Managing biosecurity and imported food risk

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Use evidence-based risk management to ensure the safe movement into and out of Australia of people, animals, plants, food and cargo.
Coordinate emergency responses to exotic pest and disease incursions.
Provide certification of exports to meet importing country requirements.

The department undertakes a range of activities to maintain Australia’s animal and plant health status to maintain overseas markets, and to protect human health, the environment and the economy. These include biosecurity services to screen passengers, and to screen and inspect international conveyances, mail, cargo and food, animals and plants, and animal and plant products arriving in Australia.

We collaborate with state and territory governments and industries to prepare for and respond to outbreaks of exotic animal and plant pests and diseases, through the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity.

We also undertake export inspection and certification services for primary produce, to ensure exporters meet the requirements of trading partners and maintain their access to international markets. This work also contributes to Strategic objective 3​.

More information is available at Biosecurity​.

Our activities in 2015–16 under this strategic objective included implementing the Biosecurity Act 2015, which took effect from 16 June 2016, replacing the Quarantine Act 1908. This marked 12 months of hard work by a large number of staff to ensure the smooth transition to the new biosecurity legislation for staff, stakeholders and clients.

The new Biosecurity Act is designed to be easier to read and reduces duplication and regulatory impacts on clients and stakeholders. It will support a more flexible biosecurity system that can accommodate future advances in transport and technology.

In October 2015, we opened the first stage of our new post-entry quarantine facility at Mickleham in Victoria. The new facility will consolidate all operations delivered across four facilities around Australia into a single site from 2018.

We implemented a range of initiatives to strengthen biosecurity through the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, notably:

  • funding for an additional 17 Indigenous ranger groups
  • projects to improve biosecurity surveillance, including an evaluation of national biosecurity training needs
  • reviewing import conditions to ensure they are current and effective
  • enhancing our International Biosecurity Intelligence System to enable the department to more quickly identify biosecurity risks
  • designing a streamlined traceability system to​ support market access for exports.

We implemented the new Biosecurity Import Conditions (BICON) system, making it easier for importers to identify and comply with Australia’s biosecurity requirements (see Impr​oving o​ur service delivery).

Our import and export services are funded through cost-recovery arrangements that account for more than half the department’s revenue.

On 1 December 2015, we implemented new import and export cost-recovery arrangements, following a comprehensive review of the cost of our services and activities, the creation of a model for best recovering these costs, and consultation with clients, industries and the
public about the new model.

We began work to implement the recommendations of a review of national marine pest biosecurity arrangements, released in December 2015. The review was the first stage of a four-year project to strengthen Australia’s marine pest biosecurity arrangements. We also commenced a review of the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity, which supports cooperation between Australian governments on responses to biosecurity incursions.

We provided analysis and advice to the government on eradicating exotic pest and disease incursions through the National Management Group, and provided analysis and advice on a range of national biosecurity policy issues through the National Biosecurity Committee. We coordinated the Commonwealth’s role in 14 national responses to detections and incursions of exotic pests and diseases.

We also facilitated the amendment of the Commonwealth Biological Control Act 1984 to support national programs for the biological control of rabbits and carp, and assisted state and territory governments to seek equivalent amendments to their legislation.

Annual performance statement

TABLE 6 Annual performance statement—Strategic objective 6: Managing biosecurity and imported food risk, 2015–16

Performance measure


Result against performance measure

Australia maintains a favourable pest and disease status

Corporate Plan 2015–16
Portfolio Budget Statements 2015–16, p.49

In 2015–16, Australia maintained its disease-free status for the diseases officially recognised by the World Organisation for Animal Health.
In 2015–16, there was no disruption or loss of market access because of exotic pest and disease incursions.
Pest and disease eradication was funded throughout the year based on national priorities.

Effectiveness and efficiency of biosecurity and food interventions on import pathways improves

Corporate Plan 2015–16

Post intervention compliance rate of passengers increased from 98.8% in 2014–15 to 98.9% in 2015–16.
Post intervention compliance rate of mail remained the same in 2015–16 at 99.9%.
Between 1 January and 31 December 2015, the compliance rate for all food inspected was 98.6% and the compliance rate for risk food was approximately 98.9% a

Third-party rate of compliance with biosecurity and food arrangements improves

Corporate Plan 2015–16

The department currently has 3661 Approved Arrangements in place with a range of businesses including customs brokerages, cold stores, freight companies and importers.
In 2015, one Quarantine Approved Premises was revoked and one Approved Arrangement was refused for serious non-conformance

Risk assessments for imported goods use science-based risk analysis drawing on the best available scientific information and advice

Corporate Plan 2015–16

100 per cent of our import risk assessments were conducted in accordance with regulations and the best available science and advice.

Responses to biosecurity and imported food incidents improves

Corporate Plan 2015–16

In 2015–16, we coordinated the Commonwealth's role in response to a detection of khapra beetle in Adelaide and on Kangaroo Island, South Australia.
We participated in a joint action with state and territory government food authorities on coconut drinks.

The ability of governments, industry and community to quickly and effectively respond to exotic pests and disease incursions improves

Corporate Plan 2015–16

In 2015–16, all responses to pest and disease incursions and outbreaks were managed according to relevant frameworks.
We coordinated the Commonwealth’s role in 13 national responses to incursions of exotic pests and diseases including red imported fire ant at Brisbane Airport and browsing ant in Perth and Darwin.

100% of priority emergency plans reflect contemporary science of emergency responses to plant and animal pests and disease

Corporate Plan 2015–16

In 2015–16, all emergency plans (AUSVETPLAN, AQUAVETPLANT, EMPPLAN and PLANTPLAN) reflected contemporary science.
We collaborated with state and territory governments through Animal Health Australia to complete revisions of seven priority AUSVETPLAN manuals.

Public awareness of biosecurity risks improves

Corporate Plan 2015–16

As at 30 June 2016, the Australian Biosecurity Facebook page had 2825 followers and organic reach peaked at 130 582 on 15 April 2016. b

Export certification meets importing country requirements

Corporate Plan 2015–16
Portfolio Budget Statements 2015–16, p.49

In May 2016, the market for live cattle exports to Japan was suspended as a result of certification being issued for ineligible animals. The certificate was based on misleading information provided to the department. The market reopened in August 2016.

a Data only available as at 31 December 2015. b Organic reach is the total number of unique people who were shown the post through unpaid distribution.

Analysis of performance against the strategic objective

Australia’s biosecurity system aims to anticipate, prevent, prepare, detect, respond to, and recover from, biosecurity risks. We work across the biosecurity continuum, offshore, at the border and onshore.

Our biosecurity system relies on a risk-based approach supported by research, science and intelligence, which help us target what matters most.

Maintaining Australia’s pest and disease status

Biosecurity activities not only protect Australia’s environment and economy from exotic pests and diseases, but help maintain Australia’s reputation as an exporter of clean, green agriculture, fisheries and forestry commodities.

Supporting a national approach to biosecurity

Within government, Australia’s approach to biosecurity is underpinned by the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity between the Australian Government and all mainland states and territories. The agreement came into effect in 2012 and the department continues to work with state and territory governments on the key areas proposed for improvements.

These include government emergency planning and preparedness, surveillance and diagnosis for the early detection of exotic and emerging pests and diseases to support market access, and the management of established pests and diseases. Other areas identified for attention include communication and engagement, information sharing, research and development, and investment and decision-making.

In March 2016, the government announced a review of the intergovernmental agreement. The review is
expected to be completed in early 2017.

Disease-free status

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) is the intergovernmental organisation responsible for improving animal health worldwide, issuing international animal disease alerts and assessments of the animal disease status of member nations.

The OIE provides official recognition of member countries’ risk status for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and freedom from six animal diseases. In 2015–16, Australia maintained the highest possible status with continued OIE recognition of having a negligible BSE risk and freedom from:

  • African horse sickness
  • classical swine fever
  • contagious bovine pleuropneumonia
  • foot-and-mouth disease
  • peste des petits ruminants
  • rinderpest.

This official recognition of Australia’s disease status is important to market access, benefiting producers and exporters of Australian animals and animal products.

Snapshot: Indigenous rangers

The vast coastline of northern Australia poses unique biosecurity challenges. We have turned to local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to provide surveillance services. Indigenous rangers have an unrivalled knowledge of the areas in which they work and play a vital role in managing biosecurity risks.

This initiative has established career pathways for local people to develop the skills to become rangers across northern Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

We work with 40 Indigenous ranger groups, representing about 350 rangers in support of surveillance, specimen collection, sentinel herd management and target host mapping services.

Indigenous rangers provide early warning signs for exotic pest, weed and disease detections that help to protect the rest of the country and ensure our primary producers get the best possible return at the farm gate.

Photo of a creek and gum trees 

Photo: Working with one of our Indigenous rangers.

Response to incursions

Australia’s response to exotic pest and disease incursions also has implications for our agricultural export reputation. We coordinate national activities to ensure a comprehensive, consistent and informed approach to response activities for biosecurity and work collaboratively with government agencies and industry groups to ensure a unified approach to animal, plant or food safety emergencies.
We coordinated the Commonwealth's role in national responses, four of which were new detections, and continued with a further 10 eradication programs initiated in previous years.

The Australian Government has allocated $85 million between 2015–16 and 2018–19 for national programs to eradicate exotic pests and diseases, and made a direct contribution of $18.2 million in 2015–16. The states and territories and industry also contribute to these eradication efforts (Table 7).

TABLE 7 Current nationally funded eradication programs



Current response plan duration

Current response plan budget

Australian Government funding

Emergency Plant Pest Deed responses

Khapra beetle

Adelaide and Kangaroo Island, South Australia a

2015–16 to 2017–18

2 562

1 025

Exotic fruit fly in the Torres Strait

Torres Strait, Queensland a

2015–16 to 2017–18

1 224


Giant pine scale

Harkaway and Mt Waverly, Victoria and Dernancourt, South Australia

2014–15 to 2017–18

5 870

1 467

Banana freckle

Howard Springs, Darwin, Northern Territory

2013–14 to 2017–18

24 286

6 034

Chestnut blight

Ovens Valley, Victoria

2010–11 to 2016–17

4 090

2 004

National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement responses

Red imported fire ant

Brisbane airport, Queensland a

2015–16 to 2017–18



Browsing ant

Darwin Port, Northern Territory a

2015–16 to 2017–18

1 114


Red imported fire ant

Port Botany, New South Wales

2014–15 to 2016–17

1 226


Red imported fire ant

Yarwun, Queensland

2013–14 to 2016–17

3 618

1 809

Off-deed responses

Red witchweed

Mackay, Queensland


5 863

1 805

Browsing ant

Perth Airport, Western Australia

2013–14 to 2015–16



Electric ant

Cairns, Queensland

2006–07 to 2015–16

12 876

6 438

Red imported fire ant

South-east Queensland

2010–11 to 2017–18

133 345

65 000

Four tropical weeds

New South Wales and Queensland

2010–11 to 2017–18

14 626

7 380

a New response in 2015–16.

Eradication is not always possible, and biosecurity efforts switch to recovery from an incursion, or ongoing management through local and regional biosecurity practices to reduce the spread and harm that a pest or disease causes.

Russian wheat aphid was detected in South Australia in May 2016 and the National Management Group agreed that the pest was not technically feasible to eradicate. A national management plan for Russian wheat aphid will be developed to manage the pest in Australia, including immediate control options, training to promote early detection, and research and development to provide longer-term control options.

Preparing for pest and disease incursions

Intelligence and research provide important information on how to prevent and prepare for biosecurity risks. In 2015–16, we worked toward establishing the Biosecurity Integrated Information System. Once implemented, the system will provide a more sophisticated way of collecting and making available the data we need to manage biosecurity risks more effectively.

We carry out a range of activities that enhance our ability to respond to incidents. This includes developing sector-specific response plans, and conducting and participating in training activities and simulation exercises. The department is also a signatory to three emergency response agreements:

  • Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement (EADRA)
  • Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD)
  • National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement (NEBRA).

These agreements cover the management and funding of emergency response incidents, including costsharing arrangements, and allow governments and industry to work together under a shared decisionmaking approach.

We worked through the NEBRA to support the New South Wales and Victorian governments in a peer review of their preparedness and response capabilities for incursions.

We completed revisions of seven priority AUSVETPLAN emergency response manuals. We released the report on the 2014–15 Operation Odysseus, which tested Australian’s preparedness for a national livestock standstill in the event of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease. The findings of the report are being implemented.

We signed international arrangements to support the exchange of personnel, requests to share foot-and-mouth disease vaccine and the implementation of zoning for international trade in the event of an emergency animal disease outbreak.

We also supported the planning, running and evaluation of the annual Rapid Response Team exercise conducted in Western Australia. The exercise involved 190 government and industry staff and focused on issues associated with the destruction and disposal of large numbers of carcasses, in the event of an outbreak of a significant emergency animal disease.

The Plant Health Committee endorsed the Plant Pest Prioritisation Framework. The framework was used to identify the top 42 priority pests in terms of economic threats to agriculture, and those that pose the most significant social and environmental threats. The framework and national plant priority pests will help ensure different biosecurity activities, such as surveillance and diagnostics, are prioritised and harmonised. National priorities will also provide a focus for government, industry and community attention, and highlight where collective effort is needed to manage biosecurity risk.

Snapshot: Strengthening national marine pest biosecurity

We are working to strengthen Australia’s marine biosecurity following the review of national marine pest biosecurity arrangements.

Just like terrestrial pests of animals and plants, invasive marine pests have the potential to seriously damage Australia’s economy and environment. The review made 13 recommendations to set a new direction for marine biosecurity, placing a renewed focus on preventing marine pests arriving in Australia.

The review identified the need to better share responsibility for marine pest biosecurity, by involving more non-government stakeholders in decision-making. It recommended establishing a marine pest network of researchers, marine-based industries, government and the community.

The review also found the most effective way to manage the risks posed by marine pests is to manage the pathways by which they arrive here, rather than targeting individual species.

Australia already manages one of the two main pathways for marine pests—in the ballast water used to stabilise vessels as cargo is loaded and unloaded. The other main pathway—hitching a ride as biofouling on the hulls of international shipping or vessels—remains a key risk. After consulting stakeholders, we are working on biofouling regulations to align with guidelines established by the International Maritime Organization.

The report is available at

Photo of a creek and gum trees 

Photo: dealing with biofouling is a key recommendation from the Marine Pest Review.

Managing import risk

Minimising import risks

We undertake a range of work to prevent biosecurity risks reaching Australia or emerging from within Australia. Biosecurity Import Risk Analyses, reviews and other assessments are key activities used to identify pests and diseases that might be associated with imports. We use these risk tools to set import conditions to reduce the likelihood of pests entering, becoming established or spreading in Australia.

During the year, we worked on the white paper initiative to improve import risk assessments. Key improvements included:

  • releasing the final biosecurity risk review for the importation of honey bee semen
  • commencing a review of dragon fruit from Vietnam
  • commencing a review of the importation of psittacine birds (parrots)
  • commencing a review of fresh strawberries from Korea
  • commencing a review of the importation of fresh beef from the Netherlands, Japan, New Zealand, the United States and Vanuatu.

We reviewed the global risk profile of a range of pests including the bacterial pathogen Xylella fastidiosa. Xylella is an invasive bacterial plant pathogen that causes significant environmental and economic impacts. Many commercial and ornamental plant species are susceptible to this pathogen. Xylella is spreading around the world and, although not present in Australia, is of major concern to Australia’s plant industries.

Following this review, the department implemented emergency quarantine measures to reduce the likelihood of entry of Xylella and strengthened the import requirements for a number of plant species.

The Biosecurity Act 2015 will ensure that import risk analyses are consistent with Australia’s international biosecurity obligations. This will establish a balance between our international obligations and the various risks that imported goods pose, improve transparency around process and establish a Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis liaison officer to enable better communication with stakeholders.

Raising awareness is an important activity to ensure compliance with Australia’s biosecurity requirements. On 1 December 2015, we launched the Australian Biosecurity Facebook page. The page promotes our biosecurity messages to the general public, and educates travellers and online shoppers about what they can and can’t bring into the country. As at 30 June 2016, the Facebook page had 2825 followers.

Detecting biosecurity risks

Each year we process millions of arriving passengers and mail items, cargo consignments and animals sent to Australia. Table 8 shows the scale of our biosecurity work at the border.

The table also includes additional information on compliance rates for air passenger and international mail. The ‘compliance rate’ estimates the proportion of arriving air passengers and international mail items that comply with Department of Agriculture and Water Resources requirements on entry into the Australian community. This is a statistical estimate that was developed in collaboration with the Australian Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis.

In 2015–16, the estimated compliance rate for air passengers was 98.9 per cent, a marginal increase on the previous year, despite the continuing increase in the number of international clearances. The number of international mail articles continued to decline, and the estimated compliance rate was steady at 99.9 per cent.

Our risk-based arrangements at the border support partnerships with importers whose commercial systems meet biosecurity requirements. These approved arrangements provide an opportunity for businesses to reduce costs while still managing biosecurity risks.

The department currently has 3661 arrangements in place with a range of businesses including customs brokerages, cold stores, freight companies and importers.

Following approval, we monitor the performance and obligations of approved arrangement holders through a combination of random and targeted assessments and audits. Sanctions by way of corrective action requests, increased referral rates, audits and, where necessary, revocation and criminal charges, are used to deter non-compliance. In 2015–16, one quarantine approved premises was revoked and one
approved arrangement was refused for serious non-conformance.

Approved arrangements have now transitioned to the Biosecurity Act 2015. This provides more options and flexibility to manage these arrangements, encouraging responsible participation and more specific and efficient targeting of non-compliance.

TABLE 8 Size of the import task






International clearances

19 000 000

18 000 000

17 000 000

Seizures of items from air passengers a

270 000

260 000

260 000

Compliance rate air passengers (estimate)



Airports where we have staff




Sea passenger and crew clearances

800 000

600 000

510 000

Seizures of items from sea passengers a

3 900

3 500

3 600


International mail articles—Total
Non-letters b

138 000 000
57 000 000
81 000 000

146 000 000
54 000 000
92 000 000

173 000 000
69 000 000
104 000 000

Seizures of mail articles

23 000

24 000

24 000

Compliance rate mail (estimate)



International mail facilities where we have staff





Pratique visits—first ports

18 000

18 000

17 000


 Wharf Gate sea container inspections c

250 000

230 000

410 000

Country Action List sea container inspections (first port) d

46 000

57 000

46 000

Commercial consignments referred to the department e

450 000

450 000

440 000

Air freight consignments referred to the department (under $1000)

640 000

610 000

620 000

Import permit applications received

19 000

22 000

23 000

Import permits issued

17 000

17 000

19 000

Live animal imports processed at government post-entry quarantine facilities

cats 1 500
dogs 3 700
horses 340
avians 160
queen bees 0
ruminants 0

cats 1 600
dogs 3 700
horses 390
avians 140
queen bees 0
alpacas 12

cats 1 600
dogs 3 500
horses 440
avians 470
queen bees 16
ruminants 34

Hatching eggs processed at government post-entry quarantine facilities f

6 600

4 200

22 000

a Seizures include declared and non-declared items.
b Non-letters include parcels and other articles. Declining mail volumes predominantly letter class and other articles, attributed to increased use of electronic mail and fluctuations in the Australian dollar.
c Wharf gate staff inspect external surfaces of imported containers as they leave the wharf gates.
d Country Action List countries are identified due to a particular risk from that country.
e Includes Full Import Declarations greater than $1000 and long form self-assessment clearances goods that are part of larger consignment or commercial, require permit or approval.
f Variance in hatching eggs figures due to Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza outbreaks in the northern hemisphere in 2014–15.

In 2014–15, we introduced the Compliance-Based Inspection Scheme for plant importers, which rewards compliance by reducing the number of inspections for low-risk pathways. This results in cost savings for the importers and the department.

We added nine new commodities to the scheme in 2015–16, bringing the total to 17. A further four commodities will be added later in 2016. As at June 2016, the scheme has saved more than 3500 inspections by the department and more than $630 000 for importers.

In early 2016, khapra beetle larvae and adults were found on imported goods at premises in Adelaide and on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. They were contained and destroyed, and the source was traced to a single consignment of imported plastic food grade containers. Khapra beetles are a risk to Australia’s grain industries and could jeopardise grain export markets.

Snapshot: State-of-the-art post-entry quarantine

The opening of our new Animal and Plant Post-Entry Quarantine Facility in October 2015 heralded a new era in our quarantine service provision.

The facility lies on 144 hectares at Mickleham, on the northern outskirts of Melbourne, and hosts specialised accommodation for dog, cats, horses and plants brought into Australia. The first stage of the dog and cat compounds are equipped to meet the highest welfare standards and are appointed with exercise yards and climate controlled conditions, including heated flooring.

The facility also supports Australia’s horse industry. Australia attracts worldwide interest and investment in events like the Melbourne Cup and we now offer outstanding accommodation for imported horses while protecting the equine industry from biosecurity risks.

The opening of the new facility coincided with the introduction of a new electronic system, which now enables clients to book, view, vary or cancel reservations online for cats, dogs and horses entering into the facility, providing a better service to clients.

Work on the new facility will continue, with the second phase including the construction of the avian and ruminant compounds and stage two of the dog and cat compounds. Work is due to be complete in 2018.

Photo: Veterinary officer John Russell-Cook examines Claude the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever at the new post-entry quarantine facility. 

Photo: Veterinary officer John Russell-Cook examines Claude the Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever at the new post-entry quarantine facility.

Detecting imported food risks

We administer the Imported Food Inspection Scheme, which monitors importer compliance with Australia’s food standards. Food Standards Australia New Zealand provides advice on foods that pose a medium to high risk to public health. We classify these as ‘risk food’ under the inspection scheme, and classify all other food as ‘surveillance food’. Risk food is subject to an inspection rate of 100 per cent and surveillance food is subject to an inspection rate of 5 per cent.

Between 1 January and 31 December 2015, we inspected 29 715 lines of imported food, and applied 93 976 tests. The compliance rate was 98.6 per cent for all food inspected, and the compliance rate for risk food was approximately 98.9 per cent.

Incorrect labelling accounted for most of the non-compliance (79.1 per cent of failures). When labelling non-compliance was removed from the testing data, the compliance rate for analytical and other tests applied to imported food increased to 99.5 per cent. We will continue to work with industry to raise awareness on correctly labelling food for sale in Australia. We will use the existing website to
communicate labelling requirements, but are also looking at new guidance material for importers whose food labelling does not meet requirements.

We took part in joint action with state and territory authorities to determine whether milk might be present as an undeclared allergen in imported coconut drinks and coconut powder. Our tests found nine non-compliant samples that contained the undeclared allergen. There were also 22 public recalls and trade withdrawals associated with the issue.

The joint action successfully highlighted the issue of allergen labelling to importing food businesses. During March 2016, our border intervention decreased on these foods given good compliance levels and the cessation of state government regulatory activity. Increased inspection activity continues for the nine products found to contain undeclared milk.

We periodically review our monitoring of risk and surveillance food, particularly where there is a consistent level of compliance. In 2015, we reviewed the surveillance of imported honey and have now changed the number of specific tests we apply, to focus on other applicable food standards.

In 2015–16, we also began work on reforming imported food legislation to improve the management of imported food under the scheme. These changes will also provide greater incentives for importers to operate under a Food Import Compliance Arrangement, which offers an alternative to routine inspection and testing of food.

Snapshot: Working with online marketplaces to manage biosecurity risk

Online shopping has made it possible to buy almost anything from almost anywhere in the world. In 2014–15, Australians spent an estimated $38 billion online to order more than 50 million international mail parcels. Because of that huge volume of goods coming into the country, it’s vital that shopping websites are aware of and support Australia’s biosecurity requirements to minimise the risk posed by
goods sold online.

In 2015, we presented eBay’s Senior Manager for Global Regulatory and Policy Management, Mike Carson, with an Australian Biosecurity Award for his efforts in this area. eBay publishes details of the department’s plants and seed requirements on its site, and requires sellers to comply with any published policies.

Mike works closely with us on biosecurity and over a number of years has created regional filters to stop Australian customers buying high-risk items. He has also been able to block individual eBay suppliers selling in Australia, some of whom had previously been responsible for hundreds of interceptions at the border. Not only does this reduce the chance of exotic pests and diseases entering the country, it also frees up biosecurity officers to focus on other priority areas.

The department’s work in this area continues to grow as it further explores opportunities to inform and prevent the supply online of prohibited and restricted plants, seeds, insects and other high-risk material.

Photo: Mike Carson from eBay with his Biosecurity Award. 

Photo: Mike Carson from eBay with his Biosecurity Award.

Managing biosecurity risks offshore

A key element of our biosecurity approach is working with Australia’s neighbours and trading partners through capacity-building, training and agreements to ensure Australian biosecurity standards are met.

We contribute to the development of international standards and trade rules to ensure that they are consistent with best practice, reducing the likelihood of biosecurity activities having a negative effect on trade (contributing to Strategic objective 3). We also assist neighbouring countries to establish surveillance systems that provide early warning of pests that could potentially enter Australia.


In 2015–16, we delivered a number of biosecurity cooperation projects in the Asia–Pacific region, including in Indonesia and Timor-Leste.

The Australia–Indonesia Partnership for Emerging Infectious Diseases Program works to strengthen Indonesian Government veterinary services to prevent and control emerging infectious diseases. The program benefits Indonesia by improving human and animal health, supporting rural development and improving food security. It benefits Australia by reducing biosecurity risks offshore and contributing to
our bilateral relationship.

The first phase of the program ended in 2014–15. As a result of the program’s success, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) agreed to fund a second phase through to 2018. Activities under the second phase will be more targeted, to build on the success of Phase I.

We continued to deliver the DFAT-funded Timor-Leste Village Poultry Health and Biosecurity Program. The program is managed jointly with the Timor-Leste Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, in partnership with University of Sydney and the Northern Territory Government Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries.

The program aims to improve food availability by controlling diseases, through vaccination for Newcastle disease and improved poultry management techniques in three pilot villages. It is also working to strengthen biosecurity arrangements to prevent incursions of serious poultry diseases in Timor-Leste.

Through key messaging on health and education, the program aims to strengthen the link between village poultry productivity and improved household access to nutrition, education and economic benefits. It is also promoting gender equality, as increased production will lead to increased income and empowerment for women and girls.

Managing export risk

Providing export certification services

Around two-thirds of Australia’s agricultural products are exported. We provide export controls and assistance to exporters, to help them ensure they meet the biosecurity requirements of Australia’s trading partners.

In 2015–16, we issued 407 342 export certificates, an increase of nearly 20 per cent from 2014–15, and managed the export of more than three million animals (Table 9).

The Japanese market for live cattle was suspended in May 2016 because of a large number of cattle testing positive to paratuberculosis in post-arrival quarantine in Japan. The department’s investigation confirmed that the licenced exporter had sent ineligible animals to the market. As a result, the exporter’s licence was cancelled.

To prevent this occurring again, we now require National Livestock Identification System and property details to be included on all laboratory reports. The market reopened in late August 2016.

TABLE 9 Size of the export task

Item a b




Export certificates for eggs




Export certificates for wool

10 809

12 044

10 928

Export certificates for fish

24 604

22 738

22 545

Export certificates for meat for human consumption

225 669

174 706

156 057

Export certificates for dairy

36 507

31 744

31 595

Export certificates for skins and hides

8 414

9 760

9 741

Export certificates for meat by-products

7 256

9 164

6 167

Export certificates for grains and horticulture produce

81 675

68 325

63 083

Cat exports

3 400

3 726

3 209

Dog exports

8 658

8 299

7 637

Live cattle exports

1 244 396

1 356 162

1 141 229

Live sheep exports

1 944 802

2 135 550

1 953 058

Live goat exports

80 144

88 897

79 691

a Includes electronic and manually generated certificates.
b An additional 11 955 manual certificates were issued for non-prescribed goods, including ‘grocery’ items and pharmaceutical products.

As part of the white paper initiatives to enhance traceability systems, we are designing a streamlined traceability system to support market access for agricultural exports. The new system will modernise electronic documentation and establish register databases, increase our reporting capacity to assist decision-making, introduce interactive workflow processes and capture and report on incident management.

This will increase efficiencies for exporters and give us more flexibility to respond to changing importing country requirements. The traceability system is scheduled for completion in July 2018 and project implementation by July 2019.

Working with exporters

The introduction of inspections by external plant authorised officers is supporting a more effective and timely system that continues to deliver high-quality product to export markets. We currently have 1044 industry-based authorised officers performing export inspections, with another 2555 applications to become authorised.

Industry feedback indicates operational efficiencies are being realised through self-regulation and savings resulting from a reduction or removal of inspection fees, while complying with export certification requirements under the Export Control Act 1982.

Snapshot: Greater autonomy for meat exporters

In 2014, we launched the Export Meat Systems Audit Program to streamline the regulatory compliance model for abattoirs and independent boning rooms.

The risk-based program underpins the department’s health certification of export eligible meat and meat products. We use it to reduce the frequency of audits from monthly to biannually, giving managers greater autonomy to operate their establishments. The audits are conducted by qualified and competent veterinary auditors, and establishments that achieve acceptable audit outcomes receive an annual approved arrangement certificate.

After a 12-month rollout in 2014–15, eligible establishments were able to choose between remaining on the monthly audit regime and transitioning to the new program. To date, 46 per cent of all eligible establishments are operating under the new program.

In late 2015, the wild game sector agreed to come on board, and we are now developing audit checklists to meet that industry’s requirements.

Photo of Brahman cattle 

Managing live animal exports

The department is committed to ensuring compliance with the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), which applies to the handling and treatment of exported livestock. Since its implementation in July 2011, more than 12 million Australian livestock animals have been exported to 20 countries under ESCAS.

In 2015–16, we completed investigations into 21 reports of alleged regulatory infringements. Of these, seven were self-reports by exporters, six were made by industry representatives, and eight were made by third parties.

Some investigations resulted in the department removing facilities from approved supply chains, undertaking additional independent auditing of supply chains, or requiring exporters to provide further information about proposed exports. In some cases we applied additional conditions to export approvals, required further reconciliation requirements to account for animals in supply chains, or
required exporters to provide further training to improve animal handling practices.

Recently, we introduced authorised arrangements for Australian exporters of live animals. These arrangements reduce duplication, improve timeframes for consignment approval and allow reliable exporters to operate with less intervention. The approved arrangements became available on 1 April 2016, and will become compulsory on 1 January 2017.

More information about livestock export compliance.

National Residue Survey

The National Residue Survey (NRS) is a vital part of the Australian system for managing the risk of chemical residues and environmental contaminants in Australian food products through the provision of national random monitoring and targeted testing programs.

In 2015–16, the NRS arranged for the collection of more than 20 000 animal and plant products for the analysis of pesticide and veterinary medicine residues, and environmental contaminants.

The data generated by the NRS supports Australia’s food industry and primary producers by helping to facilitate access to key export markets and confirming Australia’s status as a producer of clean food.

The NRS annual report at Appendix 6 includes key financial information in accordance with the National Residue Survey Administration Act 1992.​​

Previous | Annual Report contents | Next

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
Thanks for your feedback.
Thanks! Your feedback has been submitted.

We aren't able to respond to your individual comments or questions.
To contact us directly phone us or submit an online inquiry

Please verify that you are not a robot.