Biosecurity Q&A

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What does the budget say about biosecurity?

Australia's biosecurity system lies at the heart of our position as a trading nation. The 2012-13 Budget signals the ongoing commitment of the Australian Government to Australia's biosecurity system, providing $524.2 million in new funding for biosecurity.

The Australian Government has invested more than $1.6 billion since 2009 to build a sustainable biosecurity system. This continued investment supports the significant task of managing Australia's biosecurity system, and strengthens our ability to minimise threats to Australia's primary production sectors, human health, and the environment; with flow on effects to the wider Australian economy; through faster border movements, protection of Australia's unique natural assets and a more effective system which facilitates international trade and underpins our reputation as a reliable exporter of high-quality food and fibre.

Support for ongoing business, together with the progress already made towards a risk-based approach to biosecurity and enhanced data collection will allow resources to be allocated according to risk. This includes refocusing border inspection effort on keeping risks offshore through enhanced compliance and verification activities.

The 2012-13 Budget package provides:

  • $379.9 million over seven years for the construction and operation of a new Australian Government owned and operated post entry quarantine facility for high risk plant and animal imports. This funding will deliver a state-of-the-art facility consolidating existing animal and plant services to a single integrated site near Melbourne.
  • $124.5 million over four years (and then on an ongoing basis) for core risk response capaility and external review and verification processes. This funding supports elements of biosecurity operations at international airports and mail centres and arrangements that support biosecurity operations; such as the Interim Inspector General of Biosecurity and the Biosecurity Advisory Council.
  • $19.8 million over three years to support biosecurity information and communication technology infrastructure and systems to ensure that client needs can continue to be met.

On top of the wider biosecurity investment a separate $95.9 million over seven years allocated from the Caring for our Country program will fund eradication programs for nationally significant pests and diseases. This ongoing allocation will ensure future incursions can be brought under control as soon as possible.

The Budget announcement made by the previous Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig, also demonstrates the Australian Government's commitment to ongoing legislative reform of the national biosecurity system. Consultation on the new Biosecurity Bills to replace legislation that was first written in 1908 is expected to start in late May and is proposed to be introduced to Parliament during the spring session.

What reforms and business improvements have already been delivered?

Reforms underway are consistent with the themes outlined in the 2008 independent review of Australia's biosecurity and quarantine arrangements (the Beale Review), with a focus on the continuum to better support consistent service delivery onshore, at the border and offshore; providing effective biosecurity risk management underpinned by sound evidence and policy; improving the efficiency and responsiveness of operations through modern legislation and technology systems; and strengthening relationships.

The announcements in the 2012-13 Budget build on the strong progress in reforming Australia's biosecurity system since 2008. The report – 'Reform of Australia's biosecurity system – An update since the publication of One Biosecurity: a working partnership' – released by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig, on 7 March 2012, details this progress and the challenges and opportunities ahead.

A great deal has been achieved and many benefits to industry and government have already been realised. Initial moves to a risk-based approach have resulted in productivity gains for industry. Export reforms have delivered more efficient export certification and inspection services and reduced regulatory costs. For imports targeted external container inspections; faster vessel clearances; paperless processing of air cargo; and reduced inspection of compliant commodities are also delivering efficiencies.

What parts will be delivered in 2012-13?

Australia's economy and environment benefit significantly from a strong biosecurity system. It is important that the reform program continues and builds on the progress made to date to meet future and increasing demands on the current system and to deliver efficiencies for stakeholders and government.

The Australian Government is delivering staged business and regulatory reform towards a more flexible, responsive and targeted biosecurity system. Ultimately the reforms will deliver a range of benefits including a more efficient management of biosecurity risks, increased productivity in agriculture, facilitation of international trade and protection of Australia's unique environment.
The focus of reform in 2012-13 includes:

  • introducing new legislation to replace the century-old Quarantine Act 1908 into Parliament following consultation
  • continuing to progress work to deliver a state-of-the-art post entry quarantine facility in partnership with the Department of Finance and Deregulation
  • implementing risk-based approaches to biosecurity operations to reduce the administrative burden on compliant clients enabling faster clearance at the border, through evidence-based targeting of activities and behaviours that create biosecurity risk
  • strengthening a truly national biosecurity system by working closely with the states and territories to implement the recently signed Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity
  • examining the approaches to biosecurity funding to ensure that arrangements will continue to support a targeted and responsive biosecurity system
  • finalising the redevelopment of the Biosecurity Import Conditions (BICON) database and implementing it progressively throughout 2013
  • increasing and improving emergency response capacity against the threat of foot-and-mouth disease through implementation of the National Action Plan.

What about the new legislation post-Budget?

The Australian Government is developing new legislation to replace the century-old Quarantine Act 1908 to create a responsive and flexible operating environment. The new legislation is a key enabler of broader biosecurity reform which is building a system to better manage the risks of animal and plant pests and diseases entering, establishing, spreading in Australia and potentially causing harm to people, the environment and the economy.

The new legislation will deliver broader, yet simpler provisions that provide flexible powers to efficiently and responsively manage biosecurity risks. It will focus on responsive regulation enabling a system that intervenes where there is a biosecurity risk that needs to be managed and promotes effective cooperation between governments, trading partners, industry participants and the community.

What is the timeframe on the new legislation?

Drafting is well underway for the new legislation and the department is currently working towards the following timeframes for finalising the new legislation:

  • the exposure draft Biosecurity Bills and a consultation regulation impact statement are expected to be released in the coming weeks
  • public consultation on the exposure drafts and the regulation impact statement will last for eight weeks to ensure interested parties have an opportunity to comment
  • introduction and debate of the Biosecurity Bills is proposed during the Spring 2012 sitting of Parliament

What are the advantages of the new legislation?

The new biosecurity legislation will provide a responsive and flexible operating environment to underpin Australia's position as a strong trading nation.

The new biosecurity legislation will highlight the importance of transparent and accountable decision making practices underpinned by rigorous science, evidence and intelligence. It will focus on responsive regulation enabling a system that intervenes where there is a biosecurity risk that needs to be managed and promotes effective cooperation between governments, stakeholders and the community.

How can I have my say on the new legislation?

The Australian Government is undertaking a consultation process that will help inform the development of the new legislation and encourages all interested parties to get involved. The consultation process will raise understanding of the draft legislation and its intended outcomes, provide an opportunity to work with interested parties to identify and resolve potential issues and improve the bills that are introduced to Parliament.

You will be able to have your say on the new biosecurity legislation. A number of innovative, as well as more traditional communication channels will be utilised to help ensure the key information effectively reach stakeholders. These include:

  • public consultation meetings across Australia
  • an interactive website
  • social media communication channels
  • submission process.

The consultation period is expected to start in late May. More information about the release of the exposure draft of the legislation and the consultation regulation impact statement is available on the biosecurity reform section of the department's website.

Consultation will continue throughout the development of the subordinate legislation and the passage of legislation through Parliament.

What does the budget mean for post entry quarantine arrangements?

In the 2012-13 Budget, the Australia Government has announced funding of $379.9 million over seven years for the construction and operation of a new post entry quarantine (PEQ) facility for high risk plant and animal imports.

This builds on the government's announcement made in the 2011-12 Budget when a commitment to fund further development of future post entry arrangements (including detailed design work and procurement activities related to land acquisition) was made, along with funds for the maintenance and refurbishment of existing Department of Agriculture PEQ facilities.

When the concept design work is complete the proposal will be referred to the Parliamentary Public Works Committee, which will then report to both Houses of Parliament before any building work can begin.

What will the new PEQ facility look like and how will it operate?

The project aims to replace our current post entry quarantine facilities with a sustainable, reliable facility that adopts modern technology and operating practices. It will deliver a state-of-the-art facility that will integrate existing animal and plant services into a single, integrated site in Victoria.

The additional detailed design work being undertaken in the next 12 months will help to settle the size, structure and layout of any new facilities. The consolidation of Australia's existing PEQs into one facility in Victoria means that it will be of a substantial size.

The new facility will continue to operate in line with existing import policies. The consolidation of services and integration of activities should lead to efficiencies and the adoption of modern management practices, but these will meet the same import policies and will not consider a review of the policies.

How will you consult with clients, stakeholders and staff about the future of PEQ?

The Department of Agriculture's Biosecurity team has undertaken a stakeholder consultation program to ensure that staff, facility users and interested parties provided input on matters including; operational, business and future facility needs, cost estimates and risks and impacts.

This input has supported the effective development and analysis of options for future post entry arrangements, especially on matters such as:

  • suggestions for the layout and design of each element of the facility on the Victorian site
  • information about recent changes in patterns and volumes of imports through PEQ sites, and views about likely future changes in imports
  • views on the potential for improvements in the technical specifications of each building or key structure in the post entry facilities, and
  • information and data on the scale and complexity of post entry operations.

This process of consultation will continue through engagement with staff and registered stakeholders. You can register by emailing the PEQ project at or by visiting the PEQ section of the department's website.

What about PEQ staff?

 The staffing structure for the new facility will be assessed once the final design work is completed later this year. It is expected that the proposed facility will require a similar number of staff as is currently required across our quarantine stations. However, changes to operational and import protocols may impact these requirements.

What is happening to ICT systems?

The Australian Government committed $19.8 million over three years to support current information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure and systems. This funding supports critical infrastructure and data storage across the biosecurity environment to ensure client needs can continue to be met.

The department has delivered, or is in the process of delivering, substantial client-focused ICT projects including:

  • the implementation of ICT systems as part of the Export Certification Program, including the Audit Management System (AMS), Tracking Animal Certification for Export (TRACE) and Manual of Importing Country Requirements (MICoR).
  • the ICON redevelopment project – Biosecurity Import Conditions (BICON) database – due to be implemented progressively throughout 2013 will enable better service delivery, increased predictability for industry of process and costs, and increased confidence in information and processes.
  • a paperless initiative for air-freight biosecurity screening developed in cooperation with industry. The initiative has seen a shift to electronic documentation for the processing of low value (less than $1000) air freight items handled by courier companies. This has delivered significant efficiencies to industry, the public and the department.

What does the budget say about eradication programs?

Recognising that pests and diseases can reach our shore and can impact our environment, our food security and economy, the Australian Government, in partnership with the states, territories and industry, contributes to the effective eradication or control of incursions if and when they occur.

The 2012-13 Budget provides $95.9 million over seven years for eradication of nationally significant agricultural, environmental, animal and plant pests and diseases; of this, $20.9 million over 2011-12 and 2012-13 for Branched Broomrape, Cocoa Pod Borer, Red Imported Fire Ants, Electric Ants, Chestnut Blight, four tropical weeds, Siam Weed, and low pathogenic avian influenza.

This measure also secures ongoing funding for these types of responses and supports the collaborative approach by governments and industry to ensure pest and disease incursions are eradicated or managed as quickly as possible.