Labor Senators' Dissenting Report
Biosecurity Bill 2014
Labor Senators do not agree with clause 567 of the Biosecurity Bill 2014
that provides the Agriculture Minister with review powers that will allow him
to conduct reviews into the biosecurity system to identify opportunities for
improvements in the assessment and management of biosecurity risks.
Labor Senators also do not agree with clause 643 – Delegation of powers
by Agriculture Minister. This clause allows the Agriculture Minister to
delegate any or all of his or her powers and functions under the Act (and any
regulations made under the Act) to the Director of Biosecurity, an SES
employee, or acting SES employee in the Agriculture Department, except for
those relating to the Minister.
Labor Senators acknowledge concerns raised by submitters regarding the
proposed review process under clause 567 and 643. The proposed review process
was condemned as a ‘backwards’ and ‘retrograde’ step that would potentially
allow conflict of interests.
Submitters highlighted key differences between the Biosecurity Bill 2014
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 review findings would not guarantee
independent transparent review for example, the Australian Veterinary
If the Inspector-General’s role is designed to be similar to
that of an ombudsman (as described in the Beale Review) the public must be able
to refer matters directly to the Inspector-General.
Clause 567 states that “... as the review powers are provided
to the Minister, reviews will be conducted independently from the Department,
ensuring independence between the subjects and the review (biosecurity
officials) and the powers of the person conducting the review.” However, as
the powers for conducting a review into the biosecurity system lie with the
Minister for Agriculture and may be conferred by the Minister for Agriculture,
this cannot legitimately be described as an independent review process.
Labor supports option 2 of the Regulation Impact Statement that
determined establishing the role of the Inspector-General of Biosecurity
through legislation as a statutory officer, responsible for reviewing the
performance and exercise of powers by the Director of Biosecurity, biosecurity
officers and biosecurity enforcement officers as well as conducting biosecurity
import risk analysis (BIRAs).
This is the preferred option as it would help assure stakeholders and
Australia’s trading partners of the integrity of the department’s processes and
would provide an independent, systematic approach towards maintaining and improving
Australia’s biosecurity system.
Labor recommends that the Government adopt the recommendation of the
Beale review to establish the Inspector-General of Biosecurity as a statutory
Establishing the role of the Inspector-General of Biosecurity through
legislation would ensure that there is a statutory officeholder responsible for
the independent audit, review and assessment of the department’s biosecurity
activities and processes. The role and function of the Inspector-General of
Biosecurity would align with the Beale Review’s recommendation that an
effective risk management system should include formal auditing activities.
That the Senate either amend the Bill or request the
House of Representatives to amend the Bill to provide for establishment of the Inspector-General
of Biosecurity as a statutory body.
Senator Glenn Sterle
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page