Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce wants farmers, graziers, food producers and processors and the public to all contribute to an overhaul of a 100-year-old biosecurity law designed to keep Australia free from exotic pests and diseases.
Mr Joyce is inviting comment on the first draft of the Government’s planned Biosecurity Act 2015 during a three-month consultation period. The act has already been delayed 12 months to allow for more comment.
Biosecurity, despite its ominous sounding name, is not part of the Government’s current focus on national security issues. The term refers to quarantine and related techniques for keeping Australia’s flora and fauna, and agricultural sector, free from imported pests and diseases.
Australia, as an island continent, has one of the world’s strictest and most successful biosecurity regimes. This has enabled the Australian agricultural industry to promote itself, justifiably and successfully, as producing some of the safest food in the world. The new Biosecurity Act is intended to strengthen and update the system.
The new Act, which Mr Joyce said the Government will introduce to Parliament in 2016, is intended to update the Quarantine Act of 1908. Explaining the necessity for new legislation, the Department of Agriculture’s website says:
- For the Australian farmer, a strong biosecurity system means their crops will be safer from exotic pests and their livestock be more protected from diseases such as FMD (Foot and Mouth Disease)—which a recent Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economic and Sciences report found could cost our economy more than $50 billion over a decade.
- For the Australian economy, it means an increased likelihood of sustained domestic production and international exports leading to a competitive and profitable agricultural sector.
- For the Australian community, it means everyone can continue to enjoy a prosperous nation and live life with the amenities they are accustomed to.
The Act will incorporate regulations based on a newly developed Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis (BIRA) process. The Department says the Act was developed taking into account Australia’s international obligations as a signatory of the World Trade Organization Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures, the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), and the OIE (Office International des Epizooties – World Organisation for Animal Health) codes and standards relating to import and pest risk analyses.
“The biosecurity import risk analysis process, the regulations and the opportunity for stakeholders to comment were key issues raised by stakeholders during consultation on the Biosecurity Act,” Mr Joyce said.
“Our enviable clean and green biosecurity status relies on getting these regulations right—and we are all aware of the potential consequences of a pest and disease incursion to our domestic industries, environment and access to overseas markets.”
The submissions period for the BIRA regulation is open until 30 November 2015. For more information on the draft Act and the consultation process see www.agriculture.gov.au/biosecurity/legislation/new-biosecurity-legislation.
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