Biosecurity Bulletin - Edition 4, 2014

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​​​​Deputy Secretary Foreword

Image of Rona MellorEnsuring Australia’s biosecurity system is robust and successful is not just about being vigilant at the border, it is also about being smart with our resources, and using science and research to inform our decisions.

Science and research supports the work we do in undertaking import risk analysis (IRAs) and developing import conditions.

In this edition of the Biosecurity Bulletin there are two interesting articles that demonstrate the value of this work to Australia, where science, research and working in partnership with importers has seen the safe importation of queen bees and fancy chicken eggs.

Continue reading the message from the Deputy Secretary

You could say it is all about the birds and the bees, but it’s also about what happens behind the scenes as we work to help people to diversify and improve their commercial or personal activities while keeping our country free of the exotic pests and diseases that birds and bees can bring.

Complimenting this is the work we are doing in reviewing the import risk analysis process, and there is more information about this in the Bulletin.

All this work, along with the proposed new biosecurity legislation expected to be introduced to Parliament later this year, combines to modernise our biosecurity system and ensure we continue to safeguard our primary industries and our environment.

You can read more about the new Biosecurity Bill 2014 on our web page.

Finally, it’s been a particularly busy time for biosecurity officers at the Sydney International Mail Centre recently with a range of curious and bizarre items, including taxidermy animals, plant cuttings and strangely declared items, detected in just one week. Some of these feature in this edition’s Border Finds segment.

Have your say on Australia’s import risk analysis process

Photo of male scientist in laboratory.Consultation on Australia’s import risk analysis (IRA) process began this month providing clients and stakeholders with the opportunity to have their say.

An import risk analysis or IRA assesses the biosecurity risk of imported goods introducing an exotic pest or disease into Australia, and recommends ways to manage and reduce that risk.

As part of the consultation, a discussion paper outlines the IRA process and poses questions to prompt ideas and conversation.
The consultation will focus on specific areas of the IRA process including:

Continue reading about Australia's import risk analysis process

  • transparency and consultation during the process
  • the use of external scientific and economic expertise
  • the consideration of regional differences in animal or plant health status during the process.

The examination of the IRA process will consider client and stakeholder comments, Senate Committee inquiries and, where relevant, will propose changes or improvements to administrative and regulatory aspects of the process.

The outcomes of the discussions, comments and written submissions will be consolidated and reviewed. Any recommendations for administrative and regulatory changes to the IRA process will be presented for government consideration.

We encourage comments and submissions from the public, industry and other interested parties.

For more information, or to make a submission, please visit IRA Examination or contact Biosecurity Regulation and Reform Policy at Biosecurity Consultation or call us on 1800 040 629.

Egg importation no flight of fancy

Crevecoeur chicken.Bringing to Australia exotic chickens has been no flight of fancy with the first successful non-commercial consignment of fancy chickens being released from quarantine.

Imported to Australia as fertile eggs in April 2014, hundreds of fancy chicks took their first cheep at the Department of Agriculture’s Spotswood post entry quarantine facility in May where they were reared for nine weeks.

While at the facility the rare chicks, a mix of Derbyshire Redcaps, Old English Pheasant Fowl, Dark Dorkings, Crevecoeur, Dutch Bantams and Scots Greys, underwent a series of tests to ensure they did not carry any exotic diseases before being released to the importer.

Continue reading about egg importation

The flight path to this importation has been an 11-month process by the department to develop a set of import conditions specific to non-commercial imports of fertile chicken eggs.

These import conditions required extensive offshore testing of the eggs and the source flock in partnership with the supplier in the United Kingdom.

Acting Assistant Secretary, Post Entry Quarantine Operations, Gaylene Podhajski, said the work had paved the way for non-commercial importers across Australia.

“The importation was a great accomplishment for the department and signals a change in the nature of fertile egg imports,” said Ms Podhajski.

“It was a lot of hard work but it was vital that we get it right as eggs such as these can carry exotic diseases such as strains of salmonella, paramyxovirus, and avian influenza and avian pneumovirus, which could have a devastating effect on Australia’s poultry industry.

“The importer of the eggs was looking to increase the genetic diversity of chickens in Australia and these chicks have now been distributed to breeders around the country to be bred and sold in the coming years.”

The importer is planning another import of fertile fancy chickens for the end of the year.

Industry buzzes back into quarantine

Photo of man removing bees from hive.Australia’s bee industry can again access new genetic material and breed improved strains of bees with the resumption of queen bee imports.

Queen bee imports were halted for several years due to concerns about Africanised bee genetics and colony collapse disorder. However, a review of the bee import policy has addressed these concerns and queen bees are again allowed to be imported.

The ability to import bees is important for Australia’s bee industry as it allows access to new bee genetics, which can be used to breed strains with better disease resistance, climate adaptation or production characteristics.

Continue reading about Industry buzzes back into quarantine

When a queen bee is imported it undergoes several weeks of testing and treatment in the bee quarantine facility at Eastern Creek. After the quarantine process is completed and all biosecurity concerns have been addressed, eggs/larvae from the queen bee can be grafted by the importer and released from the quarantine facility.

A fertilised bee egg can develop into either a worker bee or a queen bee. Grafting is the specialised and delicate process of moving an egg or very young larvae from a worker cell into a queen cell.

The importer then introduces this queen cell into a queenless bee colony that will feed and care for the larvae so that it develops into a new queen bee.

Bee imports are seasonal and typically arrive at our Eastern Creek facility during spring, complete post-entry quarantine during spring and summer, and are finalised in autumn after grafted material has been released.

As bees are small and easy to bring to Australia undetected, providing a legal import option is important to avoid any temptation to smuggle bees for new genetic material. Unregulated, illegal pathways pose a significant biosecurity risk to Australia.

Biosecurity fee changes

Photo of two men inspecting pallets.The Department of Agriculture has recently reviewed a number of cost recovery arrangements resulting in changes to fees and charges from 1 July 2014.

Fees and charges have changed for:

  • import permits
  • import declarations
  • shipping containers
  • sea vessel inspections and documentary assessments
  • post entry animal quarantine
  • live animal exports.

Continue reading about biosecurity fee changes

It is important that fees and charges are reviewed regularly to ensure that biosecurity services delivered by the department remain relevant and are appropriately funded.

Managing Australia’s biosecurity is a big job; it requires responsive regulation and must be funded appropriately to protect Australia’s industries, environment and reputation as a quality supplier of food and fibre.

A more comprehensive review of the department's biosecurity cost recovery structure is underway and will see further changes implemented beyond 1 July 2015.

The department is considering the scope of this review, which is expected to redesign and simplify the cost recovery framework to support a more efficient and effective biosecurity system.

An open consultation period with industry and representative groups was undertaken for the 2014 fee review. Consultation will continue into the new financial year to talk to industry and the community about the more comprehensive review to come.

More information and current fee adjustments are available on the department’s website at

Streamlining export services for animal reproductive material

A picture of a purple cell.Clients will now find it easier to export animal reproductive material thanks to some changes to our animal biological material export system.

The changes, which are part of the department’s move to provide nationally consistent approaches to our export services, has led to the establishment of a new Reproductive Material Hub, which began on 1 July 2014 and is based in Melbourne.

Continue reading about streamlining export services for animal reproductive material

Manager for National Service Delivery for Animals, Michael Kerr, said the hub would streamline and simplify work processes for the assessment and clearance of animal reproductive material.  

“Previously, there has been a region-by-region approach to animal service delivery,” said Mr Kerr.

“Under the new hub, all Notices of Intention to export reproductive material will be processed by a team in Melbourne, where the majority of reproductive material clearance, processing and storage facilities are located.”

Mr Kerr said the new hub also gave clients a single contact point for all inquiries and documentation services.

“This new facility will allow exporters of animal reproductive materials to get the information they need more quickly,” Mr Kerr said.

“The changes are more sympathetic to exporters’ needs, and will ensure that we keep Australia’s inspection and certification processes strong and consistent.”

Documentation for the export of reproductive material should be sent to the Reproductive Material Hub via Genetics.

More information is available at Reproductive Material.

Border finds

Weird and wacky items arriving at air and sea ports and international mail centres across Australia is not unusual. However, biosecurity officers at the Sydney International Mail Centre had a particularly busy time in July with several curious and bizarre items.

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Gamma irradiation for undeclared goanna

Photo of a taxidermy goanna from the Netherlands.Officers at Sydney international mail centre spotted an unusual figure when X-raying a parcel from the Netherlands recently.

The parcel, which carried no declaration details or documentation, contained a taxidermy goanna measuring about 45 centimetres in length.

The officer withheld the goanna for further inspection and gamma irradiation, to ensure it did not carry any pests or diseases, before being released.

It is one of Australia’s biosecurity requirements that any incoming mail be accompanied by an accurate sender declaration signed before posting.

Items such as food, plant material including wooden articles and animal products must be declared.

Harmless hog

Photo of a taxidermy warthog head.It was not a case of Hakuna Matata (or no worries) when two warthog heads were intercepted at Sydney international mail centre.

Biosecurity officers inspected two large parcels from Germany, both of which contained a taxidermy warthog head – tusks and all.

After a full inspection of the heads, biosecurity officers assessed that they posed no biosecurity concern, were not subject to the Convention on Internal Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) and were released.

Often taxidermy items can carry pests and disease and require treatment such as fumigation or gamma irradiation.

Friendly farm family

Photo of five taxidermy animals – a beaver, a ferret, a weasel, a racoon and a fawn.What do you get when a beaver, a ferret, a weasel, a racoon and a baby deer are mailed to Australia? A box of biosecurity risks.

And this proved to be the case when a large box from Germany arrived at the Sydney international mail centre containing all five animals mounted in various positions.

When biosecurity officers inspected the consignment, which was declared as decorations, the animals were found to contain or carry bark, Sphagnum moss, fur and meat.

The parcel was seized and the goods held pending a decision from the intended recipient about whether to have the items treated, destroyed or exported.

Meat and feathers are not allowed into Australia without an import permit or having undergone appropriate treatment such as fumigation or gamma irradiation. These items could introduce a range of pests and diseases into Australia that could threaten our agricultural industries and unique environment.

Snake slithers into port

The snake curled on a man’s hand.Meanwhile in Brisbane, there was a furtive but very much alive detection at the Port of Brisbane when a snake tried to sneak into Australia in a cargo container.

Biosecurity officers at the Port of Brisbane were alerted to the slithery stowaway by staff at a local container cleaning facility.

The staff moved the snake to a secure box while waiting for our biosecurity officers to collect the sneaky specimen.

The snake was taken to the department’s herpetologist who identified it as a Pacific Ground Boa, Candoia carinata.

The rest of the cargo and containers from the ship were inspected, with local container terminal staff notified of the incident so they could be on the lookout for any other unexpected arrivals.

The Pacific Ground Boa is very adaptable to most habitats, and as an exotic species could damage local ecosystems.

The report from industry personnel and fast response from the department is a great example of how industry and government can work in collaboration to maintain a strong biosecurity presence at the border.