Biosecurity legislative reform

As part of a broad reform to Australia's biosecurity system, the Australian Government is, in 2012, developing new biosecurity legislation, consisting of 2 significant bills – the Biosecurity Bill and the Inspector-General of Biosecurity Bill.

The Bills aim to help Australia manage risks to the environment and human, animal and plant health by keeping pace with continuous growth in the diversity and volumes of imports coming to Australia, as well as ever-evolving modes of importation.

The new Biosecurity Bill provides that the objects of the Biosecurity Act will include managing biosecurity risks, the risk of listed human diseases (or their contagions) entering Australia or a part of Australia, and risks in relation to ballast water. The Act will also give effect to the International Health Regulations.

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

In 2011–12 Senior General Counsels Susan Reye and Susie Brown, with assistance from other AGS lawyers, provided extensive advice on the constitutional underpinnings of the new legislation and a range of other constitutional, statutory interpretation and international law issues raised by the drafters at the Office of Parliamentary Counsel.

The new legislation will replace the Quarantine Act 1908, now almost 100 years old. It will extend beyond the traditional areas of quarantine (such as controlling the spread of disease) to managing environmental pests, such as invasive species. In its advice, AGS has looked beyond the quarantine power (s 51(ix) of the Constitution) to other constitutional powers such as the external affairs power as it relates to the implementation of Australia's obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity.

This is an extract from the 2011–12 AGS annual report