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Thursday, 18 February 2021
Page: 1

Mr LITTLEPROUD (MaranoaMinister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management and Deputy Leader of the National Party) (09:31): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

It gives me great pleasure to move the Biosecurity Amendment (Strengthening Penalties) Bill 2021. This bill is about sending a clear message to individuals and companies who put at risk Australia's $61 billion agriculture industry and over $1 trillion in environmental assets by contravening the Biosecurity Act 2015.

A strong biosecurity system is critical to Australia's prosperity. Biosecurity laws protect agriculture, tourism and other industries, plant and animal health, the environment, and our market access. They are necessary to allow us to trade and for our nation to continue to thrive.

Australia's biosecurity system faces growing regional and global threats such as African swine fever and hitchhiking pests like khapra beetle and brown marmorated stink bug. As we look towards our economic recovery from COVID-19, the growth in trade and travel will only further emphasise these biosecurity threats.

This bill increases a number of civil and criminal penalties under the Biosecurity Act to ensure they are appropriate, adequate and fit for the crime. It targets key provisions of the Biosecurity Act where noncompliance has the potential to cause a significant and unacceptable risk for Australia's biosecurity status.

While we all play a role in protecting Australia's biosecurity, these amendments focus on individuals and businesses, such as commercial importers and biosecurity industry participants, that have a particular responsibility to know and understand their obligations under the act and take the steps required to comply with the law.

This bill ensures that penalties are set at a level that means they are not merely a cost of doing business. These maximum penalties, in some cases up to $1.1 million, reflect the potential gains someone might obtain or seek to obtain through noncompliance with our biosecurity laws, as well as the devastating impact that contraventions may have on Australia's biosecurity status, market access and economy.

The increased civil penalties introduced by this bill will serve as a significant deterrent to anybody considering undermining our biosecurity laws and the criminal penalties will allow a proportionate and appropriate punishment for contraventions of the act.

The biosecurity system is constantly evolving, with new threats from pests and diseases emerging. We are continually reviewing the effectiveness of the Biosecurity Act to respond to these threats and are committed to the management of biosecurity risks associated with imported goods.

This bill aligns with recommendations of the Inspector-General of Biosecurity for stronger penalties for serious noncompliance and builds on our continued commitment to ensuring adequate penalties for noncompliance, as demonstrated by the amendments in the Biosecurity Amendment (Traveller Declarations and Other Measures) Act2020 which were passed last year to enable increased infringement notice amounts for travellers who fail to declare high-risk goods on their incoming passenger card.

This bill will further enable a stronger penalty system that reflects the seriousness of any breach of the Biosecurity Act so that those who flout our biosecurity laws feel the full force of the law in a manner that reflects the seriousness of their actions.

I commend the bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.