Australia's biosecurity and quarantine arrangements
This chapter outlines Australia's existing administrative and legal
arrangements in relation to biosecurity and quarantine. The chapter also
provides a brief outline of Australia's current approach to managing the risk
of incursions of exotic pests and diseases.
Australia's biosecurity and quarantine arrangements
Under the Australian Constitution, the Commonwealth does not have
exclusive power to make laws in relation to biosecurity and quarantine. The
administration of Australia's biosecurity and quarantine is, therefore,
governed by both Commonwealth and state and territory laws.
The Commonwealth's quarantine laws are currently contained in the Quarantine
Act 1908 (the Quarantine Act) and associated subordinate legislation,
including the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment
(Wildlife Protection) Act 1999, the Quarantine Regulations 2000 and the
Quarantine Proclamation 1998. The Quarantine 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
However, responsibility for the movement of goods of quarantine concern
within Australia's border is assumed by state and territory authorities, which
undertake both intra- and inter-state quarantine operations that reflect
regional differences in pest and disease status, as part of their wider plant
and animal health obligations.
Department of Agriculture – management of biosecurity
The Department of Agriculture (DA) manages quarantine controls at
Australia's borders to minimise the risk of exotic pests and diseases entering
the country and provides import and export inspection and certification
DA is also responsible for the development of Commonwealth biosecurity
policy, for undertaking risk analyses in relation to the importation of new
products to Australia and the establishment of appropriate risk management
Managing biosecurity risks
The Department's Import risk analysis handbook 2011 (the IRA Handbook)
notes that the principal objective of Australia's biosecurity and quarantine
...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
The Government's approach to managing the risk of incursions of exotic
pests and diseases is '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 import risk analyses; and
intelligence gathering and audit activities.
DA is responsible for making quarantine decisions under the Quarantine
Act and for the development of border operational procedures. Border activities
include the interception of 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 include:
import permit decisions;
audit activities; and
Should there be an incursion of a pest or disease of biosecurity risk,
Australia's onshore biosecurity and quarantine arrangements endeavour to reduce
the likelihood that the pest or disease will become established. The
Commonwealth has formal, national arrangements in place 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
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
Australia expresses its ALOP in qualitative terms. The IRA 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.
The above approach is identified by DA as being consistent with the
WTO's SPS Agreement.
In setting an ALOP, WTO members are required to take into account 'the
objective of minimising negative trade effects'. The IRA Handbook notes
that, in conducting risk analyses, Australia takes into account the following
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
Undertaking a risk analysis in relation to a proposed importation (or
where new circumstances arise in relation to an existing importation) is a
central element of Australia's biosecurity and quarantine framework. The IRA
Handbook notes that:
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, DA Biosecurity:
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 would
enter, establish or spread; and
assesses the probable extend of the harm that would result.
If the assessed level of quarantine risk exceeds Australia's ALOP, DA
then considers whether any risk management measures could reduce quarantine
risk to achieve the ALOP. If risk measures cannot reduce the risk to the ALOP,
the importation of the product in question is not allowed.
Types of risk analysis
Following the receipt of an import proposal (or notification of a change
to the risk profile of existing trade in a good), DA 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 DA; 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
This approach could be taken where, for example, DA Biosecurity has previously
undertaken significant analysis in relation to the crop that is the subject of
an import proposal.
The Chief Executive of DA Biosecurity 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 IRAs 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 DA 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 DA Biosecurity. Whilst not
used during standard IRA processes, the ESG 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 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';
final IRA report and recommendation – which is provided to
the Director of Animal and Plant Quarantine for a policy determination;
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;
DA Biosecurity's response to the ESG report; and
any other relevant information, including Australia's
international rights and obligations.
The steps outlined above reflect a series of changes to the IRA process
that were introduced in 2007, with a view to:
increasing its transparency and timeliness;
regulating key steps, such as timeframes for completing IRAs; and
enhancing consultation with, and scientific scrutiny of, IRAs by
Issue of import permit
At the completion of the IRA process, the risk management measures
recommended in the final IRA often become the conditions imposed on any import
permits granted by the Director of Animal and Plant Quarantine (or delegate) to
limit the level of quarantine risk to an acceptably low level. An IRA may also
identify risk management measures that require preparatory work to be
undertaken by the appropriate authorities in the exporting country, before
trade can commence.
Before an application for an import permit can be considered, the
'Competent Authority' of the exporting country is required to prepare an
operational work plan and DA Biosecurity needs to be satisfied that the risk
management measures recommended in the IRA have been complied with.
The Director of Animal and Plant Quarantine may delegate the power to
grant import permits under the quarantine proclamations to an officer of DA
Biosecurity, or another officer appointed under the Quarantine Act.
Biosecurity Bill – proposed changes
to IRA process
As noted earlier in this report, new biosecurity legislation – the Biosecurity
Bill 2012 and the Inspector-General of Biosecurity Bill 2012 – was introduced
into the Senate on 28 November 2012. With the introduction of the new
legislation, it was proposed to increase the transparency of the biosecurity
system for clients and stakeholders (including trading partners) particularly
in relation to the assessment and management of biosecurity risks.
It was also argued that the Biosecurity Bill would lead to:
better articulation of the role of the Director of Biosecurity
and the Minister (which would improve confidence in scientific and operational
decision making processes); and
the establishment of a process for Biosecurity Import Risk
Analyses (BIRA) whereby the Director of Biosecurity will be required to take
into account Australia's ALOP in conducting risk assessments for the
importation of goods.
With the establishment of the statutory office of the Inspector-General
of Biosecurity, it was proposed that:
the Inspector-General would report directly to the Agriculture
the Office of Inspector-General of Biosecurity would be independent
from the regulator and the Director of Biosecurity; and
the Inspector-General of Biosecurity will undertake independent
audit and review functions focussed on biosecurity systems and processes.
It was also argued that the statutory position of Inspector-General
...perform an important role ensuring the integrity and
transparency of the Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis process. Stakeholders will
have the opportunity to appeal where they believe there was a significant
deviation from the Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis process that adversely
affects their interests.
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 process is similar to that followed for an EAD. The
response plan specifies the procedures for handling emergency plant pest
incursions at the national, state, territory and district levels.
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. In addition to the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture,
the NMG is made up of the following representatives:
the Chief Executive Officer/s of the affected state and territory
the President/Chairman (or officer who is properly authorised in
writing to bind the party) of each of the affected industry parties; and
the Chairman Plant Health Australia (PHA) (non-voting).
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 Ltd;
Australian Banana Growers' Council Inc;
Australian Cane Growers' Council Ltd;
Australian Forest Products Association Ltd;
Australian Honey Bee Industry Council Inc;
Australian Macadamia Society Ltd;
Australian Mango Industry Association Ltd;
Australian Olive Association Ltd;
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;
Chestnuts Australia Inc;
Citrus Australia Ltd;
Cotton Australia Ltd;
Dried Fruits Australia Inc;
Grain Producers Australia Ltd;
Nursery and Garden Industry Australia Ltd;
Onions Australia Inc;
Pistachio Growers Association Inc;
Queensland Fruit and Vegetable Growers Ltd (Growcom);
Ricegrowers Association of Australia Inc;
Strawberries Australia Inc;
Summerfruit Australia Ltd; and
Wine Grape Growers 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 2.1).
Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed cost sharing categories
Category of disease
Major impact on the environment, human health or amenity flora values and
relatively little impact on commercial crops.
Also covers situations where the EPP has a wide range of hosts
including native flora and there is considerable uncertainty as to the
relative impact on crops.
100% government funding
Significant public losses through serious loss of amenity, and/or
environmental values and/or effects on households, or indirectly through very
severe impacts on regions and the national economy.
Major costs on the affected cropping sectors such that the cropping
sectors would benefit significantly from eradication.
80% government funding
20 % industry funding
Would primarily harm the affected cropping sectors, but there would also be
some significant public costs – ie. moderate public benefits from
Adverse affect on public amenities, households or the environment, and/or
could have significant, though moderate trade implications and/or national
and regional economic implications.
50% government funding
50% industry funding
Little or no public cost implications and little or no impacts on natural
ecosystems. The affected cropping sectors would be adversely affected
primarily through additional costs of production, extra control costs or
No significant trade issues that would affect national and regional
economies. Eradication would have mainly, if not wholly, private benefits.
20% government funding
80% industry 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
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 notes that Australia's current biosecurity and quarantine
arrangements – as summarised in this chapter – have been developed, revised and
amended over a long period of time.
As noted in Chapter 1, Australia's biosecurity system has, over the past
two decades, been the subject of several major reviews – including the 1995
and the 2008 Beale review.
The committee notes that the findings of these reviews, and the
recommendations made, have provided the basis for reforms to Australia's
biosecurity and quarantine system. The Nairn review revealed, for example, that
there was a definite imbalance between the animal and plant sectors with regard
to quarantine. An examination of incursions since the 1970s showed that the
rate of incursions of plant pests and diseases was about ten times more than of
animals. As a result, the Nairn review recommended the Establishment of an
Australian Plant Health Council and a Chief Plant Protection Officer position
within the then Department of Primary Industries and Energy, to assist in
achieving a higher status for plant industries.
The Nairn review also argued that effective quarantine policy and
programs are essential if Australia is to maintain its unique natural
environment. The review recommended that industry and the community should be
encouraged to have greater involvement in the development of quarantine and biosecurity
This is a sentiment with which the committee agrees very strongly.
The committee notes that the most recent review, chaired by Mr Beale, supported
Professor Nairn's concept of biosecurity being a 'shared responsibility'. In addition,
Beale proposed a number of major reforms, the majority of which are currently
being implemented by DA. These reforms include improved targeting of resources,
increased efficiency, increased transparency and improved risk management.
The committee notes that whilst the basic tenets of the Beale and Nairn reviews
have been accepted by previous governments, several key recommendations have
not been taken up. Both the Nairn and Beale reviews recommended the
establishment of an independent statutory authority to be charged with the
responsibility for quarantine and biosecurity. The committee notes, in
particular, Beale's recommendation that the functions previously performed by
AQIS, Biosecurity Australia and the Product Integrity, Animal and Plant Health
Division should be brought together in a single, independent, statutory
authority – the National Biosecurity Commission.
The committee acknowledges that under the new biosecurity legislation
introduced in 2012, it was proposed to establish the statutory office of the Inspector-General
of Biosecurity under arrangements similar to those proposed by the Beale report.
The committee would suggest, however, that whilst the new role of
Inspector-General may fulfil the required audit function (recommended by the
and the Beale report) it would not go as far as establishing an independent
body to undertake Biosecurity Import Risk Analyses.
The committee notes the concerns raised by submitters to the Nairn
review who pointed to the fact that there is no formal mechanism of appeal
against any risk analysis decision. Submitters to the Nairn review indicated
that under the current process, DA Biosecurity is 'judge, jury and executioner'
– a sentiment also expressed by submitters to a number of the committee's
The committee agrees with the Nairn review's contention that 'a number
of fundamental principles should apply to import risk analysis':
they should be consultative, scientifically based and politically independent,
transparent, harmonised and subject to appeal on process. The committee also
agrees with Nairn's call for a formal appeal mechanism to be instituted.
The committee recommends that the Government create a single,
independent, statutory authority – separate from the Department of Agriculture
– with responsibility for quarantine and biosecurity policy and operations.
The recommends that the Government ensure that Australia's import risk
analysis process is consultative, scientifically based, politically
independent, transparent, consistent, harmonised and subject to appeal on
The committee is in agreement with the Beale report's focus and
recommendations in relation to involving all appropriate players. The committee
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 community.
As noted in the previous chapter, the committee is keen to see the
knowledge acquired during these three inquiries incorporated into the proposed
new biosecurity arrangements and taken into consideration as DA implements
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page