Biosecurity Act 2015 and supporting Acts

​​​​The Biosecurity Bill 2014 and supporting legislation received royal assent from the Governor-General on 16 June 2015 and has now become the Biosecurity Act 2015.

The new Biosecurity Act will commence on 16 June 2016, 12 months after royal assent, replacing the Quarantine Act 1908. Just as with the Quarantine Act, the biosecurity legislation will be co-administered by the Ministers responsible for Agriculture and Health.
Until commencement of the new legislation, the Quarantine Act 1908 remains the primary piece of biosecurity legislation in Australia.

The 12 month delay is to ensure clients, staff and stakeholders understand their rights and responsibilities under the new Biosecurity Act and there is a smooth transition to the new regulatory arrangements. Some parts of the legislation have transitional arrangements and further delayed commencement dates.

The Department of Agriculture (the department) will continue to consult with staff, stakeholders and clients to develop delegated legislation and supporting policies under the new Biosecurity Act.
The department is working with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to prepare the draft regulations. It is expected that the regulations will be released for public consideration in the coming months.

Did you know? The department has worked with more than 400 organisations over recent years representing a vast range of sectors to consult on the design and development of this new biosecurity legislation, which is over 630 pages long, and modernises complex regulatory provisions and administrative practices.

The Biosecurity Act and supporting legislation will support the biosecurity system in any age, regardless of advances in transport and technology or future challenges. Setting up a modern and responsive legislative framework and improving the underpinning processes, means a more robust biosecurity system that benefits everyone.

  • For the Australian farmer, a strong biosecurity system means their crops will be safer from exotic pests and their livestock be more protected from diseases such as FMD—which a recent ABARES report found could cost our economy more than $50 billion over a decade.”
  • For the Australian economy, it means an increased likelihood of sustained domestic production and international exports leading to a competitive and profitable agricultural sector.
  • For the Australian community, it means everyone can continue to enjoy a prosperous nation and live life with the amenities they are accustomed to.

A robust biosecurity system is important in helping prevent the entry and establishment of invasive species likely to harm Australia's natural environment, agricultural systems, community health and economy. Scientific evidence and advice plays an important role in our biosecurity system to help us make the right decisions, at the right time, to achieve the best results.

Did you know? In the past decade alone, we’ve seen the volume of air passengers grow by 80 per cent, sea containers by 82 per cent and bulk cargo increase by 16 per cent—so we need legislation that not only safeguards our primary industries and our environment from increased threats of pest and disease, but also allows us to manage these threats in the most efficient way possible.

Safeguarding Australia from unwanted biosecurity risks will not only protect Australia’s environment and our way of life, but will also protect Australia’s economy. This will help maintain our reputation as a producer of high quality and safe agricultural products for the world.

Did you know?It is estimated the compliance costs on supply chain and logistics, cargo, ports, customs brokers, importers, peak industry bodies, petroleum/exploration stakeholders and primary producers will be reduced by approximately $6.9 million per year because of clearer, easier to use legislation and the improved processes it will enable.

The implementation of the new biosecurity legislation is a large body of work for the department and its success is critical to a large number of clients and stakeholders. Client and stakeholder understanding of how the department will implement the new regulatory framework is essential to ensuring that all clients and stakeholders are able to comply with the new biosecurity Act from the start.

To make sure you receive the latest information about the new biosecurity legislation and supporting practices and procedures, please subscribe to the biosecurity legislation distribution list, email New Biosecurity Legislation or phone 1800 040 629.

What's in the Biosecurity legislation?

The Biosecurity Act is easy to read and reading the explanatory memorandum is also a good way to build your understanding of the new legislation.

The biosecurity legislation consists of the Biosecurity Act 2015 and supporting Acts.

The Biosecurity Act provides for a strong and modern regulatory framework for the management of biosecurity risks to support Australia’s biosecurity system.

The new Biosecurity Actcan be found on the ComLaw website and other supporting material can be found on the Australian Parliament House website:

Supporting Acts manage the transitional process from the Quarantine Actto the Biosecurity Act including extended transitional arrangements to manage biosecurity risk and amendments to other Commonwealth legislation.
The following supporting Acts can be found on the ComLaw website:

The following materials can be found on the Australian Parliament House website:

  • Explanatory memorandum for the Biosecurity (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Act 2014
  • Second reading speech on the Biosecurity (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Act 2014
  • Explanatory memorandum for the three Biosecurity Charging Imposition Acts
  • Second reading speeches for the three Biosecurity Charging Imposition Acts.

FAQs - Biosecurity Act 2015 - After passage and royal assent but before commencement

[expand all]

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 will the new Biosecurity Act 2015 commence?

The Biosecurity Act 2015 and its supporting Acts will commence on 16 June 2016.  The 12 month delay is to ensure clients, staff and stakeholders understand their rights and responsibilities under the new Biosecurity Act and there is a smooth transition to the new regulatory arrangements.

Until then, the Quarantine Act 1908 remains the primary piece of biosecurity legislation in Australia.
Some parts of the legislation have transitional arrangements and further delayed commencement dates.

Will the department be consulting with stakeholders before the Acts commence?

The department has commenced targeted consultation with stakeholders. There will be further opportunities for engagement as the delegated legislation and underlying administrative polices are developed.

The department is working with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to prepare the draft regulations. It is expected that the regulations will be released for public consideration in the coming months.

The department will work with stakeholders and clients to implement practices and procedures that are operational and will maintain Australia’s favourable pest and disease status, as well as making sure everyone is ready for the change.

Will the department be consulting on the development of regulations and policies?

Yes. The department will be 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. It is expected that the regulations will be released for public consideration in the coming months.

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

When will I be able to provide comments on the new regulations?

The consultation process for the regulations will be staggered throughout 2015. It is intended that by the end of 2015, the regulations will be settled.

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 Act 2015 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 was 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 the measles.

Amendments to the Quarantine Act had made it very complex. It was difficult to understand and enforce. It also lacked an effective compliance regime – penalties for breaching the Act were either small fines or criminal prosecution with nothing in between.
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 we did in 1908 when the Quarantine Actwas drafted – that was legislation that was designed to protect Australia from outbreaks of small pox and the bubonic plague. The new Biosecurity Act allows us to manage biosecurity risk in a more modern and effective way through a strong, clear and flexible legislative framework. It also improves the way the department 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:

  • There are a new range of enforcement options, including infringement notices, civil penalties, enforceable undertakings and criminal sanctions.
  • When prohibited goods are intercepted, penalties in the Biosecurity Act will match the offence and be balanced, consistent and reflect the level of biosecurity risk posed.
  • The Biosecurity Act includes mechanisms to clearly identify biosecurity risks offshore, onshore and at the border, and will manage these risks using a broad range of Commonwealth powers.
  • The Biosecurity Act modernises complex regulatory provisions and administrative practices. For example, it is estimated the compliance costs on businesses will be reduced by approximately $6.9 million per year because of clearer, easier to use legislation and the improved processes it will enable.
  • The Approved Arrangement scheme will replace duplicative quarantine approved premises and compliance agreement provisions in the Quarantine Act.
  • A fit and proper person test 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.
  • There are new powers to enable information gathering to support the biosecurity system.
  • There are expanded onshore powers for the Commonwealth to cooperatively manage and address pest and disease incursions with state governments and/or the private sector.
  • The Biosecurity Act contains a framework to manage the risk associated with ballast water, and prepares us for the International Ballast Water Convention to come into force. It creates a single, Australian-wide ballast water and management regime by introducing new ballast water management requirements for international and domestic 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 Actalso 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
  1. 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’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 applies the ALOP 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.

The application of ALOP in relation to risk assessment decisions is being considered by the examination of the import risk analyses process. The results of this examination will be incorporated into administrative policy to support the Biosecurity Act.

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

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

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.

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 Bills including:
    • The Quarantine Charges (Imposition-General) Amendment Act 2014.
    • The Quarantine Charges (Imposition-Customs) Amendment Act 2014.
    • The Quarantine Charges (Imposition-Excise) Amendment Act 2014.

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 does this by ensuring that biosecurity risk managed under the Quarantine Act continues to be managed following its repeal. 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 be able to 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) Amendment Act 2014.
  • Quarantine Charges (Imposition-Customs) Amendment Act 2014.
  • Quarantine Charges (Imposition-Excise) Amendment 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.

What happens to the Quarantine Act 1908 until the commencement of the biosecurity legislation?

The Biosecurity Act 2015 and its supporting Acts were drafted to commence 12 months after royal assent. Royal assent occurred on 16 June 2015. This means that the Quarantine Act 1908 remains the primary means of managing biosecurity risk until the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its supporting Acts come into effect on 16 June 2016.

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 proclamations.

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 are being developed throughout 2015 and the department will be 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 operational handbooks for biosecurity staff which outline job specific functions and training requirements.
​​
Last reviewed:
06 Jul 2015