Biosecurity Matters, Edition 2, 2017

​Biosecurity Matters

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Biosecurity is the management of the risk of pests and diseases entering, emerging, establishing or spreading in Australia and causing harm to animals, plants or human health, the economy, the environment and the community.

Australian Biosecurity Award winners announced

Bruce Christie (centre), recipient of the 2017 David Banks Biosecurity Lifetime Achievement Award with the Department’s Deputy Secretary for Biosecurity Lyn O'Connell and Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Anne Ruston. Photo courtesy of Steve Keough Photography 2017.

Eradicating fire ants from a Queensland port and containing a Khapra beetle outbreak on Kangaroo Island have won over the judges at this year’s Australian Biosecurity Awards.

The Department’s Deputy Secretary for Biosecurity, Lyn O'Connell, announced the winners at the ABARES Outlook Conference dinner on 7 March 2017.

The awards span industry and government, recognising individuals, groups and organisations committed to supporting and promoting Australia's biosecurity and the systems that uphold it.

The 2017 award winners included Mike Dixon from Gladstone Ports Corporation for his instrumental role in the eradication of fire ants from the central Queensland sea port. Kangaroo Island Freight Services, Middleton’s Distribution and Biosecurity South Australia also scooped an award for their collaborative work in successfully containing a Khapra beetle incursion.

The David Banks Biosecurity Lifetime Achievement Award is dedicated to the memory of Dr David Banks, who brought scientific and practical ingenuity as well as policy leadership to Australia’s biosecurity. The award is for an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to biosecurity integrity in Australia over a number of years.

Continue reading about Australian Biosecurity Award winners announced

This year it was presented to Bruce Christie for his work leading and successfully managing many responses to important pests and diseases, including the eradication of equine influenza from NSW. He is considered a national leader in biosecurity who has been protecting Australia from pests and diseases for more than 35 years.

All of the 2017 winners have proved themselves critical to ensure Australia’s biosecurity system is able to support the future of Australian agriculture.

Detailed profiles of the winners are available on the department’s Facebook page or website.

Keep your eye out for our call for nominations for the 2018 awards in the second half of 2017. More information is available at Australian Biosecurity Awards.

All the Award Winners

2017 David Banks Biosecurity Lifetime Achievement Award:

  • Bruce M. Christie, New South Wales

2017 Australian Biosecurity Award in the Industry category:

  • John Chambers, Victoria
  • Mike Dixon, Queensland
  • Vinehealth Australia, South Australia
  • Kangaroo Island Freight Services, South Australia
  • Middleton’s Distribution, South Australia

2017 Australian Biosecurity Award in the Government category:

  • Biosecurity South Australia
  • CropSafe Team, Victoria
  • Agriculture Victoria – Biosecurity Branch
  • Animal Health Australia and Plant Health Australia

Boat surveys highlight the impact of marine pests

Biofouling occurs when marine plants and animals attach and grow on the submerged parts of a vessel.

More than 800 boat owners and operators have responded to our recrea​tional boat survey about how marine pests move around Australian waters on recreational boats.

Their insights are important because the spread of marine plants and animals can harm our nation’s fisheries, threaten our biodiversity and affect our economy and health.

A common way that marine pests can enter and move around our waters is through vessel biofouling. Biofouling occurs when marine plants and animals attach and grow on the submerged parts of a vessel like the hull, propellers, anchors, niche areas and fishing gear.

Since November, in another survey, we’ve also been talking to international commercial vessel owners and operators about how biofouling affects them.

Besides introducing pests into our waterways, biofouling can reduce a boat’s fuel efficiency and speed and also increase maintenance costs.

Continue reading about boat surveys

Key trends in recreational boat cleaning

Some key trends emerging from the more than 800 people who have taken the recreational boat survey to date is that 36% of respondents have told us they clean their boat hull while it is in the water, while 10% take the boat out of the water for cleaning.  An encouraging finding was that about 20% of respondents were familiar with the contents of the Anti-fouling and in-water cleaning guidelines published by the Department in 2015.

We’re also asking boat owners about how they prevent biofouling on their boats. The majority of respondents are telling us they:

  • apply anti-fouling coating to their boats, including to the niche areas, at least once a year (57%). Only 2% never anti-foul the boat hull
  • use anti-fouling coating which slows the growth of marine pests on the hull (76%).

New insights on overseas vessels

For commercial vessels, we’ve engaged Ramboll Environ to run a voluntary survey into how biofouling is managed on vessels arriving in Australian waters from overseas. The results will inform new internationally consistent biofouling standards for Australia and participants get a free copy of the in-water dive survey report of their vessel.

With ten vessels already surveyed, vessel owners and operators are taking advantage of the dive report and photos showing the condition of their vessel’s hull.

Surveys are being conducted in all states and territories except the ACT.

If you are a recreational boat owner, get involved and visit Recreational boat survey to help us understand how you manage biofouling on your boat.

To register to be a part of our in-water hull and biofouling survey of commercial vessels entering Australian ports visit the department website.

Strengthening imported food safety

Australians’ love of overseas food products is why we are strengthening our management of imported food.

The Australian Government is strengthening how we manage imported food safety risks to better protect the health of consumers.

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources Assistant Secretary for Compliance Arrangements Dr Robyn Cleland said the changes would address the limitations of the current system, by providing more flexible and targeted ways to prevent and respond to food safety risk.

“Food safety issues, such as imported berries linked to cases of hepatitis A in 2015, highlighted limitations with the current management of imported food safety,” Dr Cleland said.

“Under the changes, importers will be more accountable for sourcing safe food—for example, they will need to be able to trace food one step backward, to who they bought it from, and one step forward, to who they sold it to.

Continue reading about strengthening imported food safety

“The department’s ability to monitor and respond to incidents will also improve with additional powers, including the ability to increase our inspection rate in response to emerging food safety risks.

“These changes will help us respond to the potential risks posed by the growing complexity of globalised food supply chains and an increasing consumer demand for imported food.”

The changes to the management of imported food safety risks will be introduced through legislative and non-legislative reforms.

The exposure draft amendment bill and regulations to enable the legislative changes are now available for public consultation.

Members of the public, food importing companies and Australia’s trading partners are encouraged to have their say on the draft bill and regulations before the consultation closes on 4 May 2017.

Legislative changes are anticipated to be introduced into Parliament in 2017. Food importers will have twelve months from the passing of the Bill by the Parliament to adjust their business practices to new requirements before the changes come into effect.

Non-legislative changes are not expected to have a direct impact on all food importers and will be progressively implemented by the department throughout 2017.

For more information, visit Imported food reform or register your interest by emailing imported food enquiries.

Improving compliance with MARS

MARS has recorded almost 9,000 completed voyages by international commercial vessels.

More commercial ships entering Australia are complying with our biosecurity regulations since the department introduced its new online system for incoming vessels last year. The Maritime Arrivals Reporting System (MARS) along with a Vessel Compliance Scheme (VCS) was rolled out across all Australian seaports in late 2016.

The VCS initiative introduced a demerit point system for vessels to monitor compliance levels and to determine eligibility for vessels to qualify for documentary clearance. In addition, the department published a suite of biosecurity awareness material to help shipping agencies and vessel masters understand their obligations and comply with Australia’s biosecurity requirements.

As of 18 April 2017, MARS has recorded almost 9,000 completed voyages by international commercial vessels.  Since implementation, an additional 5% of vessels have complied and received documentary clearance, saving time and biosecurity costs compared to 2015-16. This allows our biosecurity officers to devote more time to those vessel operators who exhibit non-compliant behaviour.

Keeping Australia free of introduced pests and diseases through our seaports is a major priority for the department. We manage the arrival of approximately 18,000 vessels a year at more than 52 ports around Australia.

Rewarding our Border Security stars

Lily Oon (centre), just one of the 20 officers who received an award at the Border Security event in Sydney with the Department’s Deputy Secretary for Biosecurity Lyn O’Connell and Seven Network’s Head of Factual Programming Lyndal Marks.

If you’ve watched Channel 7’s Border Security television series, you’ve already seen some of our biosecurity stars in action at Sydney airport.

The show has been on air since 2004 and draws an Australian audience of more than 1 million viewers each week. It’s also shown in 200 other countries.

The Department’s Deputy Secretary for Biosecurity, Lyn O’Connell, recently presented awards to some of our frontline biosecurity officers who’ve appeared on camera.

During the awards ceremony held in Sydney, special recognition was also given to those officers who’ve become Border Security veterans by making repeated appearances. As part of their award, the officers were invited to tour the Channel 7 studio where the show is produced.

Border Finds – Out for a duck

Duck eggs found in a container of sports equipment from New Zealand.

Vigilant biosecurity officers in Brisbane recently hatched an unexpected find when they noticed a strange odour while inspecting a container of personal effects that had just arrived from New Zealand.

While the import declaration listed sporting equipment and eggs, the biosecurity officers were dubious that someone would transport such fragile cargo in this manner. When they investigated further, they discovered actual eggs among the balls and wickets inside the storage container.

Molecular analysis of the eggs identified they belonged to a species of duck (Anas sp.). Because egg material had spread throughout the container, the biosecurity officer issued a direction to treat the goods using gamma irradiation.

Continue reading about Border Finds

Regardless of how they are packed, eggs cannot be brought into Australia. Eggs can carry a range of serious biosecurity pests and diseases including avian influenza, a highly infectious poultry disease that could impact the health of Australian birds if an outbreak occurred here.

For more information on what can and can’t be brought or sent to Australia, visit Travelling or sending goods to Australia.

If you’re sending or bringing gifts or souvenirs to Australia, you can check what to avoid, what may require treatment, and what we suggest as a safe option.

Border Finds – Stink bugs set our alarm bells ringing

The alarm bells started ringing when our biosecurity officers recently detected Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs (BMSB) in a vintage fire engine arriving from the USA.

A 1981 American LaFrance Century Fire Engine arrived at the port of Brisbane during a period of heightened surveillance of all cargo arriving from the USA, due to the BMSB threat. Upon inspection, multiple dead stink bugs were found at the bottom of the front driver’s cab and also in the fire engine’s many locker compartments.

Biosecurity officers began fog spraying the cab and lockers to flush out any hidden insects and found live stink bugs. The fire truck was then covered in a tarp to contain the pest and fumigated within 24 hours by Rentokil, before being transported to a Biosecurity Approved Arrangement site for a full inspection, unpacking and cleaning.

Stink bugs and extraneous plant material were removed, and all parts of the fire truck including the water tank and hoses were cleaned before the truck was released to the importer. The heat treatment the truck had undergone in the USA prior to shipping had failed to address this serious pest.

While all of the documentation for the fire truck was found to be compliant, the importer incurred a cost for the additional fumigation that was required.

Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs are listed as a national priority plant pest by the department. If established in Australia, this pest would be extremely difficult and expensive to manage because of its tendency to hitchhike and its highly mobile nature.

If you see an unusual pest, secure the goods to limit its movement and immediately report it to the department’s SEE.SECURE.REPORT hotline on 1800 798 636, or by using the online form.


Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs were found in this imported vintage fire truck from the USA.

Have Your Say


The Department is currently seeking feedback from:

  • Commercial vessel operators arriving in Australian ports – join our voluntary biofouling survey and get a free dive survey report for your vessel.
  • Recreational boat owners – join our short online survey about biofouling and help keep Australia’s waters healthy.
  • Members of the public, food importing companies and Australia’s trading partners – have your say on draft legislation to strengthen the management of imp​orted food safety risks. Submissions close 4pm (AEDT) 4 May 2017.

See the latest Import industry advice notices or Export industry and market access notices.