The Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, has announced the Government's plans to progress the Biosecurity Bill 2014, which will replace the century old Quarantine Act 1908. Biosecurity risks have changed significantly since the Quarantine Act was drafted and include activities conducted onshore, offshore and at the border, and which can impact human, plant and animal health, the economy and the environment.

The legislation has been developed to simplify and clarify biosecurity regulatory requirements, with the objective of intervening only where there is a biosecurity risk to be managed and enhancing Australia’s capacity to manage biosecurity risks into the future. The intended result is the reduction of unnecessary regulatory and administrative burdens on users of the system.

The Biosecurity Bill 2014 is based on the initial Biosecurity Bill which was introduced in 2012, but lapsed due to the proroguing of Parliament in 2013. Improvements to proposed legislation include:

  • a reduction of more than $6.9 million a year in business compliance costs through streamlining the legislation
  • allowing the general compliance history of a business to be considered when deciding whether to allow the importation of a good or undertake biosecurity activities (whereas the Quarantine Act only allows for assessment of the risks associated with the goods themselves), and
  • new powers to allow the Commonwealth to respond to biosecurity risks within Australia.

Throughout the process of legislative change, PwC has engaged with the Department of Agriculture at a senior level to understand the likely impact of the biosecurity reform. The Biosecurity Bill 2014 also includes the ability for an importer to receive formal accreditation to manage and maintain quarantine related supply chains under the new concept of ‘Approved Arrangements’.

The potential benefits for Australian importers and exporters arising from the move to a risk-based approach to biosecurity include reduced cost of capital, lower quarantine fees, removal of supply chain delays and brand enhancement through being recognised as secure and safe international trader.

The Department of Agriculture is continuing to seek consultation from interested parties prior to the Bill being introduced.