On 16 June 2016 the Biosecurity Act 2015 (Cth) came into force. This legislation replaced the Quarantine Act 1908 (Cth) which had regulated biosecurity in Australia for over a century. Impetus for the change arose from a number of reviews (the Nairn Report and later Beale Review) into Australia’s biosecurity system. These identified systemic flaws that were causing the country to be vulnerable to incursions of foreign pests and diseases through the administration of an archaic regulatory regime. The Biosecurity Act 2015 (Cth) includes new terminology, increased powers for the regulator and additional requirements for industry. The responsible agency, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (DAWR), has stated that the new biosecurity laws are designed to be user-friendly, to be flexible and responsive to changes in technology and future challenges, to remove cluttered and confusing sections of the Quarantine Act 1908 (Cth) and to achieve the difficult balance of making biosecurity regulation risk-based and equipping the regulator with strong enforcement powers whilst while also being economically prudent and supportive of increasing Australian trade and market access. This article column analyses such claims, including the short, and long term implications of providing biosecurity officers with two sets of authorising legislative powers and sharing the responsibility of biosecurity emergencies with the Department of Health.
Research theme: Health, Law and Bioethics