Program 2.1: Quarantine and export services

​Program objective

  • support access to overseas markets and protect the economy and the environment from the impacts of unwanted pests and diseases through the safe movement to and from Australia of animals, plants and their products, including genetic material, people and cargo.

Program description

We deliver biosecurity services and are responsible for reforming Australia’s biosecurity system to ensure the services we provide are responsive, targeted and able to meet increasing demand into the future. Our biosecurity program is underpinned by five key principles:

  • implementing a risk-based approach to biosecurity management
  • managing biosecurity risk across the continuum—offshore, at the border and onshore
  • strengthening partnerships with clients and stakeholders
  • using robust science, being intelligence-led and evidence-based
  • developing and implementing modern legislation, technology, funding and business systems.

More information on biosecurity.

Key performance indicators

Table 15 Program 2.1—Quarantine and export services—key performance indicators
Key performance indicator2012–13 targetPerformance
Implementation of risk-based biosecurity intervention for sea cargo, air cargo vessels, international passengers and mailImplement change projectsMetMetMet
Drafting and passage of biosecurity legislationBill considered by Parliament Draft subordinate legislation aPartially met
Implementation of biosecurity legislationStart staff training
Develop advisory material a
Not met
Remediation of Australia’s biosecurity ICT systemsStart repair of systems aMet
Engage with industry to design and implement reformsTwo industry meetings. Design reforms aMet
Transition to revised arrangements for a single post entry quarantine stationSupport design and planning aMet
Engage with state and territory governments on biosecurity issuesTwo meetings aMet
Markets lost as a consequence of failed DAFF certification services0MetMetMet
Export consignments rejected because of certification issuesLess than 1% aMet
Proportion of import risk analyses conducted in accordance with biosecurity regulations100%MetMetMet
Proportion of expanded import risk analyses supported by the Eminent Scientists Group100%N/A
Develop closer partnerships with other agencies to deliver better biosecurity outcomesMonitor partnership arrangements and advise as needed aMet
Scientific and economic research
Underpinning research, advice, forecasts, projects, products and data services are delivered on time, within budget and are of high quality85% a


a New performance indicator.


Delivering biosecurity reform

New biosecurity legislation

We developed new legislation to replace the Quarantine Act 1908 to make Australia’s biosecurity regime more responsive and streamlined. The Biosecurity Bill 2012 and the Inspector-General of Biosecurity Bill 2012 were introduced into Parliament in November 2012.

Both Bills were referred to the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee. The committee provided a further opportunity for organisations and individuals to have their views considered as a part of the decision-making process. In June 2013, the committee’s inquiry was extended until November 2013.4

The department’s target for this key performance indicator was ‘partially met’ in 2012–13.

Implementation planning for the biosecurity legislation was progressed during the year. We completed detailed analysis and design of the changes required upon passage of the legislation, to form the basis for advisory material and staff training.

The department’s target for this key performance indicator was ‘not met’ in 2012–13.

Imported barrels 

Rolling out improved biosecurity: DAFF introduced a new profiles approach for barrels in August 2012. The new approach recognises the low risk posed by wine and spirit barrels, compared with those imported for home wares. This ensures barrels not imported for alcohol production meet the same treatment requirements as all other wooden articles brought into Australia.

Photo: DAFF

Building a new post entry quarantine facility

We met important milestones associated with planning to consolidate our existing post entry quarantine functions to a single site. Following acquisition of the site at Mickleham in Victoria in July 2012, we received approval for development of the site under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 in January 2013.

Approval allowed key activities to continue, including referral to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. In May 2013, the committee and Parliament provided approval for the construction program to proceed.

We completed a program of refurbishment, improvement and other interim works to maintain the safe and effective operation of the five existing quarantine facilities through to the expiry of their leases, which will occur progressively from 2015 to 2018. We continued stakeholder engagement throughout the year, with more than 30 specific industry consultative committee meetings, as well as meetings with staff and the National Employee Consultative Committee.

Implementing the Beale review

The 2008 independent review of Australia’s quarantine and biosecurity arrangements (Beale review) made a number of recommendations to ensure the integrity of Australia’s biosecurity system. The new biosecurity legislation and progression of the new post entry quarantine facility implement several of the recommendations from the Beale review.

We also progressed a number of recommendations through improvements to cargo systems at the border, improving the efficiency of the biosecurity regulatory system for goods moving into the country and continuing work under the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity (IGAB—see Program 2.2).

Leading biosecurity risk research

The Australian Centre of Excellence for Risk Analysis (ACERA) was established in 2006 under a funding deed with the University of Melbourne. ACERA has developed tools to ensure Australia is at the forefront of practical risk analysis.

In May 2013, we signed a new agreement with the University of Melbourne to establish the successor to ACERA, the Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis (CEBRA). The department has developed a rigorous process to establish the biosecurity research program for CEBRA and ABARES for 2013–14, with a focus on six priorities:

  • offshore surveillance and detection
  • onshore safeguarding action
  • manage imports at origin
  • monitor and sustain Australia’s biosecurity status for exports
  • enable biosecurity at the border
  • imports at the border.

ABARES also developed spread models for several biosecurity pests, including siam weed and black striped mussels. This research enabled integrated cost-benefit analyses to be undertaken in line with the IGAB.

Improving risk management

We continued to develop a system to provide consistent analysis of risk across biosecurity pathways and return on investment in controls to manage risks. Using scientific assessments, we identified areas where resourcing can be reduced while still managing the low level of risk posed. For example, ABARES has extended research on the risk associated with different plant import pathways to enable targeting of biosecurity management.

This risk management approach, working in partnership with industry, allowed the department to reduce the number of inspections required for some commodities. Additional resources were and continue to be devoted to areas of higher risk, including targeted operations.

Evidence shows the changes implemented have led to improvements to cargo systems at the border. A study of cargo data showed that, between 2008–09 and 2011–12, non-compliance rates decreased 36 per cent for air cargo and 10 per cent for sea cargo, despite increases in cargo volumes.

The median arrival-to-release time decreased by 84 per cent for air cargo and 15 per cent for sea cargo. Compliant cargo was processed significantly more quickly (1.2 hours for air cargo and 0.7 days for sea cargo) than non-compliant cargo (122 hours for air cargo and 11 days for sea cargo). This shows that where clients appropriately manage risks they can expect to save time and money.

We conducted a medium-risk nursery stock review and implemented outcomes, including additional responsibility for importers in transporting their nursery stock. A trial sampling regime was conducted and demonstrated that it is effective and can be used in lieu of a 100 per cent inspection for all plants in a consignment.

Based on 2011 import data, this will reduce the number of plants inspected in the four trial genera from approximately 390 000 per year to 22 000. Implementing this sampling regime over the entire medium-risk nursery stock category would reduce the number of plants inspected from more than two million per year to approximately 110 000. In both cases this represents a reduction of 90–95 per cent in plants inspected.

Building our technology

Following submission of our Information and Communication Technology Second Pass Business Case in 2012, we released a tender in February 2013 to provide an enterprise telecommunications capability. The migration to an enterprise class telecommunications service is a key enabler to meet the outcomes required under the biosecurity reform agenda.

An Enterprise Data Warehouse (EDW) was implemented and work continued to migrate siloed data from our heritage systems. Planning commenced to position the EDW capability to become the department’s single source of data. We also migrated all heritage systems to a Virtual Server Environment and centralised our data centre environment at Hume in Canberra.

Managing imports

Table 16 Size of the import task
Item2012–13 a2011–122010–11
International passenger clearances b16 200 00015 440 00014 690 000
Seizures of items from air passengers247 054381 178473 228
Sea passenger and crew clearances794 122834 088786 610
Seizures of items from sea passengers5 1248 2259 007
International mail articles (total volume) b186 580 000164 730 000152 280 000
Seizures of mail items34 32567 631108 130
Airports where we have staff888 (29 port-of-entry airports are unstaffed)
International mail facilities where we have staff444
Import permit applications received22 67220 87322 303
Import permits issued19 12519 71519 054
Shipping pratique visits—first ports16 30015 70014 300
Country Action List (CAL) sea container inspections (first port)46 48253 78545 800
Air freight consignments (under $1 000) c645 000721 000676 000
Live animal imports processed at government post entry quarantine facilitiescats1 815cats2 015cats2 059
dogs3 761dogs3 798dogs3 624
Hatching eggs processed at government post entry quarantine facilities22 81227 12028 900

a Figures from 1 July 2012 through to 30 June 2013. b Rounded to the nearest ten thousand. c rounded to the nearest thousand.

Ensuring compliance

We undertook 4200 audits of quarantine approved premises, more than 6000 randomly selected sea container inspections and more than 600 compliance agreement audits. In 2013, we implemented process improvements to the random inspection of imported containerised sea cargo. Cargo Compliance Verification extended the scope of inspections to the full range of containerised sea cargo, improved the randomisation of consignment selection, better aligned inspection targets to the volume of imports arriving at Australian ports and strengthened the consistency of our procedures.

While we worked to reduce risk, we also continued to encourage a high level of compliance through industry promotion and education, provided opportunities for importers to declare items of biosecurity concern, tailored our investigation and intelligence services to identify and respond to non-compliance and targeted deliberate criminal activity.

The DAFF Imports Compliance Statement for 2012–13 detailed where our resources would be used and our approach to criminal behaviour. This allowed anyone involved in importing goods to see how we monitor compliance with biosecurity and food import conditions.

DAFF operational scientist, Champa Rajapakse, examines a swarm of Asian honey bees for varroa mites. 

Biosecurity partnerships in action: Northern Stevedoring Services (NSS) received a biosecurity commendation in March 2013 after helping to avert a major risk from a swarm of Asian honey bees. NSS’ prompt reporting enabled DAFF to quickly contain and destroy the swarm, which was found in a cargo yard at the Port of Townsville.

DAFF operational scientist, Champa Rajapakse, examines a swarm of Asian honey bees for varroa mites.

Photo: DAFF

Targeted operations

Our targeted operations provided assurance that importing industries are meeting their compliance obligations, and support our intelligence about where biosecurity risks lie. Operation Balmain tested industry compliance of high-risk food products, identifying some misreporting by some importers for imported food products that could have long-term negative impacts on Australia’s agricultural industries and the environment.

We will continue running targeted campaigns to test compliance of the importing community. The results gained from operations will be used to intercept further consignments likely to contain prohibited material.

Building partnerships

In partnership with the CSIRO, we have an Australia-wide network of operational scientists, entomologists and plant pathologists who identify pests and diseases and train our inspection staff. To maximise the skills of our industry partners, the operational scientists have developed short training courses for workers in the sea and air freight industries that show how to identify and respond to biosecurity risks.

The training has already delivered benefits; our industry partners have reported some serious pests and our biosecurity officers have been able to respond rapidly. Examples include detection of Giant African Snails on shipping containers and on wash pads at quarantine approved premises, auger beetles in timber packaging and red dwarf honey bees on imported new cars.

Sea container hygiene

A sea container hygiene system trialled collaboratively between DAFF and industry is helping manage the biosecurity risks of imported sea containers. The system addresses biosecurity risks associated with sea containers arriving from countries in the Pacific region. The effective use of the system means fewer inspections are needed and wharf congestion in Australia is reduced. The system also allows industry to demonstrate strong compliance offshore and better manage processes overseas such as port hygiene measures, cleaning and storing of containers.

Engaging our stakeholders

We strengthened our engagement with state and territory food authorities, signing a new memorandum of understanding with Food Standards Australia New Zealand for a collaborative approach to monitoring and responding to food safety issues.

We are continuously improving our networks with industry, rural groups and the community. Our network of local biosecurity managers ensured issues were identified and addressed quickly. We also introduced a national register to record, track and report on issues raised by stakeholders to ensure timely assistance is provided. In 2012–13, we held 981 meetings with stakeholders across the imported cargo and shipping industries.

Figure 8 Biosecurity stakeholder meetings in 2012–13

This chart shows the percentage of meetings help with biosecurity stakeholders in 2012–13 by type: Agents, brokerages and importers made up 37 per cent. Quarantine approved premises made up 20 per cent. Transport and logistic operators made up 16 per cent. Industry groups made up 11 per cent. The machinery/military, mining and resources sectors made up 9 per cent. Government made up 7 per cent. 

Managing import risks offshore

Risk analysis helps the department to consider the level of biosecurity risk that may be associated with the importation or proposed importation of animals, plants and their products. Regulated import risk analyses are conducted by technical and scientific experts.

No expanded import risks analyses requiring the support of the Eminent Scientists Group were completed in

Assessing risk may also take the form of a non-regulated analysis of existing import policy. During 2012–13, we completed a number of non-regulated risk analyses, including for:

  • transmissible spongiform encephalopathies through veterinary vaccines and other in vivo veterinary products
  • commercial rabbits from certain member states of the European Union
  • queen honey bees from approved countries
  • potato propogative material from all countries
  • lychees from Taiwan and Vietnam
  • table grapes from China and the Republic of Korea.

During the year, three Senate inquiries were conducted into finalised import risk analyses of de-crowned pineapples from Malaysia and ginger from Fiji, and a review of import conditions for fresh potatoes for processing from New Zealand. More information about import risk analyses.

Managing biosecurity risks offshore

We completed evaluations of the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) status of Chile and Japan, resulting in both countries being recognised as free from FMD without vaccination, and approved to export products to Australia. We also completed evaluations of Great Britain and of the Republic of Ireland for exports of uncooked pig meat to Australia for further processing (cooking) under DAFF control.

We implemented a new policy to allow the importation of live ornamental rock lobsters sourced from the Torres Strait Protected Zone through Papua New Guinea. The policy arose from years of negotiations with Papua New Guinea authorities, the agent that built and operated the holding facility on Daru Island and the Australian importer. The policy has provided regional development and capacity building in Papua New Guinea.

Managing exports

Table 17 Size of the export task
Export certificates for eggs334258
Export certificates for wool11 32511 174
Export certificates for fish23 07628 285
Export certificates for meat for human consumption143 725122 342
Export certificates for dairy33 64432 681
Export certificates for skins and hides9 7398 378
Export certificates for meat byproducts4 8063 611
Export certificates for grains and horticulture produce54 81051 575
Cat exports3 1353 139
Dog exports7 8856 998
Live cattle exports644 469696 097
Live sheep exports2 040 1062 662 431
Live goat exports62 01062 164

Delivering export certification reforms

In 2012–13, the government allocated a further $39 million to support industries transitioning to new export certification arrangements, including new fees and charges, and to support ongoing implementation of the export reforms.

The reforms achieved in six export commodity areas (dairy, fish, grain, horticulture, live animal and meat exports) have reduced government costs by around $30 million and have provided alternative service delivery options for most sectors. Export industries now have the option of using appropriately trained Authorised Officers to carry out designated tasks previously undertaken by departmental officers.

Committees representing the grain and plant products industry and the horticulture exports industry were established as the principal forum for consultations on export inspection and certification. The committees provide for an effective partnership between DAFF and industry stakeholders involved in phytosanitary exports.

Improving market access

We worked to address biosecurity risks in negotiating new or improved access to markets and maintaining existing trade. We also developed certification for a range of commodities and markets through negotiations and technical submissions. Some highlights included:

  • maintaining or regaining access for specific pathogen-free eggs to Indonesia, Japan and the United States during and after an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in a poultry flock in New South Wales in November 2012
  • reaching agreement on health certificates to enable trade in feeder cattle and queen bees to the Solomon Islands
  • gaining access for the export of live ornamental finfish and coral to Brazil, live redclaw crayfish to Myanmar, live Murray cod to Malaysia and live barramundi to Saudi Arabia for breeding purposes
  • reaching informal agreement with Japan to allow table grape exports
  • restoring or gaining access for various seeds, nursery stock and cuttings for export to Bolivia, Chile, Peru and Uruguay
  • reaching agreement with China to re-establish canola exports for processing under an experimental protocol, and to provide new access for Australian cherry exports and grapeseed for processing.

More information on our market access work is available in Program 1.13 and at market access and trade.

National Residue Survey

The National Residue Survey (NRS) expanded arrangements with Citrus Australia Limited for a market access monitoring program focused on facilitating citrus exports to Japan. In 2013, the citrus testing program will be broadened to all key citrus export markets.

The NRS has maintained its National Association of Testing Authorities accreditation as a proficiency test provider and is certified to AS/NZS ISO 9001:2008 for its quality management system. During the year it commenced its triennial laboratory tender process for 2014–17.

The NRS continues to improve its redeveloped database and associated information management system in cooperation with participating industries and analytical laboratories.

Appendix 6 provides the annual report for NRS and includes key financial information in accordance with the National Residue Survey Administration Act 1992.

Barge from China moored at Dampier in Western Australia for a biosecurity inspection was the winning image in the Our Infrastructure category of the 2013 DAFF Photo Competition

Break bulk Dampier: This picture of a barge from China moored at Dampier in Western Australia for a biosecurity inspection was the winning image in the Our Infrastructure category of the 2013 DAFF Photo Competition.

Photo: Graeme Cook


Sustainable funding

The majority of biosecurity services (slightly more than 60 per cent in 2012–13) are funded on a cost-recovery basis. Budget funding and most cost-recovery rates, particularly for imports, have not been changed for several years and have not kept pace with the operational changes arising from biosecurity reform. Sustainable, efficient and integrated biosecurity funding arrangements are needed to support biosecurity reform.

Authorised Officer program

Implementation of the Authorised Officer program has led to a number of challenges, including the high volume of competency assessments required, the implementation of cost-recovery for the services provided and the management of data within the Authorised Officer Database.

We have commissioned the Plant Exports Assurance Framework project to address concerns about monitoring Authorised Officers appointed to perform plant export inspections.

Honey bee imports

Preparations have been made for resumption of honey bee imports. Key products needed to treat imported honey bees for parasitic mites are not available in Australia and imports cannot resume until suitable products are available. The department has applied to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for minor use permits to import and use relevant products as part of the post entry quarantine process for imported honey bees.

Bushfire threat

In February 2013, we safely evacuated 76 cats and dogs from the Byford Quarantine Facility in Western Australia when a bushfire threatened the surrounding area. The evacuation effort was extensive as biosecurity risk, animal and human health and welfare, and client communications had to be coordinated precisely. All animals were evacuated safely and the exercise was managed effectively without any biosecurity or welfare issues. The facility reopened in June 2013, coinciding with the end of the risk period defined by the state Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

4 The legislation lapsed when Parliament was prorogued on 5 August 2013 ahead of the Federal election on 7 September 2013.

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Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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