The Biosecurity Act applies to Australia, and its external territories including Norfolk Island, Christmas Island, and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands.
Goods and conveyances travelling to Australia are subject to biosecurity control as soon as they enter Australian airspace or the coastal sea of these areas which generally extends 12 nautical miles (NM) from the coast.
Biosecurity Act 2015 allows the Director of Biosecurity to establish biosecurity zones within Australia to monitor, control and respond to pests and diseases.
When a pest or disease that poses an unacceptable level of biosecurity risk enters, emerges or establishes (or is likely to) in Australia, monitoring zones can be established. Biosecurity officers have the power to monitor, control and respond to biosecurity risks within the boundaries of the zone. They typically conduct activities like setting traps and installing monitoring equipment within the zone.
Permanent biosecurity monitoring zones apply 400m beyond the boundary of:
Temporary biosecurity monitoring zones can be declared to ensure a risk has not spread. When this occurs the department works with state and territory bodes responsible for biosecurity management in establishing the zone and responding to the threat.
Biosecurity activity zones can be established in Australian territory where a high biosecurity risk associated with people, goods and conveyances moving in and out of the area exists. An example is the
Post entry quarantine facility at Mickleham where plants and animals are monitored for exotic diseases and illness after arriving from overseas. Like monitoring zones, activity zones are established in consultation with state and territory bodies responsible for biosecurity management.
When a biosecurity officer has reasonable grounds for suspecting that a pest or disease is present on goods, or in a premises, and that they pose an unacceptable risk to Australia’s biosecurity, a biosecurity response zone may be established.
State and territory governments have the primary responsibility for responses within their boundaries, although the Biosecurity Act does allow for the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to engage in response activities.
Human health response zones
The Director of Human Biosecurity may establish a human health response zone if it is necessary for purposes of preventing, or reducing the risk of, a
listed human disease emerging, establishing or spreading in Australia or its territories.
The Department of Health has policy and operational carriage of this power, however biosecurity officers have the power to ask questions and/or require written information to be provided by individuals within a human biosecurity response zone.
The Governor-General can declare a biosecurity emergency when the Agriculture Minister is satisfied a disease or pest poses a severe and immediate threat or harm on a nationally significant scale to animal or plant health, the environment or related economic activities.
Emergency powers will only be used in limited circumstances to manage biosecurity risk on a nationally significant scale:
- where the response exceeds the capability of state, territory and Commonwealth powers
- where a rapid, nationally consistent response is required to manage a severe and immediate threat.
- During a biosecurity emergency the Agriculture Minister may decide to put in place requirements to prevent or control the establishment or spread of the disease or pest.
Requirements may include:
- specifying entry and exit conditions for people, goods and conveyances
- restricting movement between specified places
- evacuation or removal of goods from specified places
- treatment or destruction of goods
- a direction not to move/interfere with or deal with goods or conveyances.
- closing or restricting access to a premises.
The details of the requirements will depend on the nature and scale of the biosecurity risk associated with the disease or pest, and its location within Australian territory.