How are the Australian Government’s import conditions changing?

​Import conditions in the Goods Determination are the same as those in the Quarantine Proclamation for most goods.

With commencement of the Biosecurity Act the department revised some import conditions and removed the requirement for an import permit for specific goods referenced in the Goods Determination.

Changes to import laws?

Under section 172 of the Biosecurity Act, the Commonwealth ‘covers the field’ in respect of the prohibition or restriction of bringing in or importing goods into Australia, for the purpose of managing biosecurity risks associated with the goods. If state or territory legislation regarding prohibiting or restricting the importation of goods is inconsistent with Commonwealth legislation, the Commonwealth legislation prevails.

Can the Goods Determination include regional (eg state based) import conditions?

Yes, the department recognises that certain areas of Australia have a different pest and disease status from other areas. Recognising areas with different pest or disease status or low pest or disease prevalence is consistent with the relevant standards set by the international standard setting organisations The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC).

Regional differences may exist in both exporting and importing countries. The Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement) requires World Trade Organisation (WTO) members to adapt their SPS measures to the regional conditions from which the product originated and to which the product is destined.

Differences in pest and disease status, geography, climate, host and vector distribution across geographic regions are considered as part of biosecurity risk assessments.

The department works with state and territory authorities to determine regional pest and disease status and risk information when undertaking Biosecurity Import Risk Assessments.

There are regional differences that the department has recognised in risk assessments and reflected in import conditions, and in BICON.

The department has been discussing the impact of the Biosecurity Act with state and territory governments over the past few years, including the topic of ‘covering the field’.

To facilitate adoption of regionalised import conditions required by states/territories, in the Goods Determination, the department asked that relevant state/territory authorities provide details of what they wish to include.

Certain requirements must be met before conditions can be included in the Goods Determination. For further information, see the question below on ‘the process for including regionalised import conditions in the Goods Determination’.

The consultation process

Covering the field

Prior to the passing of the Biosecurity Act by parliament on 14 May 2015, the department undertook extensive consultation with state and territory governments and key industry bodies during the development of the new biosecurity legislation in 2012-14. This included discussion on regional differences and covering the field.

In the 12 months leading up to commencement of the Biosecurity Act, the department undertook extensive consultation with state and territory governments to communicate the key messages on covering the field.

The department asked that if any state/territory government proposed including regionalised import conditions in the Goods Determination, at commencement, they should work with the department to meet the relevant requirements.

The Goods Determination

The Goods Determination was released for public consultation on 18 March 2016 and the consultation period closed at 5pm AEST on 17 May 2016.

State and territory governments and industry were invited to provide comments through the submission process.

Industry advice notices, regarding the consultation process, were sent out via various subscription channels that the department manages, and through industry consultative groups and peak industry bodies.

The department also ran industry consultative forums in all major state and territory capital cities during March and April. Invitations were sent through the various channels outlined above. Attendees were encouraged to review the Goods Determination.

The process for including regionalised (eg state based) import conditions in the Goods Determination

In order for a class of goods to be included in the Goods Determination as prohibited (ie cannot be imported) or conditionally non-prohibited (ie may be imported if specified conditions are met), for import into all or part of Australia, it is necessary that:

  • a biosecurity risk assessment be undertaken, and
  • international obligations are met, including: the WTO SPS Agreement, and OIE and IPPC guidelines.

Biosecurity risk assessment

A biosecurity risk assessment must include:

  • Assessment of the likelihood of entry, establishment and spread of a pest or disease
  • Assessment of potential consequences of a pest or disease entering Australia
  • Estimation of risk – by assessing the combination of likelihood and consequence
  • Analysis of whether the risk is sufficiently low or measures can reduce the risk to achieve Australia’s Appropriate Level of Protection (ALOP).

What about economic impacts?

  • In keeping with the scope of the Biosecurity Act 2015 and Australia’s obligations as a Member of the WTO, economic considerations are taken into account only in relation to matters arising from potential negative direct and indirect impact of pests and diseases that could enter, establish or spread in Australian territory as a result of a good being imported.
  • Risk assessments cannot consider the potential economic impacts as a result of market competition caused by importing goods as it breaches Australia’s international obligations.

For further information please see the Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis Guidelines 2016​.

Other options for managing goods in or between a state or territory

Commonwealth legislation would prevail if state or territory legislation is inconsistent, regarding management of biosecurity risk, for importing goods.

The Biosecurity Act does not restrict the states/territories from using their laws to manage goods in other ways. For example, state/territory laws may restrict the interstate movement of goods into their state/territory and may restrict the ownership, movement or sale of goods within their state/territory.

Please consult your state/territory authority responsible for biosecurity management regarding relevant laws and how they apply to certain goods.

Why is some detail in the Goods Determination different to the conditions in BICON?

The majority of content in the Goods Determination covers goods that require import conditions but do not require a permit, and the detail provided is not always the same as what’s shown in BICON (the department’s online tool for display of import conditions).

The Goods Determination sets out either the specific risk management measures or what must be achieved through risk management measures in order for the goods to enter Australia.

BICON provides additional detail on what risk management measures the department will accept and also describes any other measures that may be applied to enable the goods to be released from biosecurity control.

In addition to import conditions, the Assessment and Management powers provided under the Biosecurity Act will give the department the tools to ensure that appropriate risk management measures have been (or are) applied when goods arrive in Australia.

Please note, BICON will remain as the single source of information on Australian Government import conditions for all stakeholders.