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Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Page: 10083


Senator JACINTA COLLINS (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate and Parliamentary Secretary for School Education and Workplace Relations) (15:59): I table the explanatory memoranda relating to the bills and move:

That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—

BIOSECURITY BILL 2012

Second reading speech

Australians benefit from Australia's world class biosecurity system, which underpins the comparative advantage of Australia's agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors.

The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resources Economics and Sciences estimates the value of exported food and fibre commodities at $39.3 billion in

2011-12.

These exports underpin an estimated 300 000 jobs in regional Australia.

But Australia's biosecurity framework is not only about farmers.

Australia's unique pest and disease status helps to protect our environment, human health, the wellbeing of our domestic animals and our way of life.

Each and every day, Australian Government biosecurity officers facilitate the movement into and out of Australia of tonnes of goods, thousands of passengers, and many more thousands of parcels and mail items.

Yet the Quarantine Act 1908, from which those officers draw their powers, was designed to suit a vastly different time and operating environment.

It was a time when every point of entry into the new Dominion of Australia was a seaport. A time when the threat of diseases such as smallpox, plague, cholera and leprosy were at the forefront of policy makers' minds and those of the community.

The capacity for people and goods to move freely is an essential part of our modern way of life; but presents different biosecurity risks than were ever canvassed in 1908.

People and cargo move from one side of the world to another within 24 hours, transported in air and sea craft that were unimaginable in 1908.

Australia's biosecurity system needs to be underpinned by a modern and effective regulatory framework to manage the risk of pests and diseases entering Australian territory and causing harm to animal, plant and human health, the environment and the economy.

Quarantine Act

The century old Quarantine Act has been amended no less than 50 times. Overall, Parliament has helped ensure the legislation underpinning the biosecurity system has kept pace with a changing world.

But while the legislation has served us well, it has become cumbersome to administer and difficult to interpret.

We see this through:

complex and difficult to administer co-regulatory provisions

considerable gaps in the process for managing biosecurity risks at first ports of entry; and

multiple and overlapping powers to manage goods of biosecurity risk.

A new regulatory framework is now needed. New legislation is needed to provide for a safe and seamless transition of people and goods across Australia's borders.

It also needs to be more responsive to the threat of communicable diseases; while avoiding unnecessary burden on international passengers and trade.

Beale review

Prior to 2008, a spate of serious biosecurity events occurred, including:

the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the United Kingdom

bovine spongiform encephalopathy (or "mad cow disease") in Europe, Japan and North America

the emergence of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza

incursions of several exotic pests and diseases in Australia such as the European house borer, sugar cane smut, citrus canker and khapra beetle, and of course

the well remembered 2007 outbreak of equine influenza in Australia which the Government of the day said would never happen.

Against this context, the Government commissioned a review of Australia's quarantine and biosecurity system, forming an independent panel of experts chaired by Mr Roger Beale AO.

The panel's report—One biosecurity: a working partnership (also known as the Beale review)—and the Australian Government's response was released on 18 December 2008.

The panel made 84 recommendations to enhance Australia's biosecurity system; focussing on a partnership approach to managing biosecurity risks and biosecurity decision-making based on risk and evidence.

The Beale review recommended a new Biosecurity Act be developed to replace the Quarantine Act, drawing on a broader set of the Commonwealth's Constitutional powers and providing for modern and effective management of biosecurity risks. This Bill addresses this recommendation and will enact 15 related legislative recommendations of the Beale review.

Biosecurity Bill

The Biosecurity Bill 2012 will provide us with a modern framework that allows the Australian Government to make biosecurity risk management decisions that are based on science and evidence. It will allow us to protect our unique biosecurity status, our citizens and our industries from pest and disease threats; as we have been since 1908.

Five broad principles underpin the Biosecurity Bill. These are:

managing biosecurity risk

improving productivity

strengthening partnerships

sound administration; and

increasing transparency.

Managing biosecurity risks

Identifying, assessing and managing risk is at the foundation of our biosecurity system. The appropriate management of risk is strongly supported by this new legislation.

In 2002, the Primary Industries Ministerial Council agreed that the policy framework surrounding ALOP, including its expression as "very low, but not zero", and the practical guidelines for risk analysis which illustrate the concept by way of a risk estimation matrix, adequately met Australia's needs.

This conservative level of protection acknowledges that we have a lot to protect; but that zero risk is not achievable.

Zero risk would mean no tourists, no immigration, no imports and as a result, no exports. Zero risk is not feasible.

To provide certainty to administrators, our trading partners and the community, the Biosecurity Bill expresses Australia's Appropriate Level of Protection.

The Bill includes mechanisms to more clearly identify risks across the biosecurity continuum—offshore, at the border and onshore—and will manage these risks using a broad range of Commonwealth powers.

In relation to risks posed to human health, the Quarantine Act was enacted before the considerations of individual rights and personal freedoms we have today. Within the Bill, the process for managing the threat of a serious communicable disease to human health will be better aligned with modern science relating to treatment and management of such diseases. It will also provide for consideration of personal freedoms and rights to review in human health biosecurity decision-making.

Improving Productivity

The Bill will help to ensure the regulatory framework is simple, clear and that regulatory burden is commensurate with the level of risk posed by the importer and/or their goods.

Making the regulatory framework easier to engage with will not only help to improve productivity at our ports, it will encourage compliance and therefore drive better biosecurity outcomes.

The Bill will facilitate modernising overly complex regulatory provisions and administrative practices under the Quarantine Act. Areas of improvement include:

the management options that may be covered by an approved arrangement will be expanded, processes simplified and clarified

the Bill provides that goods become automatically subject to biosecurity control on entering Australian territory; and

the Biosecurity Bill will now cover the field for goods imported into Australia, where additional measures to those established by the Commonwealth will not be able to be applied by states or territories; providing certainty to international trading partners, importers and industry.

These reforms continue to demonstrate the Government's commitment to reducing red-tape whilst ensuring the integrity of Australia's biosecurity system is upheld.

Strengthening partnerships

A central tenet of the Beale review was the need to strengthen the partnership approach to reflect the shared responsibility for biosecurity with stakeholders.

Ultimately, business and industries will be able to take a greater role in managing biosecurity risks—where it is appropriate to do so—with support and regulatory oversight from the Australian Government. In doing so, there will be a more appropriate level or intensity of intervention from the government.

Such arrangements and partnerships enabled by the new Biosecurity Bill will strengthen the relationship between stakeholders and the government.

The Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity demonstrates the desired outcome of a partnership approach to biosecurity. The agreement signed by the Prime Minister in January 2012, between the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments—except Tasmania—is another key achievement envisaged by Beale.

The Biosecurity Bill continues this intent through providing expanded onshore powers for the Commonwealth to cooperatively manage and address pest and disease incursions. Provisions such as the ability to issue biosecurity control orders and the establishment of biosecurity zones enhance the powers available to the Commonwealth to address biosecurity risks within or across jurisdictions, in a consistent way. Particularly where state and territory government regulations are not harmonised or are absent.

Sound administration

As a regulator, there is a requirement and expectation that sound administrative procedures are upheld. This is essential to ensure that stakeholders:

are aware of their responsibilities in managing biosecurity risks

understand the legislative requirements they need to meet; and

recognise the potential consequences if they are non compliant.

The Biosecurity Bill will also provide the Director of Biosecurity with general administration of the legislation. The Director can offer practical guidance in situations where there are multiple ways to interpret the law or if there is ambiguity. This will help build the community's confidence in the fair administration of the biosecurity system.

The new legislation further provides a modern and graduated compliance regime. This will allow for a proportionate response to a non-compliance incident. The Bill maintains the existence of an infringement notice scheme for high volume, low complexity offences; for example for passengers in airports.

However, it also introduces an enforceable undertaking scheme and a civil penalty regime as an alternative to criminal penalties. The introduction of a civil penalty regime alternative—in addition to existing criminal offences—provides the greatest opportunity to take compliance action in a graduated and appropriate way, reflecting the significance of the non-compliance and the level of risk posed.

Increased Transparency

A key principle from the Beale review and of government policy is to increase the transparency of the biosecurity system for clients and stakeholders, including trading partners, in the assessment and management of biosecurity risks.

Ensuring that processes and decisions are transparent, open and reviewable where appropriate, provides assurance to clients and stakeholders and demonstrates the integrity of the system; building community confidence.

The Biosecurity Bill will better articulate the role of the Director of Biosecurity and the Minister to improve confidence in scientific and operational decision making processes.

The Bill establishes a process for Biosecurity Import Risk Analyses. The Director will be required to take into account Australia's Appropriate Level of Protection in conducting risk assessments for the importation of goods.

Science based biosecurity decision making has been the policy of successive Australian Governments.

This continues to demonstrate the focus on biosecurity risk management and supporting scientific and operational decision making, whilst providing appropriate oversight and review mechanisms; in conjunction with the proposed Inspector-General of Biosecurity Bill 2012.

Conclusion

This Bill is several years in the making. Consultation draft chapters of the Bill have been released progressively since early July 2012 and the Government is grateful for the feedback that has been provided.

After engaging with industry, state and territory governments, environment groups, health professionals, the general public and our trading partners—the Biosecurity Bill 2012 represents a comprehensive modernisation of Australia's biosecurity legislation.

The Bill directly addresses the Australian Government's commitment to reform of Australia's biosecurity system. It reaffirms our commitment to the Beale review recommendations to develop new biosecurity legislation.

Australia's biosecurity system is world-class.

The Australian Government employs and works with some of Australia's most knowledgeable and experienced plant scientists, veterinarians and medical and clinical experts.

These people are available to our biosecurity officers to provide current advice and guidance on the risks posed by the movement of people, aircraft, vessels and goods.

This Bill will ensure Australia's biosecurity system can continue to respond to future changes that this changing world presents and the challenges and opportunities that come with those changes.

 

INSPECTOR-GENERAL OF BIOSECURITY BILL 2012

Second reading speech

Australia's biosecurity system

Australia's biosecurity system ensures good biosecurity outcomes are realised through Australia's activities as an exporter and importer of goods.

Australia's economy and environment benefit significantly from a strong biosecurity system. Australia has enjoyed a high degree of protection from biosecurity risks based on natural advantages of relative geographical isolation, the absence of shared land borders and a border-focused system of biosecurity.

These advantages have meant that the environment has been free of many pests and diseases common elsewhere and has positioned Australia well to prevent their entry into the ecosystem. The freedom of the agricultural, fisheries and forestry sectors from the most destructive pests and diseases confers a higher degree of quality on Australia's exports.

Australia's biosecurity system has become increasingly complex. With increasing biosecurity risk there is a need to ensure consistent, systematic processes for oversight and continual improvement. The demonstration of integrity in the biosecurity system and review of the quality of processes is vital.

Our system put to the test

In the years preceding 2008, a spate of biosecurity events occurred. This included:

the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in the United Kingdom

bovine spongiform encephalopathy—or "mad cow disease"—in Europe, Japan and North America

the emergence of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza; and

more significantly, Australia's biosecurity system was put to the test in 2007 with the outbreak of equine influenza in Australia.

Against this backdrop:

complexity is constantly increasing in biosecurity risk management as new and different products arrive from a wider variety of countries

clients and stakeholders are continually seeking greater levels of assurance on the effectiveness of Australia's biosecurity system

there is a growing demand from international trading partners to access Australian markets

Australian businesses are seeking access to a greater number of overseas markets

Australian consumers are demanding access to a greater variety of goods; and

tighter timelines in logistics chains is increasing the pressure on border agencies to process goods more rapidly.

Reviews of Australia's biosecurity system

Australia's biosecurity system has been subject to review several times. Recommendations made for improvements to the way it operates started with the Nairn Review in 1995.

In response to the August 2007 outbreak of Equine Influenza in Australia, the 2008 Equine Influenza Inquiry was conducted by the Honourable Ian Callinan AC.

A key recommendation of the inquiry was the establishment of the Inspector-General of Horse Importation. The inquiry reported that regular checking and reporting on the compliance of biosecurity measures needed to be conducted by an individual external to the biosecurity system.

At the time, this was seen by Callinan as critical in the need for independence, detachment and the restoration of industry and public confidence.

This was reaffirmed in the 2008 independent review of Australia's quarantine and biosecurity arrangements—One biosecurity: a working partnership—also known as the Beale review.

The Australian Government commissioned an independent panel of experts chaired by Mr Roger Beale AO to conduct a comprehensive review of Australia's quarantine and biosecurity systems. The Beale review found that Australia's biosecurity system operated well, but could be improved.

It proposed significant reforms to strengthen the system by revising legislative arrangements and improving governance arrangements, transparency, timeliness and operations across the biosecurity continuum. In total, the panel made 84 recommendations.

The Panel considered that independent audit and review provided invaluable assistance in verifying the performance of individual programs and provided an objective overview of the system. It saw the creation of a position to conduct independent audit function, to assess activities along the biosecurity continuum, as critical.

Recommendation 20 of the Beale review sought that a statutory office of the Inspector-General of Biosecurity be established that will audit and report on the performance of the biosecurity system. This Bill directly addresses this recommendation.

This Bill will also enact two related legislative recommendations of the Beale review.

Inspector-General of Biosecurity Bill

The Inspector-General of Biosecurity Bill 2012 establishes the statutory office of the Inspector-General of Biosecurity. It defines its role, functions and powers.

The Inspector-General will report directly to the Agriculture Minister. The office is independent from the regulator and the Director of Biosecurity.

The Inspector-General of Biosecurity will undertake independent audit and review functions focused on biosecurity systems and processes. The office ensures that biosecurity processes are transparent and accountable.

In addition, the statutory position will perform an important role ensuring the integrity and transparency of the Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis process. Stakeholders will have the opportunity to appeal where they believe there was a significant deviation from the Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis process that adversely affects their interests.

Not only will the Inspector-General ensure transparency and integrity in the biosecurity system more broadly, the Bill also establishes a number of powers to ensure transparency in the way the role is carried out.

Conclusion

The Inspector-General of Biosecurity Bill 2012 is an important legislative reform. Such a position has been recommended in numerous reviews and inquiries over the last 17 years.

The Bill directly addresses the Australian Government's commitment to reform of Australia's biosecurity system. It reaffirms our commitment to the Beale review recommendations to implement a statutory position of the Inspector General of Biosecurity.

It introduces provisions that enhance the transparency of Australia's biosecurity system. It ensures independent review of the system's processes and activities to provide a high level of assurance to clients and stakeholders.

By having a dedicated office to review the performance of functions and the exercise of powers by the Director of Biosecurity, all Australians can expect an efficient, modern and robust biosecurity framework.

That is what this Bill provides.

Along with the proposed Biosecurity Bill 2012, the two Bills provide a strong and sound new biosecurity regulatory framework. This provides the Australian Government modern and comprehensive legislation to continue to manage the risk of pests and diseases entering Australian territory and causing harm to animal, plant and human health, the environment and the economy.

Australia's biosecurity system is world-class. This new Bill is about modernising our independent review and verification mechanisms of the system and creating a responsive and flexible operating environment to ensure that world-class standing into the future.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: In accordance with standing order 111, further consideration of these bills is now adjourned till 5 February 2013.