Australia’s Parliament has passed new legislation that will significantly increase penalties – including jail time and fines of more than $1-million – for biosecurity breaches.
The Government says this gives courts access to higher penalties that “reflect the true seriousness of non-compliance”.
Biosecurity measures are designed to protect a population against harmful biological or biochemical substances. It encompasses the safety of humans, animals, plants and other useful organisms against pests, diseases and other biological factors. Agriculture can be particularly at risk, as well as wildlife.
Reform will ensure that the punishment now fits the crime
“Upscaling penalties brings urgently needed reform to ensure the punishment fits the crime for those who intentionally put Australia’s environment, animal, plant and human health at risk,” agriculture minister David Littleproud noted in a statement.
“The new legislation sends a clear message to individuals and companies who put at risk Australia’s $66-billion agriculture industry and over $1trillion in environmental assets by contravening the Biosecurity Act.
“These penalties are on top of those that came into effect in January and we have also sent 14 travellers packing at their own expense.”
According to the Minister, in some cases the new penalties are up to eight times the current penalty to ensure they are no longer merely a cost of doing business.
Focus on commercial importers and others in the industry
He explained that the amendments focus on individuals and businesses, such as commercial importers and biosecurity industry participants, that have a particular responsibility to know their legal obligations and take the necessary steps to comply.
The new penalties build on the response to recommendations in the Inspector-General of Biosecurity’s 2017 review into the effectiveness of biosecurity controls for the import of uncooked prawn and prawn products.
Pests such as brown marmorated stink bug pose an ongoing threat and have the potential to decimate Australia’s crops and do significant damage to the natural environment.
“Highly contagious animal diseases such as foot and mouth disease would be devastating for Aussie farmers, agricultural industries, our trade, environment and economy if there were an outbreak in Australia,” Littleproud stated.