NEWS

Australia Releases Draft of New Biosecurity Legislation

By Carlton Purvis

Australia’s current biosecurity legislation, the Quarantine Act of 1908, was created when Australia was only accessible by sea. With more people moving in an out of Australia, by more modes of transportation, the country is working on modern legislation to manage the associated risks.

The overhaul was driven in part by a 2008 report based on research led by Robert Beale, chair of the Quarantine and Biosecurity Review Panel. The Beale Review found that Australia’s biosecurity system was in good shape, but could be improved with reforms. It noted that to make these changes would require significant amendments to the Quarantine Act, which is more than 100 years old, and suggested instead that the legislation be overhauled completely.

Despite more than 50 revisions, the act is still “outdated and overly prescriptive,” says the Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry (DAFF), Australia’s agency responsible for biosecurity.

"Australia is changing with the times - so should our biosecurity system,” said Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig.

The new legislation is made up of two bills: the Biosecurity Bill and the Inspector-General of Biosecurity Bill.

The first establishes how the new act will interact with state and local laws, defines measures to respond to threats, and outlines biosecurity risks related to travel. The latter establishes the Inspector-General of Biosecurity office. Combined, they address 19 of 84 recommendations from the Beale Review, according to BeefCentral.com.

DAFF is holding meetings with state and territory officials and public meetings in metropolitan areas between now and August 10. DAFF has created a blog run by biosecurity staffers to solicit comments from the public. Meeting dates and locations can be found on the DAFF biosecurity Web site.

Initial comments on the blog have come from business owners concerned about how the legislation will affect their bottom lines.

DAFF’s says that it’s too early to tell exactly what the impact will be providing a generalized response: “While the new draft biosecurity legislation does not propose a new cost structure or fee regime, some compliance requirements may change under the legislation and there may be financial implications for some individuals and businesses…Costs may potentially rise or fall.”

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