Export and Quarantine laws and the role of the Department of Agriculture

​If you export food (meat, fish, seed, grains, fruit and vegetables) or livestock, or you import goods into Australia, you must be aware of your obligations under Australian law.

The Department of Agriculture (the department) manages quarantine controls at our borders to minimise the risk of exotic pests and diseases entering the country. The department also provides import and export inspection and certification to help retain Australia's highly favourable animal, plant and human health status and wide access to overseas export markets.

Australia is free from a number of biological threats, such as foot and mouth disease, that have had major economic and environmental consequences for other countries.

Any illegal activity can undermine Australia's animal, plant and human health status and our wide access to overseas export markets.  Failure to comply with the laws may result in heavy fines or imprisonment. Prosecution action that is pursued by the department is in line with the “Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth - Guidelines for the making of decisions in the prosecution process”.

The department is committed to working with you to help protect Australia from pests and disease and understand our biosecurity laws – both in relation to quarantine and to export activities.  However, for those individuals or companies who engage in a criminal manner in relation to our laws we are committed to investigate such actions and if evidence if available to support that an offence may have been committed the matter will be referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP).

Some matters that have been considered by the CDPP and have been proven before the Courts recently have resulted in high penalties including:

For individuals

  • A sentence of three years imprisonment to be released after serving 6 months’ with a recognizance of $1000 to be of good behavior for two years.
  • A sentence of three years imprisonment and one year for a related offence to be released after 9 months imprisonment.
  • A sentence of 18 months imprisonment to serve 4 months and to be placed on a two year good behavior bond in the amount of $1000.
  • A conviction and sentence of 30 months imprisonment on one count and 12 months imprisonment on second count to be served concurrently. The person was to be released after 3 months upon entering a three year good behavior bond and fined $1000.
  • A conviction and fine of $5,000.00, and placed on a 2 year good behavior bond and directed to pay court costs.

For companies

  • Two companies that were recently fined $40,000 each for offences against biosecurity legislation.

Minor breaches may result in a warning or Infringement Notice and fine. The department may also use the provisions of other legislation where relevant.

Further information

You can contact us directly if you require further information, assistance or advice.  

Investigations and Enforcement Contacts