Biosecurity Bulletin - Edition 2, 2015

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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Deputy Secretary Foreword

Image of Rona MellorFor several years now we have been on the path to becoming a modern service delivery organisation. While we still have a way to go, I’m confident we are moving in the right direction. In this edition we highlight how we have been using technology to change the way we deliver our services – to make it easier for you, our clients to do business with us and free us up to focus on areas of greatest risk.

The new Cargo Online Lodgement System (COLS) is already being used by many commercial importers and customs brokers who want to lodge their documents online, at a time that suits them.

Continue reading the message from the Deputy Secretary

We are building BICON (Biosecurity Import Conditions)—a new import system to support trade and help maintain Australia’s favourable biosecurity status. BICON aims to provide importers with more consistent and easy-to-find information to make decisions about importing goods to Australia.

To provide a more modern, flexible service we are also rolling out Windows 8 tablets to our mobile officers. The tablets enable staff to access our online systems in the field, increasing the efficiency of our goods clearance process. This remote access strengthens our ability to be responsive to our clients.

In this edition you will also find out about our improved website and single phone number that makes it easier for our clients and stakeholders to find information and contact us.

Another important role the department plays is to help our agricultural industries access overseas markets and compete internationally. This edition features the first Australian mangoes imported into the US—a huge achievement for Australian mango growers. The department will continue to work with the mango industry to ensure they are export ready for next season.

This edition includes updates on our Border Finds, how we’re managing increases in exotic mosquitoes detected at some Australian airports and outcomes from recent prosecutions.

You can also read about recent winners of the Australian Biosecurity Awards. I often say that biosecurity is a big job and one that we can’t do on our own. The Awards recognise individuals and organisations that have made outstanding contributions to our biosecurity system. Congratulations to all the winners and nominees for their great work helping to protect Australia from exotic diseases and pests.

Online system makes it easier for clients to work with us

Photo of a group of people at the launch of COLSCustoms brokers and commercial importers can now lodge import documents for cargo online.

Launched on 4 March, the Cargo Online Lodgement System (COLS) is one example of how the department is making it easier for clients to do business with us.

Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Rona Mellor said that introducing new technology is just one of the ways that the department is modernising its services for clients.

Continue reading about COLS

“We’re improving our services and products to make it easier for our clients to meet their obligations,” said Ms Mellor.

“COLS is just one project that focuses on improving the way we work, modernising our technology and improving services for our clients.”

The department processes close to a million separate lodgements of cargo documents every year.

“In the past, customs brokers and their staff needed to visit, fax or email us to lodge documents for imported cargo. COLS is a self-service system for customs brokers and their staff to lodge cargo documentation online, at a time that suits them,” said Ms Mellor.

If you are a customs broker or a commercial importer, you can use the Cargo Online Lodgement System (COLS) to:

  • lodge documents for imported cargo online, instead of using email or visiting one of our offices
  • check the status of your lodgement in real time
  • request a direction reissue
  • access a range of services at a time and place that suits you.

Information about COLS is available on the department’s website, including information on minimum system requirements, a user guide and questions and answers.

BICON puts the latest import information at your fingertips

image of cargo vessel transportation unitsBICON (Biosecurity Import Conditions) is a new import system being built by the department to support trade and help maintain Australia’s favourable biosecurity status. BICON will replace ICON, the department’s existing suite of import conditions and permit application systems.

Department of Agriculture Assistant Secretary Biosecurity Plant Darren Gill said the BICON system is designed to be user friendly and provide importers with the information they need to meet their obligations.

“BICON is just one of the ways in which the department is making it easier and more flexible for our clients to work with us to meet Australia’s biosecurity requirements,” said Mr Gill.

“While BICON will improve usability, import conditions will not change,” said Mr Gill.

“BICON will also provide importers with more consistent and easy-to-find information to make decisions about importing goods to Australia.”

BICON offers importers:

  • an improved and more flexible search facility (search by keyword, scientific name, tariff code, permit type, commodity)
  • better decision support to accurately define an import scenario
  • onshore documentation requirements
  • an integrated permit application process
  • up-front permit fee determination and online payment functions
  • the ability to track permit applications and communicate directly with the department within BICON.

BICON will notify clients about changes to import conditions, including information on disease outbreaks and changes to biosecurity risk management.

“If you are interested in changes to a particular commodity, you can ‘follow’ a case and then receive notifications via email,” said Mr Gill.

Clients who have seen BICON through early exposure sessions have praised BICON’s design and ease of use compared to ICON. One client noted that BICON is the best government online system they had experienced. Another senior industry representative noted that they are very keen to switch on BICON as soon as the department is able.

BICON has been developed for desktops and laptops and will be used by our mobile workforce through the use of tablets in the field. BICON cannot be optimised for mobile phones, but has been tested and confirmed as fully functional for tablets.

The BICON launch is expected early in the 2015–16 financial year. Email BICON transition to receive updates or ask a question, or visit the BICON webpage.

Mobile tablets drive technology revolution

Graham Gathercole in front of the Department of Agriculture building in Canberra holding a tabletThe Department of Agriculture is taking steps towards making services more modern, flexible and responsive for clients.

The Department of Agriculture Chief Information Officer, Graham Gathercole, said that one of the ways the department is doing this is by rolling out Windows 8 tablets to mobile officers.

“By using clever online systems that work together on the tablet to create a seamless experience, our clients and staff are receiving clear benefits. We’ve reduced the administrative burden for our officers. This means if the inspection shows there is no biosecurity risk, the officer can use the device to clear the goods on the spot for the client,” said Mr Gathercole.

“We have got a lot of officers who visit importers in remote areas to clear goods that have come into the country. The mobile devices are 4G enabled which gives our officers more reliability when they are providing services in the field,” said Mr Gathercole.

As well as increasing the efficiency of the goods clearance process, the new tablets are already providing a range of other benefits. When a member of the public contacted the department after hearing crunching noises coming from their recently purchased timber buffet, an officer was able to make an audio recording in the field by using their tablet.

An entomologist listened to the audio file and determined that the noise was consistent with a large wood-boring insect, in this case a longhorn beetle larva.

“Thanks to the technology, the importer was able to witness the science, technology and risk analysis for the post quarantine procedure,” said Mr Gathercole.

At present the department has rolled out around 500 tablets, and more tablets will continue to be provided to officers over time.
You can read the full story in the Microsoft News Centre.

Image of a computer screen, tablet and mobile phone all with the Department of Agriculture website shownThe department's new website and contact number

On 27 February we launched a new website and a single contact number to make it easier for you to find the information you need and to contact us. 

The new website has been designed with you in mind and provides a seamless experience across desktops, tablets and smart phones.

To make it easier for you to contact us, we have a new single contact number 1800 900 090. The phone menu will then help guide your call to the right person to help you.

Aussie mangoes a big hit in the United States

Guimarra’s, Ben Reilly with the Lover Lane store produce managerAustralian mangoes are already considered a delicious treat throughout Asia and the Middle East and now American consumers have the chance to enjoy the fruits of Australian agriculture.

Earlier this year, Ben Reilly from importer Giumarra distributed samples of the first ever shipment of Australian Calypso mangoes at Santa Monica’s Aussie Pie Kitchen and the Central Markets Lovers Lane stores in Dallas and Houston.

Department of Agriculture Assistant Secretary Biosecurity Plant Kylie Calhoun said this was a great result for Australian mango producers and exporters.

Continue reading about Aussie mangoes

“This increased market access for Australian horticultural products is a major boost for Australian growers, who produced over 40 000 tonnes of mangoes in 2012–13 with total exports valued at $16 million,” said Ms Calhoun.

The Department of Agriculture approached the United States Department of Agriculture with a proposal to explore mango imports from Australia. In consultation with industry, the department was able to adapt American operational processes to Australia’s export systems minimising costs to exporters. This work resulted in the development of export protocols that allowed Australian mangoes into the USA for the first time.

The mangoes were a huge hit with American consumers. Two of the Lovers Lane stores estimate that 300 out of a total shipment of around 1200 mangoes were sold in just one day. At both stores Ben was on hand to provide samples to consumers and answer questions.

Many American consumers lacked confidence to select fruit with the correct level of ripeness. They were certainly impressed with both the colour and flavour of the mangoes, which have smaller seeds and no stringy texture compared to the mango varieties they are used to eating.

During the tasting sessions one person said that the Australian mangoes were “absolutely incredible”, while others encouraged fellow shoppers to try the new fruit.

The Department of Agriculture will be working with the mango (and lychee) industry to ensure that they are export ready and can meet the importing country requirements for the USA during the next export season. This will include crop monitoring training and feedback from the current season.

Guarding against exotic mosquitoes

Department of Agriculture officers carrying out additional disinsection measures on a planeThe Department of Agriculture has recently introduced additional measures to prevent exotic mosquitoes from arriving in Australia.

Department of Agriculture Assistant Secretary Compliance Division Nicola Hinder said the department works with our overseas partners to reduce the risk of exotic mosquitoes hitching a ride to Australia in the first place.

“Our biosecurity officers conduct routine trapping and surveillance at 16 international airports in Australia to minimise the risk of exotic mosquitoes to our human health,” said Ms Hinder.

Continue reading about guarding against exotic mosquitoes

In response to an increase in the number of exotic mosquitoes being found during these activities, the department has added further trapping and surveillance activities at all of the major international airports in Australia.

“Aircraft arriving at Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Brisbane airports from certain South East Asian locations are now required to fumigate their cargo holds before unloading luggage, to prevent exotic pests from hitchhiking their way into Australia,” said Ms Hinder.

The exotic mosquito detected at these airports is Aedes aegypti which can carry a number of diseases, including Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever and Chikungunya. The risk of any disease transmission from mosquito to human as a result of these detections is very low.

These new measures are in addition to the knockdown fogging, surface spraying and treatment of standing water and other potential breeding sites that is already undertaken by the airports after detecting an exotic mosquito.

The aircraft subject to these increased measures include flights arriving from Denpasar, Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Also, DNA analysis is being conducted on the exotic mosquitoes detected, to narrow down their geographical origin and inform our risk-based approach to managing biosecurity offshore, onshore and at the border.

If an exotic mosquito is identified, the Department of Agriculture works closely with the state authority and the airport to respond. The successful management of these responses has meant these exotic mosquitoes and the diseases they carry have not spread into the surrounding environment.

Importer caught falsely declaring meat products as vegetables

Image of the seized prohibited food items that were falsely imported as vegetablesThe director of a Melbourne-based company has received a suspended 16 month prison sentence after being caught knowingly importing prohibited meat products from South East Asia and falsely declaring them as ‘vegetables.’

In March 2011 an officer from the department conducted inspections at a number of Asian supermarkets in Melbourne. These inspections resulted in the seizure of prohibited food items imported from South Korea by ISS Import Trading Pty Ltd, a company that sells imported products to Asian grocery stores in Melbourne, Adelaide and Tasmania, as well as a number of other Australian cities.

As a result of this investigation, the sole director of this company, Kevin (In Su) Yi admitted to falsely declaring the prohibited food items as containing vegetables rather than meat. Further investigations revealed that ISS Import Trading Pty Ltd had been responsible for importing 1402 prohibited food cartons between 2010 and 2011. In addition to importing goods, the company also operates as a Quarantine Approved Premises (QAP).

Continue reading about falsely declared meat products

The conviction was the result of Operation Hayride, a national investigation focused on the importation and distribution of prohibited meat-based products from South Korea by importers based in Australia.

The Department of Agriculture First Assistant Secretary Compliance, Raelene Vivian, emphasised that un-retorted meat and animal products from South Korea are not allowed to be imported into Australia.

Retorted means the product is in an airtight container, has been heat treated and does not require refrigeration.

“Unretorted meat-based goods from South Korea such as pig, beef and chicken are considered to pose too high a risk to allow their importation, due to a range of animal disease concerns – for instance South Korea recorded outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and avian influenza in 2010,” said Ms Vivian.

Research by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) indicates the cost of an FMD outbreak would be more than $52 billion to our economy over the course of 10 years. The most probable causes of FMD outbreaks are through illegally imported meat or meat products being fed to pigs.

“It’s our job to help protect Australia’s agricultural industries, economy and environment from plant and animal pests and diseases such as FMD, and we work in partnership with industry to manage these risks.”

“When there is intentional non-compliance that puts our biosecurity status at risk we use the full force of the law to keep Australia free from exotic pests and diseases.”

During Operation Hayride the department inspected 225 targeted import consignments and more than 300 retail premises. The operation yielded an estimated 132 tonnes of prohibited goods, including meat and dairy products.

Importer left with bitter aftertaste after concealing infected kaffir lime leaves

Image of Kaffir lime leaves displaying visible symptoms of Asian Citrus CankerAn importer has been fined $7500 for breaching Australia’s strict biosecurity requirements and illegally importing kaffir lime leaves found to be infected with Asian Citrus Canker. Asian Citrus Canker is not present in Australia, and this plant disease could potentially devastate our local citrus industry if it became established in this country.

Department of Agriculture biosecurity officers initially detected the infected kaffir lime leaves in an incoming sea container. Following this, more packets of the infected leaves were subsequently discovered in the importer’s cold storage facilities, as well as in retail outlets that had previously been supplied by this importer.

Continue reading about concealed kaffir lime leaves

The department traced back importation records related to the importer which led to the seizure of around 160 kilograms of kaffir lime leaves. While these leaves tested positive for Asian Citrus Canker, this disease wasn’t found to be in a ‘viable’ state where it could infect local citrus plants.

Further court proceedings proved that the importer had deliberately concealed the kaffir lime leaves from the authorities, thus risking the introduction of plant diseases that could seriously damage Australia’s agricultural industries.

Xiao Trading Pty Ltd and its Director, Channara Khamly were charged with aggravated illegal importation under the Quarantine Act 1908 and subsequently pleaded guilty to the illegal importation of 160 kilograms of the infected kaffir lime leaves from Thailand during 2012.

The Department of Agriculture First Assistant Secretary Compliance, Raelene Vivian, said it was an importer’s responsibility to understand Australia’s biosecurity requirements.

“When importers deliberately mis-declare consignments they risk bringing in a whole host of biosecurity risk material that can affect us all – and this is a good example of what happens when you get caught,” Ms Vivian said.

This successful prosecution was a result of Operation Balmain, a targeted campaign undertaken by the department during 2012 to test industry compliance in declaring imports of biosecurity concern. Since 2012 there have been a total of 11 successful prosecutions resulting from this and other similar targeted campaigns.

Citrus canker is a serious bacterial disease of citrus trees including grapefruit, lemons, limes and oranges. Symptoms of citrus canker infection include cankers (warty rust-brown spots) on the leaves, shoots, twigs and sometimes fruit of citrus plants.

You can report any signs of suspect citrus diseases to the Department of Agriculture by phone on 1800 900 090.

Australian Biosecurity Awards

The winners in the industry and government categories at the 2015 Australian Biosecurity AwardsIndividuals and organisations have been recognised for their outstanding contribution in supporting Australia’s biosecurity system at the Australian Biosecurity Awards (ABA) ceremony. The Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, presented the awards at the ceremony held during the ABARES Outlook 2015 conference.

Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary Rona Mellor said the ABAs highlight the successes of industry and government working in partnership to manage Australia’s biosecurity offshore, onshore and at the border.

Continue reading about the Australian Biosecurity Awards

“Recipients were recognised for their initiative in developing strategies and systems that deliver biosecurity outcomes, improve in-field techniques and raise awareness of Australia’s biosecurity requirements offshore,” said Ms Mellor.

“I congratulate all winners and nominees who have done incredible work in partnership with our department to manage Australia’s biosecurity system.”

This year the Biosecurity Lifetime Achievement Award was renamed to the David Banks Biosecurity Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr Banks brought scientific and practical ingenuity as well as policy leadership to Australia’s biosecurity system.

The David Banks Biosecurity Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Mr Paul Stephenson for his work and commitment over 20 years to develop and implement biosecurity management systems and education programmes for the industries involved in importing and exporting cargo.

The 2015 ABA winners in the industry and government categories were:

  • Chevron Australia 
  • Deugro Projects (Australia)
  • Mark Engall, Engall’s Nursery
  • Jason Toi, Knauf Plasterboard
  • Nursery & Garden Industry Australia
  • Dr Glen Saunders
  • National Gallery of Australia.

Find out more about the winners on our Australian Biosecurity Awards webpage.

Border Finds

Foreign insects and animals can pose a serious threat to our environment, potentially carrying exotic parasites or disease. Thankfully our biosecurity officers picked up these critters before they could gain entry.

Bad bait

Live marine blood worms were found in a passenger’s baggage that had arrived from Hong Kong at Brisbane International Airport.

Worms present a potential risk to Australia’s biodiversity and environment as they could potentially reproduce rapidly and outcompete native species. They could also carry exotic diseases that would impact on Australia’s marine environment.

Adding to the biosecurity risks, the passenger said that they were going to use the worms as bait in Australia.

Australian fish didn’t get a chance to eat the marine blood worms, which biosecurity officers seized and destroyed.

Photo of the seized worms 

A buggy bag

An army of dried frogs, soft cockroaches and various other dead insects which appeared to be cicadas, grasshoppers and wasps were discovered in a parcel at the Sydney International Mail Centre.

The package was sent from Thailand with no declaration.

A departmental entomologist identified the insects as adult giant waterbugs, adult house crickets, adult winged reproductive queens, worker weaver ants and silkworm pupae.

Even though the insects were already dead, they could still have carried exotic insect pathogens and pests that pose a biosecurity risk to Australian species.

To safeguard against these risks, the specimens were destroyed.

Photo of the seized frogs and insects 

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