Biosecurity Bill 2014 and supporting Bills

Note: These materials are provided for the information and benefit of the general public and stakeholders who are interested in the reforms to Australia’s biosecurity system.

You should not rely on the information contained or referred to in the materials as reflecting the current or future state and effect of Australia’s biosecurity laws but rather, you should exercise your own skill and judgement and make your own enquiries. Where necessary, you should seek your own independent legal advice that is relevant to your particular circumstances.

The Biosecurity Bill 2014 and supporting legislation was introduced by the government into Parliament on 27 November 2014.

A number of significant reviews of the biosecurity system, most recently the Review of Australia’s Quarantine and Biosecurity (Beale review), have outlined opportunities to improve the system, including the development of new legislation. This legislation has been developed over many years with significant consultation undertaken with industry, state and territory governments, environment groups, health professionals, the general public and trading partners. 

A robust biosecurity system is important in supporting Australia to remain free of many pests and diseases that are common around the world. We have to get biosecurity right, because the stakes are high and getting it right benefits everyone. It’s a big job and we use science to help us make the right decisions, at the right time, to get the best results.

As well as playing an obvious role protecting Australia’s environment and way of life, safeguarding Australia from unwanted biosecurity risks also protects Australia’s economy. This helps maintain our reputation as a producer of high quality and safe agricultural products for the world.

The Biosecurity Bill and supporting legislation has been designed to support the biosecurity system in any age, regardless of advances in transport and technology or future challenges. Just as with the Quarantine Act 1908, the biosecurity legislation (if passed) would be co-administered by the Ministers responsible for Agriculture and Health.

To make sure you get the latest information about the proposed legislation, please subscribe to the biosecurity legislation distribution list, email Biosecurity Consultation or phone 1800 040 629.

Biosecurity legislation

The biosecurity legislation consists of the Biosecurity Bill 2014 and supporting Bills.

The Biosecurity Bill 2014 – provides for a strong and modern regulatory framework for the management of biosecurity risks to support Australia’s biosecurity system.

Read the following on the Australian Parliament House website:

  • Biosecurity Bill 2014 text
  • Explanatory memorandum for the Biosecurity Bill 2014
  • Second reading speech on the Biosecurity Bill 2014.

Supporting Bills – manage the transitional process from the Quarantine Act 1908 to the Biosecurity Bill 2014 including extended transitional arrangements to manage biosecurity risk and amendments to other Commonwealth legislation.

Read the following on the Australian Parliament House website:

Senate Inquiry through the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee

On 27 November 2014, the Senate referred the biosecurity legislation to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 17 March 2015.

For more information please visit the APH website: www.aph.gov.au

Frequently Asked Questions

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Why is the Australian Government proposing to replace the Quarantine Act 1908?

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

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

Where can I get a copy of the Biosecurity Bill 2014?

Copies of the Biosecurity Bill 2014 and its supporting Bills are available on the Australian Parliament House (APH) website. An explanatory memorandum of the Biosecurity Bill 2014 is also available on the APH website.

What are the Bills that support the Biosecurity Bill 2014? 

The main piece of biosecurity legislation is the Biosecurity Bill 2014. The Biosecurity Bill 2014 is supported by four Bills which are designed to help ensure the smooth transition from the Quarantine Act 1908 to the Biosecurity Bill 2014 (if it is passed into law).
These supporting Bills are the:

An explanatory memorandum for the Biosecurity (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2014 is available on the Australian Parliament House (APH) website.

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

What is the Biosecurity (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2014?

The Biosecurity (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2014 (the Bill) is the first supporting Bill to the Biosecurity Bill 2014. It is designed to facilitate the transition from the Quarantine Act 1908 to the Biosecurity Act if it is passed into law. 

The Bill would do this by ensuring that biosecurity risk managed under the Quarantine Act will continue 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. Or 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.

This Bill 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 Bill summary on the Australian Parliament House website.

What are the other three supporting Bills to the Biosecurity Bill 2014?

Three other supporting Bills to the Biosecurity Bill 2014 are also being introduced as part of the biosecurity legislation. They are the:

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

These Bills 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 will be set in delegated legislation.

For more information access the Bill summaries on the Australian Parliament House website.

Why is there more than one Bill?

While the Biosecurity Bill 2014 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 and it is important to update the statute book. It is also important to enable a smooth transition on commencement day so that management of biosecurity risks can continue. These provisions are included in separate amendment Bills so when they have done their job, they can be removed from the statute book.

How long will the Parliamentary process take?

Timing is dependent on Parliament’s schedule.   Further information on how the Parliamentary process works is provided on the Australian Parliament House website.  

What will happen if the biosecurity legislation is passed?

For the Biosecurity Bill 2014 and its supporting Bills to become law, they must receive passage (in identical form) in both houses of Parliament, the House of Representatives and the Senate. If the biosecurity legislation passes, it will be presented to the Governor-General for royal assent. At this point the Bills become part of Australian law.

If passed, the Biosecurity Bill 2014 will replace the Quarantine Act 1908. However, to enable a smooth transition and make sure there is time to consult on regulations and administrative policy, the Biosecurity Bill 2014 and its supporting Bills are currently drafted to commence twelve months after they receive royal assent.

The review and transition of regulations and administrative policy so that staff and clients are able to comply with the new legislation at commencement will be a substantial task.

The Department of Agriculture 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 changes.

How long after the biosecurity legislation is passed will it start being used?

To enable a smooth transition, and make sure there is time to consult on regulations and policy, the Biosecurity Bill 2014 and its supporting Bills are currently drafted to commence twelve months after they receive royal assent.

For example, if Parliament passed the legislation in mid 2015, as currently drafted, the Bills would not replace the Quarantine Act 1908 until mid 2016. The Quarantine Act would remain the primary means of managing biosecurity risk until the Biosecurity Bill 2014 and its supporting Bills come into effect.

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

The Biosecurity Bill 2014 and its supporting Bills have been drafted to commence twelve months after they receive royal assent. This means that the Quarantine Act 1908 would remain the primary means of managing biosecurity risk until the Biosecurity Bill 2014 and its supporting Bills come into effect.

Didn’t the Biosecurity Bill go to Parliament in 2012?

Yes, a previous draft of the proposed Biosecurity Bill was originally introduced into Parliament in November 2012. However, that Bill lapsed in August 2013 when the federal election was called.

Has the Biosecurity Bill 2014 changed from the legislation proposed in 2012?

Minister Joyce acknowledged in his media release of 7 July 2014 that the Biosecurity Bill 2014 will be very similar to the proposed Bill introduced into Parliament in 2012. Most of the differences between the Biosecurity Bill 2014 and the proposed Bill introduced in 2012 are minor, technical changes.

Some key differences include:

  • The Biosecurity Bill 2014 contains a clarification that considering the unique pest and disease status of each region is part of conducting a Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis.
  • The Biosecurity Bill 2014 condenses provisions relating to monitoring, investigation, and enforcement into one chapter in line with the Regulatory Powers (Standard Provisions) Act 2014 and modern drafting guidelines.
  • The Biosecurity Bill 2014 contains review powers that the Agriculture Minister can delegate to provide support for the Inspector-General of Biosecurity in undertaking this important role. These powers will ensure that the Inspector-General of Biosecurity, or any other reviewer, can appropriately review processes within the biosecurity system to allow for continual improvement in the assessment and management of biosecurity risks.

How does the biosecurity legislation recognise regional differences?

Throughout consultation processes in 2012 and 2014, stakeholders provided feedback about the importance of the legislation allowing for the consideration of regional differences when dealing with biosecurity risks. The department already recognises regional differences where they are scientifically justified.

The Biosecurity Bill 2014 has been amended to clarify the consideration of regional differences during import risk analyses.  The Bill now contains a note that considering the unique pest and disease status of each region is part of conducting biosecurity import risk analyses.

This is in addition to the recognition in the definition of biosecurity risk within the Biosecurity Bill 2014 which states :

biosecurity risk means

(a)   the likelihood of a disease or pest:

(i) entering Australian territory or a part of Australian territory; or
(ii)   establishing itself or spreading in Australian territory or a part of Australian territory; and

(b)   the potential for any of the following:

(i)   the disease or pest to cause harm to human, animal or plant health;
(ii)   the disease or pest to cause harm to the environment;
(iii)   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.

Why is Appropriate Level of Protection (ALOP) included in the Biosecurity Bill 2014?

Australia’s 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.

Australia’s ALOP underpins the integrity of Australia’s biosecurity system and demonstrates to our trading partners that Australia applies the ALOP and is consistent with its international obligations. This is why Australia’s definition of ALOP is intended to form part of the Biosecurity Bill 2014.

An independent review, the Beale Review in 2008, of the biosecurity system also called for the inclusion of ALOP in the legislation.

Further information can be found in chapter 1 of the explanatory memorandum.

How does the Biosecurity Bill 2014 manage environmental biosecurity?

The biosecurity legislation would 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’ 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 legislation. Biosecurity officers have a range of powers to assess biosecurity risk, and if they suspect one is present, to impose measures and manage that risk. These powers can be used no matter whether the risks 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 Bill 2014?

The Australian Government Department of Health has responsibility for the management of human health under the Biosecurity Bill 2014. Further information on how human health will be managed under the Biosecurity Bill 2014 is available on the Department of Health website.

I commented on the Biosecurity Bill in 2012, what happened to my comments?

The department received a range of stakeholders’ comments on the proposed Biosecurity Bill during consultation in 2012.

Some comments relevant to the Biosecurity Bill 2014, such as issues around regional differences, and decision making, have been incorporated into the Biosecurity Bill 2014 (see FAQ titled ‘Has the Biosecurity Bill 2014 changed from the legislation proposed in 2012?’).

Other stakeholder comments received related to the regulations and underlying administrative policies that will support the biosecurity legislation and will be considered in their development. Outcomes from the recent examination of the import Risk analysis process will also be considered in the future development of the Bill’s regulations and administrative policies.

(see FAQ titled ‘When will I be able to provide comments on the Biosecurity Bill 2014 regulations?’).

Will the department be consulting with stakeholders after introduction?

The department has commenced targeted consultation with stakeholders. There will be further opportunities for engagement as the Biosecurity Bill 2014 regulations and underlying administrative polices are developed.

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 changes.

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

The consultation process for the regulations will be staged throughout 2015. Implementation planning is still in development but it is intended that by the end of the next year, the regulations will be settled.

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

The Biosecurity Bill 2014 and its supporting Bills are proposed primary legislation.  If Parliament passes the biosecurity legislation, each Bill will become an Act and their respective names will change from Bills to Acts. Even though the names will change, the Acts will still be considered as primary legislation.

Primary legislation typically contains broad principles that are supported in delegated legislation and administrative processes.  For instance, the Bills contain significant new policies or fundamental changes to existing policy. They also contain provisions that place obligations on or give rights to people and penalties for non-compliance.

Consideration of operational matters for the Biosecurity Bill 2014 such as the process for conducting a biosecurity import risk analysis would be outlined in delegated legislation.

Delegated legislation are laws made to supplement and provide more detailed requirements on primary legislation. They can include regulations, proclamations, determinations and orders. Regulations for the Biosecurity Bill 2014 will be developed throughout 2015 and the department will be consulting with affected stakeholders during this time. 

Administrative documents and policies are a range of materials that are designed to support primary and delegated legislation e.g. operational handbooks for biosecurity staff which outline job specific functions and training requirements

How can I find out more about the Biosecurity Bill 2014?

For more information about the Biosecurity Bill 2014, please email Biosecurity Consultation, or phone the department on 1800 040 629.

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