in native
forests managed by AFPA members are 'prevalent across the landscape and across
land tenures in natural forests and urban environments'. Consequently, it was
argued that industry should not bear sole responsibility for the costs of plant
biosecurity management as 'biosecurity risks and responsibilities are not
exclusive to our industry rather there is a significant public good aspect'.
Similarly, Tasmanian Salmonid Growers Association submitted:
TSGA recognises that some fee-for-service activities should
occur but primary industry should not be responsible for covering the costs due
to the demonstrated public good that biosecurity as to the Australian public.
The AFPA further noted that, in keeping with the policy intentions
underlying the bill, the new biosecurity regulatory framework should result in
a more cost efficient regulatory system. The AFPA submitted that these savings
should, in turn, be passed on to industry.
In response to the committee's questions, the department advised that it
would revise its costings following the implementation of the bill, if passed.
Revised costings 'would reflect any reduction in the cost base from savings to
regulatory and operational reforms'.
The committee expects that the cost recovery framework would, should the
bills pass, reflect the costs of a modern, efficient regulatory system.
Proposed coercive powers
The Law Council of Australia questioned the proposed expanded powers of
Of particular note were the proposed powers to enter and search premises and to
seize or destroy material without warrant or the owner's consent.
The council argued that powers to act without warrant or consent are
'extraordinary'. The council also noted with concern the apparent lack of
safeguards, including training and qualification requirements, to ensure the
powers are only used appropriately. It was recommended that, in line with the
safeguards applying to the exercise of coercive powers by the Australian
Federal Police, the bill be amended to require a report on the exercise of the
powers to be presented to the relevant Minister or to an independent statutory
body. Alternatively, Council recommended the bill be amended to allow an
independent statutory body to determine whether powers, where exercised, were used
lawfully and proportionately.
In response, the Department of Agriculture advised that the proposed
warrant powers are necessary and proportionate to manage the unique threats
posed by biosecurity emergencies.
The department further advised that training programs and guidelines would be
available to biosecurity officers, and that biosecurity enforcement officers would
be expected to comply with the Australian Government Investigations Standards.
(General training requirements of biosecurity officers are discussed in more
The power to enter and search premises, and to seize goods, without the
owner's consent or without a warrant is significant, and has the potential to
substantially infringe personal rights and liberties. However, in certain
circumstances such powers are necessary. The committee accepts that the ability
to quickly enter premises without consent may be an appropriate response to the
threats posed by biosecurity emergencies. Yet, the committee does not accept
such power should be exercised without scrutiny. Disclosure of any such use of
the coercive powers proposed under the bill is necessary to ensure a
transparent and proportionate regulatory system. The committee agrees with the
Law Council of Australia that it would be appropriate that each instance of the
use of powers—to enter and search premises without warrant or consent or to
seize material without warrant or consent—be reported to the Minister and to
The committee recommends the Biosecurity Bill 2014 be amended to require
that the use of powers to enter and search premises without warrant or consent
and to seize or destroy goods without warrant or consent to be reported to the
Minister and to Parliament.
Submitters did not fail to notice what the department characterised as
'improved compliance tools that are fit for purpose, modern and useful'.
In particular, submitters noted the proposed introduction of strict liability offences
and increased penalty levels.
The Law Council of Australia criticised proposed offences with penalty
levels that would exceed the penalties for similar offences in existing
Commonwealth legislation. In particular, the council noted clause 69, which would
create the offence of failing to provide prescribed contact information. The
offence would carry a penalty of imprisonment for 12 months, 60 penalty units
or both. The council advised that this penalty level exceeds that of similar
offences under the Australian Federal Police Act 1979.
The explanatory memorandum does not provide information about the proposed
The bill also contains several strict liability offences; that is,
offences for which 'fault' does not apply.
As the CBFCA noted, these offences signal a 'change in the department's
Broadly, there were three concerns with the proposed use of strict liability
First, submitters questioned whether strict liability is generally an
appropriate deterrence mechanism. The Law Council of Australia argued that
strict liability is a significant departure from normal Commonwealth practice,
particularly for offences relating to non-compliance or failure to provide
The Council also advised that, at times, justification provided in the
explanatory memorandum misrepresents the views of third parties such as the
Second, submitters highlighted proposed offences that would apply to
persons with communication difficulties. Clause 58 was of particular note. This
clause would create the strict liability offence of failing to comply with a
direction. The Law Council of Australia submitted that in this instance the use
of strict liability would be inappropriate as it would unreasonably increase
biosecurity officers' powers of control, search, monitoring and questioning.
In respect of clause 58, the explanatory memorandum advises that 'special
protections' would be provided to children and 'individuals who may be
temporarily incapable of understanding requirements or complying with a measure
due to illness'.
Specifically, it advises that such 'incapable persons' or children would not be
subject to the requirement to provide information 'unless an officer has taken
reasonable steps to contact a parent, guardian or next of kin'.
The explanatory memorandum does not comment on the potential liability of
persons who do not otherwise understand directions, for example due to language
barriers. In its consideration of the bill, the Senate Standing Committee for
the Scrutiny of Bills observed that strict liability offences are appropriate
in some circumstances, but asked the Minister for Agriculture to provide 'a
fuller justification of the application of strict liability in this instance',
[It] is possible that persons subject to requirements to
answer questions may have recently arrived in Australia and may also be
suffering from an illness, there may be instances where they are not reasonably
able to comply with a request to answer questions or provide information as
While not noted by submitters to the inquiry, the committee is aware
that a similar situation would arise under clause 46. This clause would create
a civil penalty for failing to comply with certain entry and exit requirements.
An individual may still contravene entry and exit requirements even if the
individual is unable to comply. The explanatory memorandum does not provide an
explanation, or a justification, for this proposal. At the hearing, the
Department of Agriculture provided the following advice:
[S]ubsection (4) of section 46 has the keywords 'may
contravene'...We have been interpreting the law and those kinds of phrases for a
At the committee's request, the department outlined a potential
Say, for example, if you are unable to speak the language in
which a form was available. We try to make forms available in a wide range of languages,
but for the sake of argument, we did not have one in a language. The obligation
still exists on the individual to comply with the law even if, despite best
efforts, the requirement is unable to be met. Again, the key phrase there is 'may',
so there is an element of discretion.
Third, the CBFCA argued there is a significant need for the Government
to widely disseminate information about the proposed offences, as service
providers can otherwise rely on information provided by third parties:
It is important to note that service providers (licensed
customs brokers in particular) are accredited by the Department under the
Non-Commodity for Containerised Cargo Clearance (NCCC) Accreditation Course.
Such accredited persons are employed by the business entity that holds a
Compliance Arrangement with the Department. These accredited persons are
responsible for documentation assessment on behalf of the cargo owner
(importer), in facilitating biosecurity border clearance activities.
As to the new strict liability provisions it will be
important (as to the responsible person listed under future Approved
Arrangement) to ensure such persons are aware of obligations related to
documentation assessment, clearance and movement of cargo subject to
biosecurity risks, as under an Approved Arrangement it is the business entity
which will be the entity which will bear any strict liability offence by the
employee under vicarious liability and this issue will impact on business
The CBFCA's concern that proposed penalties may not be appropriate for
persons relying on third party information was also noted in relation to
clauses 532 and 533. These clauses would create civil penalties for knowingly
providing false or misleading information or documents. The council particularly
noted that third parties, such as customs brokers, act in good faith on
In response, the Department of Agriculture advised that the civil
penalty is designed to target behaviours undertaken knowingly, and further
stated that the defence of reasonable mistake of fact may be available.
Deterrence is a necessary component of any effective regulatory system.
The committee agrees with the Department's advice that penalties must be
proportionate, balanced, consistent and based on the level of presented risk.
However, it is unclear whether this balance has been achieved in every case.
In some cases, such as in relation to clause 140, the proposed departure
from the Commonwealth standard has been explained in relation to the likely
resulting biosecurity hazard. However, in other cases, such as the proposed
offence in clause 69, the decision for penalties to exceed those that
currently apply to similar offences in Commonwealth legislation has not been
well explained. All departures from Commonwealth norms must be justified. Such
justification must be included in the explanatory memorandum. The committee
also notes the extensive comments of the Senate Standing Committee for the
Scrutiny of Bills following its review of the bills. These comments include concerns
with the penalty levels for some of the proposed offences and civil penalties.
The committee draws these concerns and the Minister's response when it is
provided, to the Senate's attention.
The use of strict liability is a significant departure from Commonwealth
standards. While permissible, it should not be undertaken lightly. The strict
liability offences would not only apply to industry, but to ordinary Australian
citizens and foreign tourists. These are serious offences with serious
penalties. Their purpose is to create a safe Australia, not to catch people
unawares. Information is key. It is incumbent upon government to disseminate
well targeted, clear and thorough information about Australia's biosecurity
requirements and the offences that may apply.
The committee remains concerned that the strict liability offences are
inappropriate for persons who are unable to communicate with biosecurity
officers or understand instructions. The committee seeks assurances that all
necessary steps would be taken to ensure information is appropriate for foreign
nationals and persons with disabilities. The department should arrange advice
sheets appropriate for persons with disabilities and persons from non-English speaking
The committee also notes the proposed civil penalty under clause 46,
under which a person may still be liable despite being incapable of complying
with directions. The integrity of this scheme would rely on the training,
patience and common sense of biosecurity officers. It is vital that biosecurity
officers routinely undertake cross-cultural and customer service training, and
have all necessary support to be equipped to exercise sound judgement in all
The concerns put forward by the CBFCA highlight the novelty of the
proposed enforcement regime. There is evident confusion about how the offences
and civil penalties will work in practice. This is all the more reason for
government to provide clear guidance to industry. This committee's inquiry has
brought to light particular offences, and aspects of offences, that need to be
explained. For example, advice could usefully explain the concept of knowingly,
as opposed to inadvertently, providing false information.
The committee recommends that the Department of Agriculture and the
Department of Health ensure that advice sheets about the proposed new biosecurity
requirements, and related offences, are available and appropriate for people
with disabilities and people from non-English speaking backgrounds.
The committee recommends that the Department of Agriculture and the
Department of Health develop guidance material to facilitate industry's
transition to the proposed new compliance regime.
Concerns with the implementation of a new regulatory system
Submitters raised the following issues relevant to the implementation of
a new biosecurity regulatory system:
cross-jurisdictional coordination; and
the qualifications and training of biosecurity officers.
Co-ordination between Commonwealth
agencies and the states and territories
Four government departments would have responsibilities under the
proposed bill: the Departments of Agriculture, Environment, Foreign Affairs and
Trade, and Health.
In addition, the Immigration and Border Protection Portfolio has
responsibilities under the proposed package of legislation, and worked with the
Department of Agriculture in the development of the bill.
Relatedly, one submitter in particular was critical of the fact that the
Minister for the Department of the Environment was not specifically mentioned
in the bill.
The proposed bill also touches upon a number of state responsibilities.
The committee heard that there may be areas where commonwealth and state
responsibilities conflict, or at least overlap, and it is important that
appropriate coordination occurs to ensure that biosecurity risks are managed
The NSW Natural Resources Commission noted that an intergovernmental
agreement, as permitted by the bill, could be used to ensure adequate
surveillance to quickly identify and manage new incursions of invasive species:
[T]he Commonwealth should support devolved, regionalised
arrangements that have sufficient funds to tackle the new incursions
expeditiously and seriously. These arrangements should be consistent across
Australia with strong data sharing arrangements to support rapid response.
Australian Pork Limited noted that the proposed expansion of the Commonwealth's
ability to declare biosecurity emergencies and zones may result in a shift from
state managed responses to national management. This may be a positive
development for large multi-state responses, but might create a source of
tension for smaller emergencies, especially if a particular state wanted to
respond to an emergency differently to the Commonwealth.
Nevertheless, Australian Pork Limited expressed confidence that the new powers
proposed by the bill would 'complement' existing cooperative arrangements, such
as the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement, 'rather than hinder them'.
The AFPA approved recent investment in pest trapping programs at ports,
but observed that given the large number of organisations at the state and
federal level involved in such programs there is a risk that important
information might not be shared with all relevant organisations. The AFPA
suggested that the bill or regulations be amended to enable important
information relating, for example, to research findings or new trapping
methodologies to be shared with all stakeholders.
The committee heard that there are well established coordination
processes in place between the Commonwealth and the states and territories. The
department advised that the bill would promote further collaboration, and the
Commonwealth would 'continue to encourage the States and Territory governments
to provide input and feedback in the development of delegated legislation and
administrative practices, as appropriate.'
Submitters commented that adequate funding is crucial to managing
biosecurity risk, and to ensure that states and territories can take
appropriate action. The NFF observed a decrease in government funding to assist
industry in the area of disease surveillance and control.
The NFF asked the committee to:
seek clarity on how the Federal Government intends resourcing
its responsibilities under the new legislation and under what agreements the
Federal and jurisdictional governments will ensure co-operation in pooling
their resources to maximum effect.
In response, the department advised that '[t]here are no proposals to
amend existing funding arrangements with regard to biosecurity emergencies.'
For the bill to operate as intended there must be cooperation between
the various relevant Commonwealth departments, and between the Commonwealth,
the states and the territories. The committee is satisfied that the bill has
been drafted with cross-jurisdictional challenges in mind and that cooperation
The qualifications and training of
This section elaborates on the comments made earlier in this chapter in
relation to the qualifications of officers exercising coercive powers earlier.
The committee heard that the effectiveness of the new risk security framework
is based on the skills of biosecurity officers within the Department of
Agriculture. For this reason, a number of submitters called for greater
investment in skills and training.
For example, the Plant Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre called
for a significant increase in government investment in biosecurity science and
training, observing that:
Currently, many frontline biosecurity officers have little
biological training – their major responsibilities related to checking that importers,
passengers and others are following pre-set standard rules and procedures.
Under a more flexible arrangement they will face more complex situations,
sometimes with different considerations being required for the same commodity.
The move to a risk based approach will require a very significant investment in
training of officers involved in frontline biosecurity activities to ensure
that they can deal with this increased complexity and can recognise when things
The Australian Veterinary Association called for recognition in the bill
when a biosecurity officer is required to have the particular skills of a
The committee asked the departments to comment on the training and
qualifications necessary for a person to become a biosecurity officer, human
biosecurity officer and biosecurity enforcement officer. In relation to
biosecurity officers, the departments advised:
Powers under the legislation will be exercised by appointed
biosecurity officers (see clause 545) who have the appropriate training and
knowledge to recognise biosecurity risks and manage them
appropriately—supported by extensive technical, policy and scientific
The department did not mention any particular specialist qualifications,
however did note that staff also undertake 'staff training' and 'competency
The bill provides that Human Biosecurity Officers would need to have
appropriate clinical experience and also be an employee of either the
Commonwealth Department of Health, a state or territory counterpart or be a
member of the Australian Defence Force.
The departments advised that Human Biosecurity Officers would also be required
to complete training in human biosecurity.
Under the bill, Biosecurity Enforcement Officers would be required to
meet the requirements of the Australian Government Investigations Standards.
The departments advised that:
This includes the requirement that staff involved in
investigations meet minimum levels of training or qualifications and that the
department meets the minimum standards for effective and efficient management
of investigations, including record keeping.
The committee agrees that the success of the new scheme proposed by the bill
is dependent in large part upon the skill and expertise of biosecurity officers
within the Department of Agriculture. The committee notes the department's
assurances that adequate support and training will be provided to officers, and
will be following this issue closely as part of the committee's general
oversight of the department.
Consultation process conducted by the Department of Agriculture
Submitters drew the committee's attention to two aspects of the consultation
process. First, submitters commented on opportunities to contribute to the development
of the Biosecurity Bill 2014 and related bills. Second, submitters noted concerns
with the anticipated consultation process for the proposed regulations and
other subordinate legislation.
Consultation on the Biosecurity
Bill 2014 and related bills
Submitters emphasised that the bill is the culmination of several years'
work. The Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health advised that
consultation on the development of legislation to replace the Quarantine Act
commenced in 2009.
The committee was informed that the consultation processes varied, and included
'workshops, roundtables, industry fora, international meetings, online blogs,
submissions and meetings across the country.'
Additionally, the department established an industry legislation working group,
comprising 16 industry representatives,
which 'provided substantial input into the development of the bill since its
inception in 2009.'
In all, approximately 440 organisations were consulted throughout the bill's
six-year formation. 
Submitters recognised that consultation for the 2014 draft legislation is
in addition to consultation on the Biosecurity Bill 2012 (the 2012 Bill).
The majority of submitters expressed satisfaction with the level of
consultation undertaken by the department. Industry representatives advised
they had been provided extensive opportunities for input.
Ports Australia submitted that the consultation process for the 2012 Bill was
'excellent', while the NFF acknowledged:
[the] extensive process the Department of Agriculture...has
undertaken in putting together the Biosecurity Bill 2014. NFF also appreciates
being involved through its representation on the Industry Legislation Working
Group established by DAFF for use as a sounding board during the early parts of
the drafting process.
Several submitters highlighted legislative changes that had been made in
response to stakeholder feedback. It was acknowledged that the consultation
processes had helped shape the bill.
For example, Ports Australia advised that 'input on relevant parts of the draft
legislation received a good hearing and, in many cases, amendments were
implemented as a result of reasoned arguments'.
However, the committee was informed that industry was not notified of
key changes to the draft legislation. There was evident uncertainty about the
precise differences between the 2012 Bill and the Biosecurity Bill 2014, with a
number of organisations submitting that the publicly available information was
Significantly, the Australian Industry Working Group on Biosecurity advised that
'members have expressed concern at the apparent lack of consultation with
industry relating to the last-minute changes to the bill.'
The committee was also informed the industry was provided limited access to the
draft 2014 bill.
The departments advised the committee that consultation would continue,
noting that 'there will be more opportunities to discuss feedback and work with
stakeholders in the development of regulations and administrative policies'.
There was evident concern with the consultation process for the draft subordinate
legislation. Industry's message was uniform and clear: meaningful, thorough and
genuine consultation is required. Industry representatives routinely noted that
the operational details of the proposed new biosecurity system will be
contained in subordinate legislation.
As Ports Australia noted, 'the details and the certainty upon which industry
will rely will be found in the regulations.'
Unfortunately, the proposed regulations were not available to the committee for
review or to stakeholders for comment. This was a significant concern for
The Australian Chicken Growers Council advised that the failure of the
government to provide the draft regulations made 'it difficult for stakeholders
to provide in-depth comments that address how the legislation will operate as a
whole'. This concern was shared by other industry representatives, including
the Australian Chicken Meat Federation which noted that the 'staggered process
of drafting and releasing the new legislative framework does not allow
stakeholders to consider the new system as a whole before the bills are
considered by Parliament'.
The NFF sought assurances from the government that 'industry will be
closely involved in the drafting of the regulations and other supporting
Similar assurances were sought by numerous industry sectors, including the
Australian chicken meat industry, the Australian pork industry, the
horticultural sector and the shipping industry.
Industry consultation was considered necessary to ensure regulations are both
practical and align with industry expectations. As the Australian Chicken
Growers Council argued, robust and meaningful consultation is necessary 'to
ensure that they [the regulations] will meet the expectations of industry and
prevent the formulation of legislation that is burdensome to industry'.
In response to these concerns the department acknowledged the need for
consultation, advising that 'when we draft regulations we also consult.'
The department advised that stakeholders would be consulted on the development
of the regulations.
The committee was further reminded of the parliamentary disallowance process
for regulations, and advised that this process provides sufficient opportunity to
scrutinise subordinate legislation.
Indubitably, the department has conducted extensive consultations with
key stakeholders in relation to the current bill and earlier iterations. The
department is also preparing to consult with stakeholders as it develops the
regulations. However, the committee has received evidence that these
consultations do not always correlate to changes to the bill to reflect the
issues raised and some consultations appear to be rushed.
The committee recommends that the Department of Agriculture continue to
consult closely with all relevant stakeholders and ensure that stakeholders are
provided sufficient time to consider and respond to proposed regulations.
All Australians benefit from a robust, independent and scientifically
informed biosecurity system. The Quarantine Act has served Australians well,
and has contributed to Australia's strong biosecurity framework. However, the
world has changed since the early twentieth century and it is time for an
update. The Quarantine Act has been amended more than fifty times and has
become outdated, difficult to administer and interpret, and unable to respond
to current needs. The bills before the committee seek to bring about the
reforms necessary for a first-class biosecurity system to protect Australia's
The package of biosecurity bills reflects the work of many years,
originating with the Beale Review. The committee commends the Departments of
Agriculture and Health for their careful work developing the bills and
consulting with stakeholders. The committee also notes the contributions made
by industry, state and territory governments, and other stakeholders during
consultations on the bill and submissions to inquiries conducted by parliamentary
The committee notes that the bills are not perfect, and there are areas that
the government can improve, particularly in relation to consultation and timely
release of draft regulations. The bills before the committee are draft 'framework'
legislation. That is, they would provide the broad principles and the general
framework for Australia's biosecurity scheme but would leave the scope and
operational details to delegated legislation. The committee reiterates the view
of the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills that such
legislation is 'inherently problematic from the point of view of effective
Parliamentary scrutiny, and avoids detailed parliamentary debate of the content
of important provisions'.
The committee also notes that the bill contains 21 clauses or subclauses that
would provide for regulations that would in turn be exempt from disallowance
pursuant to section 42 of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003 (Cth).
Pleasingly, the departments have taken the opportunity to amend the bill
to reflect feedback provided through consultations on the 2012 package of
bills. On balance, the committee believes that the Biosecurity Bill 2014 and
related bills propose a comprehensive modernisation of the Australian
Subject to the foregoing recommendations, the committee recommends that
the Senate pass the Biosecurity Bill 2014 and related bills.
Senator the Hon Bill
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