Questions and answers

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When was the new biosecurity legislation passed?

The biosecurity legislation was passed by the Parliament on 14 May 2015. It received royal assent from the Governor-General on 16 June 2015 and has now become the Biosecurity Act 2015.

When did the Biosecurity Act 2015 commence?

The Biosecurity Act 2015 and its supporting Acts commenced on 16 June 2016. The 12 month delay provided time for the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources to ensure that clients, staff and stakeholders understand their rights and responsibilities under the Biosecurity Act and for a smooth transition to operations under the new regulatory arrangements.

Some parts of the legislation have transitional arrangements and further delayed commencement dates.

Did the department consult with stakeholders before the Acts commence?

The department undertook a mix of broad and targeted consultation with stakeholders and clients including engagement on the draft regulations and other delegated legislation.

Did the department consult on the development of regulations and policies?

Yes. The department is working with stakeholders, state and territory governments and clients to design and develop delegated legislation and policies that underpin the legislation in readiness for commencement on 16 June 2016. A significant package of delegated legislation including, draft regulations, determinations and declarations has already been released for public comment. It is expected that the remaining regulations will be released shortly.

More information will be provided on the department’s website as work progresses.

How can I find out more about the Biosecurity Act 2015?

For more information about the Biosecurity Act 2015, please email New Biosecurity Legislation or phone the department on 1800 040 629.

Make sure you don’t miss an update by subscribing to the biosecurity legislation distribution list.

Where can I get a copy of the Biosecurity Act 2015?

Copies of the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its supporting Acts are available on the Office of Parliamentary Counsel website Comlaw. An explanatory memorandum of the Biosecurity Bill 2014 is also available on the Australian Parliament House.

Why has the Australian Government replaced the Quarantine Act 1908 with new biosecurity legislation?

The Quarantine Act is old and outdated. It had been amended more than fifty times. It was written at a time when people and goods only arrived by sea and to respond to diseases like the bubonic plague, cholera and measles.

A number of significant reviews of the biosecurity system, most recently the 2008 Review of Australia’s Quarantine and Biosecurity (Beale Review), outlined opportunities to improve the system, including the development of new legislation.

The Biosecurity Act 2015 has been designed to support the biosecurity system in any age, regardless of advances in transport or technology or future challenges.

What are the main differences between the Quarantine Act 1908 and the Biosecurity Act 2015?

Australia faces very different biosecurity risks now than it did in 1908 when the Quarantine Act was drafted. The Quarantine Act was designed to protect Australia from outbreaks of small pox and the bubonic plague. The Biosecurity Act will allow us to manage today’s biosecurity risks in a more modern and effective way through a strong, clear and flexible legislative framework. It will also provide an opportunity for the department to improve the way it assesses and manages risks, including the management of pests and diseases already present in Australia.

The Biosecurity Act provides the Commonwealth with the right powers and tools to manage contemporary biosecurity threats. These powers and tools include:

  • Mechanisms to clearly identify and manage biosecurity risks offshore, onshore and at the border.
  • Modern regulatory provisions and administrative practices.
  • A new range of enforcement options, including infringement notices, civil penalties, enforceable undertakings and criminal sanctions.
  • Penalties in the Biosecurity Act will match the offence and are balanced, consistent and reflect the level of biosecurity risk posed when prohibited are intercepted.
  • A new approved arrangement scheme to replace duplicative quarantine approved premises and compliance agreement provisions in the Quarantine Act.
  • A fit and proper person test that will allow the government to use previous conduct to assess whether it is appropriate for a person or business to import goods or be responsible for an Approved Arrangement.
  • New powers to enable information gathering to support the biosecurity system.
  • Expanded onshore powers for the Commonwealth to cooperatively manage and address pest and disease incursions with state governments and/or the private sector.
  • A framework to manage the risk associated with ballast water. The Biosecurity Act prepares us for the International Ballast Water Convention and creates a single, Australian-wide ballast water and management regime by introducing new ballast water management requirements for vessels.

How does the Biosecurity Act 2015 recognise regional differences?

The Biosecurity Act clarifies the consideration of regional differences during Biosecurity Import Risk Analyses. The Biosecurity Act contains a note stating that considering the unique pest and disease status of each region is part of conducting biosecurity import risk analyses.

This is a result of the consultation processes in 2012 and 2014 where stakeholders provided feedback about the importance of the legislation allowing for the consideration of regional differences when dealing with biosecurity risks. This process identified that the department already recognised regional differences where they were scientifically justified.

The definition of biosecurity risk within the Biosecurity Act also recognises regional differences. It states:

biosecurity risk means

  1. the likelihood of a disease or pest:
    1. entering Australian territory or a part of Australian territory; or
    2. establishing itself or spreading in Australian territory or a part of Australian territory; and
  2. the potential for any of the following:
    1. the disease or pest to cause harm to human, animal or plant health;
    2. the disease or pest to cause harm to the environment;
    3. economic consequences associated with the entry, establishment or spread of the disease or pest.

Further information can be found in Chapter 3 of the explanatory memorandum which is available on the Australian Parliament House Website.

What is Australia’s Appropriate Level of Protection (ALOP)

Australia is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO). All WTO Members are signatories to the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement), under which they have both rights and obligations. Under the SPS Agreement, each WTO Member is entitled to maintain a level of protection it considers appropriate to protect human, animal or plant life or health within its territory. This is called the Appropriate Level of Protection (ALOP).

Australia’s ALOP and its articulation (as agreed by state, territory and Commonwealth governments in 2002) has been included in the Act. The ALOP is expressed as providing a high level of sanitary and phytosanitary protection aimed at reducing risk to a very low level, but not to zero.

Why is Australia’s Appropriate Level of Protection (ALOP) included in the Biosecurity Act 2015?

Australia’s ALOP underpins the integrity of Australia’s biosecurity system. The Biosecurity Act includes Australia’s ALOP to

  • demonstrate to our trading partners that Australia's application of the ALOP is consistent with our international obligations, and
  • support recommendations from additional independent reviews of the biosecurity system, such as the Beale Review in 2008, that have called for the definition of ALOP, or the capacity to define it, in biosecurity legislation.​

Further information can be found in chapter 1 of the Biosecurity Bill 2014 explanatory memorandum which is available on the Australian Parliament House Website.

How does the Biosecurity Act 2015 manage environmental biosecurity?

The Biosecurity Act will help to protect Australia’s natural environments from entry and establishment of invasive species likely to harm Australia's natural environment. The definition of ‘biosecurity risk’ in the Biosecurity Act considers the risk posed to the environment, as well as human, animal and plant health and the economy.

Biosecurity risk is a core concept in the Biosecurity Act. Biosecurity officers have a range of powers to assess biosecurity risk and a range of powers to impose measures and manage any risk present. These powers can be used to manage risks that relate to human, animal or plant health, the economy or the environment.

Where can I get information on how human health will be managed under the Biosecurity Act 2015?

The Australian Government Department of Health has responsibility for the management of human health under the Biosecurity Act. Further information on how human health will be managed under the Biosecurity Act is available on the Department of Health website.

What are the Acts that support the Biosecurity Act 2015?

The Biosecurity Act is supported by four other Acts which are designed to help ensure the smooth transition from the Quarantine Act 1908 to the Biosecurity Act 2015.
These supporting Acts are the:

  • Biosecurity (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Act 2015
  • three Biosecurity Charging Imposition Acts including:
    • The Quarantine Charges (Imposition-General) Amendment Act 2015.
    • The Quarantine Charges (Imposition-Customs) Amendment Act 2015.
    • The Quarantine Charges (Imposition-Excise) Amendment Act 2015.

An explanatory memorandum for the Biosecurity (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Act 2015 is available on the Australian Parliament House (APH) website.

An explanatory memorandum for the three Biosecurity Charging Imposition Acts is also available on the APH website.

What is the Biosecurity (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Act 2015?

The Biosecurity (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Act 2015 (the Act) is the first supporting Act to the Biosecurity Act 2015. It is designed to facilitate the transition from the Quarantine Act 1908 to the Biosecurity Act 2015.

The Biosecurity (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Act 2015 does this by ensuring that biosecurity risk managed under the Quarantine Act continue to be managed when the new Biosecurity Act commences. For example, if a person is directed not to move a good under the Quarantine Act, that direction would still be valid under the Biosecurity Act. Another example is if an import permit application is made under the Quarantine Act, it would be taken to have been made under the Biosecurity Act.

In some key areas, the transition will take place over a longer period of time so businesses have more time to become compliant with new requirements and better manage the volume of work associated with this change.

The Act also makes consequential amendments to a range of other Commonwealth legislation to reflect the broad scope of managing biosecurity risk.

For more information access the Biosecurity (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Act 2015 and summary on the Australian Parliament House website.

What are the other three supporting Acts to the Biosecurity Act 2015?

Three other supporting Acts to the Biosecurity Act 2015 were also introduced as part of the biosecurity legislation. They are the:

  • The Quarantine Charges (Imposition-General) Act 2014.
  • Quarantine Charges (Imposition-Customs) Act 2014.
  • Quarantine Charges (Imposition-Excise) Act 2014.

These Acts are designed to amend the current Quarantine charging arrangements to make sure that the Commonwealth can continue to impose charges appropriately.

These Acts do not set the amount of the charges nor do they apply any financial impacts on business. The charges and who is liable and exempt from paying the charges is set in delegated legislation.

For more information access the Acts on ComLaw and the summaries on the Australian Parliament House website.

Why is there more than one Act?

While the Biosecurity Act 2015 contains most of the operative provisions that will manage our biosecurity risks, there is still more to the story.

Many other pieces of Commonwealth legislation reference or rely on the Quarantine Act 1908 and it is important to update the statute book. It is also important to enable a smooth transition on commencement day of 16 June 2016, so that management of biosecurity risks can continue. These provisions are included in separate amendment Acts so when they have done their job, they can be removed from the statute book.

I am unfamiliar with the legislative process, how do all the legislative components fit together?

The Biosecurity Bill 2014 and its supporting Bills were proposed as primary legislation. When Parliament passed the biosecurity legislation, passage occurred and it then received royal assent. Each Bill became an Act and their respective names were changed from Bills to Acts.

These Acts are primary legislation.

Primary legislation typically contains broad principles that are supported in delegated legislation and administrative processes. Acts of Parliament are primary legislation. Acts can authorise persons or bodies other than the Parliament to create delegated legislation under the Act, such as regulations or delegations.

Consideration of operational matters for the Biosecurity Act 2015, such as the process for conducting a Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis, will be outlined in delegated legislation.

Delegated legislation is law made to supplement and provide more detailed requirements under primary legislation. Delegated legislation can include regulations, proclamations, determinations and orders. Regulations for the Biosecurity Act 2015 were developed throughout 2015 and early 2016. The department will continue consulting with stakeholders during this time.

Administrative documents and policies are a range of materials that are designed to support primary and delegated legislation. An example of this is an operational handbook for biosecurity staff that outlines job specific functions and training requirements.
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Contact us for more information

Call 1800 040 629 or email New Biosecurity Legislation to find out more about the Biosecurity Act 2015 and what it means for you.