Roles and responsibilities in a Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis
When the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources conducts Biosecurity Import Risk Analyses, the process can involve a range of different stakeholders.
Some of these roles are outlined in the Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis (BIRA) guidelines, including:
- Scientific Advisory Group: a high level group tasked with providing external scientific and economic advice on BIRAs undertaken by the department.
- BIRA Liaison Officer: acting as the first point of contact for stakeholders during a BIRA.
- The department also works with external experts, other government agencies and domestic and international stakeholders.
Departmental officers involved in conducting a BIRA can vary in numbers, depending on the expertise required and the complexity of the BIRA. Those conducting BIRAs will (collectively or individually) provide an appropriate combination of experience and expertise in:
- risk analysis as it relates to biosecurity
- science and regulation
- animal and/or plant pests and diseases
- industry and/or commercial processes and practices
- other disciplines relevant to the proposal or application under consideration.
In accordance with the Australian Public Service (APS) Code of Conduct, section 13 Public Service Act 1999 and departmental policy, all employees must comply with the APS Values and Code of Conduct, including the requirement to:
- be impartial
- declare personal interests
- declare any conflicts of interest.
The department sources external expertise when conducting BIRAs as required. Such expertise may be drawn from:
- other government agencies (Commonwealth, state and territory)
- scientific organisations
- private consultants
- the general public.
When determining which external experts will be involved in the BIRA, the Director of Biosecurity will consider the following:
- the experience and expertise relevant to the import proposal being considered
- experience in a relevant scientific field
- knowledge of government processes and the national and international context of the BIRA
- experience in the operational context of biosecurity risk decision making.
The use of external experts is subject to conflict of interest considerations. Each potential external expert must declare any potential conflict of interest or any possible perception of bias that could prevent him or her from participating in a particular BIRA. If this declaration raises concerns about whether the external expert should participate in the BIRA, the Director of Biosecurity may nominate an alternative member.
Other Commonwealth agencies
The Australian Government Department of Health is responsible for biosecurity policies relating to human health. Australia’s Chief Medical Officer holds the position of Director of Human Biosecurity under the Biosecurity Act 2015.
During a BIRA, the Director of Biosecurity can request a statement from the Director of Human Biosecurity on any human health impacts that may arise from a proposed import. This ensures human health impacts are properly considered during the BIRA process.
Depending on the nature of the goods proposed for import, the department may consult with other Australian Government authorities or agencies in developing recommendations and providing advice. For example, the department may consult with the Department of Environment on biosecurity matters which may have an impact on the environment. Goods may also be subject to other laws such as Customs Act 1901, Imported Food Control Act 1992, Gene Technology Act 2000 and Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
State and territory agencies
Australia’s approach to biosecurity partnerships is underpinned by the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity (IGAB) which was signed by all state and territory governments (excluding Tasmania) in January 2012.
The IGAB builds upon a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Animal and Plant Quarantine Measures which was signed by all state and territory governments (including Tasmania) and came into effect on 1 January 1995. The MoU applies to all animal and plant biosecurity measures that may directly or indirectly affect trade in Australia. The IGAB, whilst building upon this existing agreement, strengthens the working partnership between the Commonwealth and state and territory governments by defining the roles and responsibilities of governments and outlining priority areas for collaboration, to improve the national biosecurity system.
While the department has rigorous and highly effective processes in place across the system, stakeholders - farmers, industry and the community - all have a responsibility to help manage biosecurity. This can be through on-farm biosecurity plans, industry biosecurity plans, development of industry export strategies, and participation in response and preparedness activities or simply reporting any information about suspected plant or animal pests and diseases that could pose a biosecurity risk.
International stakeholders - through their government authority - who are interested in submitting an import proposal are responsible for providing information to support the proposal. A proposal must be in writing and should provide relevant scientific and other information to the extent that it is available. The department’s contact details for all stakeholders is located in the biosecurity contact details appendix within the BIRA Guidelines.