Changes to Australia's Biosecurity System

The department is changing the way we manage Australia’s biosecurity system to deliver a modern system that is responsive and targeted, in a changing global trading environment. The changes will be achieved incrementally, with funding considered on an ongoing basis as part of the usual budget processes.

Current and past budget announcements on biosecurity.

Australia’s biosecurity system ensures good biosecurity outcomes through Australia’s activities as an exporter and importer of goods. It relies on cooperation between the Australian Government and state and territory governments, as well as importers, exporters and the wider community. Onshore, industry groups contribute through planning, preparedness and response activities in cooperation with governments.

Australia’s biosecurity system has been subject to review several times. Recommendations made for improvements to the way it operates started with the Nairn Review in 1995, and culminated in the 2008 independent review of Australia’s quarantine and biosecurity arrangements – One biosecurity: a working partnership (the Beale review). The Beale review found that Australia’s biosecurity system operated well, but could be improved. Beale proposed significant reforms to strengthen the system by revising legislation; targeting resources to the areas of greatest return from a risk management perspective; sharing responsibility between government, businesses and the community; and improving transparency, timeliness and operations across the continuum.

Changing global demands, growing passenger and trade volumes, increasing imports from a growing number of countries, population expansion and climate change mean that biosecurity risk is growing. There is also an increasing demand from international trading partners for greater levels of assurance in relation to Australia’s exports.

Key themes of change

The changes being undertaken position the department to meet this increasing demand and to ensure the biosecurity system is effective and sustainable into the future. The five key themes of activity are:

  • implementing a risk–based approach to biosecurity management
  • managing biosecurity risk across the continuum – offshore, at the border and onshore
  • strengthening partnerships with clients and stakeholders
  • using robust science, being intelligence–led and evidence–based
  • developing and implementing modern legislation, technology, funding and business systems.

Through these themes, the focus on the continuum better supports consistent service delivery onshore, at the border and offshore; provides effective biosecurity risk management underpinned by sound evidence and policy; improves the efficiency and responsiveness of operations through the administration of modern legislation and technology systems; and strengthens relationships.

The benefits of the modern biosecurity system will be realised by industry, government, the environment and international trading partners – with positive flow through effects to the economy more generally. This will be through streamlined business process, productivity improvements and reduced regulatory burden in a seamless and lower cost business environment; emphasising risk–based decision making, the use of intelligence, a single point of regulatory contact and robust partnerships.

Achievements to date

The department continues to improve Australia’s biosecurity system. The report – Reform of Australia’s biosecurity system – An update since the publication of One Biosecurity: a working partnership – released by the former Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator the Hon. Joe Ludwig, on 7 March 2012, details this progress and the challenges and opportunities ahead.


For general inquiries regarding the biosecurity reform, please email biosecurity reform.

New biosecurity legislation

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 cornerstone of broader biosecurity reforms which is building a system to better manage the risks of pests and diseases entering, establishing and spreading in Australia and potentially causing harm to people, the environment and the economy.

The new legislation is designed to deliver broader, yet simpler provisions that provide flexible powers to efficiently and responsively manage biosecurity risks. It is designed to 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, industry, trading partners and the broader community.

The Biosecurity Bill 2012 and the Inspector–General of Biosecurity Bill were introduced into Parliament on 28 November 2012.