Important changes to Australia’s biosecurity system came into effect on 16 June 2016 with commencement of the Biosecurity Act 2015.
The Biosecurity Act introduced new requirements that affect how the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources approves and manages arrangements with quarantine approved premises (QAP) and compliance agreements (CA).
The new legislation consolidated existing CAs and QAPs under a single approved arrangement system. Holders of approved arrangements are now known as biosecurity industry participants.
We aim to make compliance with the new laws easy for you and your business. The information on this page provides a view of how the Biosecurity Act affects arrangement holders. The page contains information about the:
- scope and flexibility of approved arrangements
- transitional arrangements for existing QAP operators and CA holders
- the approved arrangement application process, including the fit and proper person test
- rights, responsibilities and requirements of biosecurity industry participants under the Biosecurity Act.
The Biosecurity Act applies to future approved arrangements for the performance of activities relating to goods subject to biosecurity control and does not affect current approvals for registered export establishments.
An approved arrangement allows a biosecurity industry participant (BIP) to carry out activities associated with the management of biosecurity risks associated with specified goods, sites or other things.
Scope and flexibility of approved arrangements
To become approved, an arrangement must meet the requirements set out in the regulations and the class requirements set by the department. The applicant must meet a fit and proper person test and the relevant Director or delegate must consider the level of biosecurity risk associated with the operation of the arrangement to be acceptable. Arrangements will be supported by an audit model that ensures the biosecurity risks are being adequately managed.
The new model for approved arrangements is more flexible than the QAP and CA model and caters for a broader scope of biosecurity activities and corporate structures while still achieving acceptable biosecurity outcomes.
Grouping physical activities and combining operations at multiple sites
A single approved arrangement under the Biosecurity Act can cover a range of physical activities at single or multiple sites. For example an approved arrangement might cover:
- any number of physical biosecurity activities (such as depot operations, food processing or treatments) undertaken at a single site
- a combination of physical activities and mobile services (such as fumigation, waste collection or transport) managed at a single site
- any number of physical biosecurity activities undertaken at multiple sites
- a combination of physical biosecurity activities and mobile services undertaken at multiple sites
To group biosecurity activities under a single arrangement the activities must be conducted under a single Australian Business Number (ABN).
A business cannot divide the physical activities occurring at a single site into separate approved arrangements.
Grouping non-physical activities (brokerage) and combining operations at multiple sites
A single approved arrangement under the Biosecurity Act can cover a range of brokerage activities (non-physical) at single or multiple sites, under the one arrangement.
To group brokerage activities under a single arrangement they must have a common ABN.
A business cannot divide a single Branch ID into separate approved arrangements.
Combining physical and non-physical activities (brokerage)
Under the Biosecurity Act the new model for approved arrangements allows BIPs to combine physical and non-physical activities under a single arrangement.
New standardised approval periods
New applications for approved arrangements started being assessed under the Biosecurity Act from 16 June 2016. Under the Quarantine Act 1908 QAPs were required to renew their arrangement every 12 months and CAs were renewed as required under the terms of the individual agreements.
To streamline and reduce the regulatory burden of renewal, all arrangements approved under the Biosecurity Act are set with a common expiry date of 30 June 2022. This common expiry date applies to:
- existing QAPs that renewed their transitional approved arrangement before 30 June 2016
- existing CAs that renewed their transitional approved arrangement before 16 December 2017
- new approved arrangement applications that are approved by the department between 16 June 2016 and 29 June 2022.
Renewal processes will no longer be undertaken annually.
Transitioning existing agreements to the new laws
The Biosecurity (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Act 2015 provides for the continuance of existing agreements to transition to approved arrangements under the Biosecurity Act.
On 16 June 2016, existing QAPs and CAs approved under the Quarantine Act 1908
became a transitional approved arrangement
Existing arrangement holders can now apply to restructure their approved arrangements if they wish. The department will be in contact with arrangement holders on how this process may be undertaken.
Existing compliance agreements
For existing CAs, the transitional approved arrangement will expire on 16 December 2017. Brokers and other agreement holders will need to renew their transitional approved arrangement or apply for a new approved arrangement under the Biosecurity Act before December 2017 in order to maintain their biosecurity operations.
There will be no charges associated with converting transitional approved arrangements to approved arrangements. In addition, the conversion process will not change any of the following:
- the costs associated with arrangements
- the biosecurity activities that BIPs are able to perform
- the biosecurity requirements that BIPs must comply with
- the biosecurity requirements that BIPs are audited against
- how audits are conducted and how often
- the cost of audits
- the consequences and management of non-compliance with biosecurity requirements.
The department will be in contact with CA holders to provide information about the timing and process for renewing their transitional approved arrangements.
Auditing and fees
The majority of requirements for CA holders and QAP operators remain the same under the Biosecurity Act. There is still:
- an annual levy for arrangement holders
- audits and sanctions for noncompliance
- fee-for-service charges for audits.
Fees for approved arrangement have not changed as a result of implementing the Biosecurity Act. Adjustments to the department’s cost recovery arrangements and levies were made in December 2015. More information on fees and levies is available in section 4.6 of the Charging Guidelines 2015-16.
Non-compliance with an arrangement
Non-compliance refers to circumstances where a BIP fails to fulfil one or more of the requirements of their arrangement with the department.
Similar to operations under the Quarantine Act 1908, where non-compliance is identified under the Biosecurity Act the department may:
- issue a corrective action request
- apply an increased audit rate
- vary, suspend or revoke an arrangement
- seek prosecution.
Under the Biosecurity Act, where the department finds non-compliance and addresses this by applying sanctions (such as corrective action or increased audit rates), the sanctions will typically apply to the non-compliant site and not to any other site covered by the same approved arrangement.
Where non-compliance at a site warrants action from the department to suspend or revoke an individual site from a ‘multi-site’ approved arrangement, this would be achieved through a part suspension or a variation to the approved arrangement.
Non-compliance can impact the fitness and propriety of a person or company operating an approved arrangement. Where an entity holds approval for multiple arrangements and manages multiple sites, there are some situations where non-compliance at one site will adversely affect their fitness and propriety – potentially impacting all sites and all approved arrangements connected to the entity.
Submitting an application for an approved arrangement requires significant preparation on behalf of the applicant, who is required to complete and submit the necessary documentation. More information about the new applications process is available in the approved arrangement section of the department’s website.
The department is currently scoping the requirements for a new online system that will modernise services for clients, streamlining the application process and the ongoing management of approved arrangements. Testing of this system is anticipated to take place in the 2016/17 financial year. Until the system is available, applications will be made using online forms that must be lodged with the department. More information about the application process, including forms and guidance will be published to the department’s website for commencement.
Class types and criteria
There is minimal change to existing class types and criteria, however potential BIPs can expect to see changes to terminology and other minor aspects to reflect the new legislative framework. For example, brokerage activities formally classified as CAs under the Quarantine Act 1908 now have a specific class type under the Biosecurity Act and criteria are now known as requirements.
Fit and proper person test
The introduction of the Biosecurity Act did not affect the requirements or existing status of ‘accredited persons’. Accredited persons are people who have successfully completed training that is relevant to the biosecurity activities of the arrangement.
From 16 June 2016 some classes of approved arrangements require activities to be performed by ‘accredited persons’.
Accredited persons are still required to demonstrate biosecurity knowledge and competence, especially brokers and BIPs operating under the Biosecurity Act.
Right to review a decision
Decisions to approve, refuse, suspend or revoke approved arrangements are examples of reviewable decisions under the Biosecurity Act. A full list of reviewable decisions as they relate to approved arrangements is available at s574 of the Biosecurity Act 2015.
Where an approved arrangement is refused or revoked the applicant can request a formal internal review of the decision. The decision by the Director of Biosecurity or the internal reviewer is also subject to further external review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
False or misleading information
Applicants are still required to make declarations about the accuracy of information provided to the department to support an application for an approved arrangement. The Biosecurity Act provides the department with a broad range of compliance and enforcement tools, including civil penalties and criminal prosecutions which may apply where false or misleading information is provided to the department.
Our interactions with biosecurity industry participants (BIPs)
Most responsibilities conferred upon BIPs operating an approved arrangement from 16 June 2016 are similar to existing requirements and responsibilities for CA holders and QAP operators under the Quarantine Act 1908.
BIPs may notice some changes in the way the department interacts with them onsite, including the use of new terminology, that reflect the new assessment and management powers within the Biosecurity Act.
How we assess the biosecurity risks of goods located at an approved arrangement site
Under the Biosecurity Act, the department has additional powers to assess the level of biosecurity risk associated with goods subject to biosecurity control at an approved arrangement site including the power to:
- require a person to answer questions in relation to the goods or conveyance
- require a person to produce documents relating to the goods or conveyance
- secure goods or conveyances
- inspect the goods or conveyance
- take samples of good
Following biosecurity directions and complying with notices
The Biosecurity Act introduces new powers for biosecurity officers to manage biosecurity risks. Examples include isolating goods on a specified site for a period of time and issuing exposed goods orders.
Undertake the Biosecurity Act Interactive Learning Toolto find out more about assessment and management powers under the Biosecurity Act 2015.
Person in Charge
In relation to goods, the person in charge refers to the owner of the goods or a person (other than a biosecurity officer or biosecurity enforcement officer) who is in possession or control of the goods. The person in charge of goods also includes a BIP authorised by an approved arrangement, who is in possession or control of the goods.
Reportable biosecurity incidents
The Biosecurity Act recognises the shared responsibility that BIPs have to help manage Australia’s biosecurity system. Business owners and staff working at QAPs and under CAs (now known as approved arrangements) have been reporting instances of potential biosecurity risk to the department for a number of years. The Determination for Reportable Biosecurity Incidents formalises this arrangement, conferring an obligation on persons in charge of goods that are subject to biosecurity control to notify the department of certain events that may pose a biosecurity risk to Australia.
Reportable biosecurity incidents include:
- when prohibited, conditionally non-prohibited or suspended goods are lost or stolen
- when prohibited, conditionally non-prohibited or suspended goods are not as described on the manifest or import permit
- when goods are infested with live pests
- a change to the intended use of conditionally non-prohibited goods
The person in charge of the goods being transferred to or held at a site operating under an approved arrangement must report the incident verbally or in writing to a biosecurity officer as soon as practicable once they have become aware of the incident. More information about the requirements for reportable biosecurity incidents can be obtained by viewing the supporting material available from the Reportable Biosecurity Incidents page.
Compliance and enforcement
The department uses a differentiated approach to compliance management. This approach focuses on promoting voluntary compliance, and responding to noncompliance in a way that corresponds with the behaviours of those involved. Find out more about our approach to compliance and the specific compliance posture that was adopted from commencement to support existing clients in the transition to the new laws.
Failure to comply with a requirement under the Biosecurity Act may result in penalties, including infringement notices, civil penalties or criminal prosecutions. Find out more about the range of new compliance and enforcement tools available under the Biosecurity Act and how the department proposes to use these in the future.
Biosecurity enforcement officers
The Biosecurity Act establishes biosecurity enforcement officers as a new role with enhanced powers. Biosecurity enforcement officers have powers to investigate and monitor compliance with the Act and to assist in the management of biosecurity risk by entering premises or executing warrants.
Biosecurity officers may accompany a biosecurity enforcement officer to assist with the management of biosecurity risk at a site covered by an approved arrangement.