Australia: Changes to the biosecurity laws in Australia – impact on agribusinesses


On November 27, 2014 the Australian federal government introduced the Biosecurity Bill 2014 (Cth) (the Bill) into Parliament. The Bill is to replace the Quarantine Act 1908 (Cth) (the Quarantine Act), and has been designed to streamline and modernise Australia's biosecurity laws.

It is expected that the reform will save time and money both for businesses and the Australian government. But what will the changes mean for agribusinesses in practice? And do they address the policy concerns of biosecurity industry experts? In this article, we provide our overview of the changes, and consider their impacts on industry.

What is biosecurity?

Biosecurity means the procedures or measures designed to protect people, animals and the environment against infectious disease, pests and other biological threats. It involves the prevention of new pests and diseases arriving, and the control of outbreaks when they do occur. The success of a biosecurity system relies on cooperation across borders and between governments, industry, businesses and the community.

Risks to Australia's biosecurity future

As an island nation, Australia has largely been able to maintain an enviable biosecurity status.

However, the release of a report from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) on November, 24 2014 – Australia's Biosecurity Future (the CSIRO report) – has raised public awareness that Australia could be under-resourced to deal with future serious biosecurity risks.

The CSIRO report identifies five 'megatrends' that will develop over the next 20–30 years. It also predicts 12 'megashocks' which may result from the ways in which the megatrends relate to each other over the same period. These megashocks involve 'significant, relatively sudden and potentially highimpact' events. The five megatrends and megashocks are represented in the diagram below.

Biosecurity Megatrends

A significant shift in social, environmental, economic and technological conditions that has the potential to reshape the way an organisation, industry or society operates.

Biosecurity Megashocks

The way that biosecurity megatrends play out and, importantly, how they interact with one another can create 'megashocks' which involve significant, relatively sudden and potentially high-impact events, the timing of which is very hard to predict.

While it is helpful to predict these risk areas in biosecurity, it is recognised that the greatest risks are usually unknown – the initial Ebola outbreak, for example, arose with little warning.

Key changes introduced by the Bill

The Bill introduces major changes to the way businesses deal with Australia's Department of Agriculture (the Department) in managing their biosecurity risks. The Bill allows for businesses to:

  • enter into a single arrangement with the Department to manage their biosecurity risks in an approved way. This will replace the need for businesses to be registered for multiple and duplicate Quarantine Approved Premises and Compliance Agreements (which exist under the Quarantine Act), and is estimated to save businesses A$6.9 million in administrative costs per year
  • approach the Department with proposals for managing biosecurity risks that fit into their existing business practices.

Searches without warrants and control orders for the sick

The Bill includes a range of penalty options and enforcement powers, including:

  • infringement notices, civil penalties, enforceable undertakings and criminal sanctions
  • the power for biosecurity officers to enter premises without a warrant if they suspect a pest or disease hazard in a 'biosecurity emergency' – where the Minister for Agriculture considers the pest or disease poses a nationally significant threat
  • control orders for people believed to have a communicable disease (e.g. Ebola)
  • broader control orders over specific 'zones' that allow biosecurity officers to conduct surveillance activities.

New considerations: Past compliance and known associates

The Bill allows for action to be taken to respond to a risk without the need to refer to prescriptive lists. Responses to biosecurity risks will be dictated by the level of risk assessed. Risk assessments involve first determining the hazard, then considering the likelihood and severity of the associated risk occurring, combining this with risk management requirements under the other framework.

Currently, the Quarantine Act requires biosecurity risk assessments to be conducted based on the risk associated with only the goods themselves. The Bill introduces a risk assessment which also takes into account both:

  • the compliance history of businesses, using a 'fit and proper person' test
  • whether the business has any associates the Department considers not to be fit and proper.

The introduction of the 'fit and proper person' test aims to ensure that people or companies seeking import approvals are suitable entities to be responsible for the management of biosecurity risks. The test allows the Department to consider a person or company's history of compliance with Commonwealth legislation and then deny approval where there is a history of noncompliance. It can also be used as a basis to suspend, revoke or alter the conditions of an existing arrangement with the Department. The Bill sets out an exhaustive list of factors which must be considered in determining whether a person is fit and proper.

The associate test aims to prevent a person or business who has been denied an import permit or an industry arrangement in the past from reapplying under another name, such as that of a family member or former business partner.


The changes introduced in the Bill are expected to address some of the policy concerns relating to biosecurity identified in the CSIRO report. In theory, the changes will allow for a holistic approach which integrates intelligence, evidence and science-based decisionmaking, to allow resources and processes to be tailored to respond to emerging risks. The recognition and reward of good past compliance will introduce an industry incentive to increase involvement and participation in surveillance and reporting.

The introduction of the new penalty options and enforcement powers mirrors the broad range of options available to regulators under Work Health and Safety legislation in Australia. It remains to be seen whether the increased powers will be applied consistently and strike the right balance between providing the necessary level of response while not underestimating the potential long-term implications of seemingly small threats.

The new considerations for risk assessment and the absence of a prescription-based response to risks will allow more dynamic risk processes to be implemented as threats arise. This will include the adoption of preventative and mitigating controls during the critical initial period of a biosecurity threat, consequently reducing the risk of spread and impact. Despite this, some commentators have raised concerns about how the legislative framework will be equipped to respond to national threats in the context of an ageing workforce and diminishing resources in biosecurity, including a decline in the number of farmers, the number of agricultural graduates in Australia, and biosecurity-specific human resources. For example, there has been a steady fall in the number of taxonomists (a vital part of diagnostics) and there are estimates that 50 per cent of Australia's diagnostics capability will be lost by 2028.

The Bill is expected to provide a clear framework which will equip Australian jurisdictions to work together to ensure a nationally coordinated approach to biosecurity threats, and allow for flexible and proactive prevention activities that can adapt to emerging biosecurity risks.

In light of the changes to the risk management requirements under the Bill, it is recommended that agribusinesses in Australia do the following:

The Biosecurity Bill and supporting Bills are currently drafted to commence 12 months after they receive royal assent.


A copy of the 2014 CSIRO report, Australia's Biosecurity Future

More information relating to the Biosecurity Bill 2014 (Cth)

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

    By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions