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Australia – Biosecurity Regulation: Queensland’s Take.

6 December, 2013

 

Legal News & Analysis – Asia Pacific – Australia – Environment 

 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

 

  • The Biosecurity Bill 2013 (Qld) has been recently introduced to the Queensland State Parliament and, if passed, will replace Queensland’s current biosecurity regime with a single, cohesive and flexible framework.
  • Industry will be under a general obligation to take all reasonable and practical measures to prevent or minimise the impact of biosecurity risks on human health, social amenity, the economy and the environment.
  • The Queensland legislation is intended to operate within Queensland coastal waters (3 nautical miles from the coast) is therefore likely to operate independently from the separate Commonwealth Biosecurity Bill 2013 (if reintroduced). The only exception relates to ballast water, in which case the Commonwealth Biosecurity Bill, if passed, would take precedence over any conflicting provisions in the Queensland legislation.
 

WHAT YOU NEED TO DO

 

  • Interested parties should review the Biosecurity Bill 2013 (Qld) and provide any submissions to the Queensland Parliament’s Agriculture, Resources and Environment Committee by 6 January 2014.
  • A public briefing on the Bill will be held between 12.30pm and 2pm on Thursday, 5 December 2013, at Parliament House, Brisbane, for those seeking further information about the Bill.
 

On 19 November 2013, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry introduced into Parliament the Biosecurity Bill 2013 (Qld) (the Queensland Biosecurity Bill), which was referred to the Agriculture, Resources and Environment Committee (the Committee) on the same day. The Queensland Biosecurity Bill is designed to replace the current overlapping, inconsistent and reactive approach to biosecurity regulation within Queensland. A full copy of the Queensland Biosecurity Bill can be found on the Office of Queensland Parliamentary Counsel website here, along with supporting materials here.


The Committee is inviting written submissions on the Queensland Biosecurity Bill until 6 January 2014.

 

The Queensland Biosecurity Bill

 

Background


Queensland’s current approach to biosecurity regulation is a mixture of more than 15 different pieces of legislation, with accompanying subordinate instruments. The Bill will seek to consolidate and update the existing provisions to provide a comprehensive and cohesive framework.


Strategic Objectives


The Queensland Biosecurity Bill is intended to simplify and broaden biosecurity regulation and aims to:

 

  • provide a flexible framework of proportional powers to respond to animal and plant diseases and pests in a timely way;
  • share the obligations and costs of biosecurity regulation amongst all stakeholders, including industry and government; and
  • adopt a precautionary principle to take action against emerging threats in the absence of scientific certainty.

 

Vision And Key Actions


The Queensland government’s stated vision is to promote agricultural growth and preparedness by more effectively managing animal and pest diseases and threats and ensuring the safety of animal feed, fertilisers and other agricultural inputs through broader biosecurity legislation.


The Queensland Biosecurity Bill contains five key actions to give effect to this vision:


1. Implementation Of A General Biosecurity Obligation


Anyone who deals with biosecurity risks will be obliged to take all reasonable and practical measures to prevent or minimise the risk and the associated adverse consequences. This obligation may be discharged through compliance with the Bill. Biosecurity risks include:

 

  • living things (other than humans or human parts);
  • diseases and disease causing pathogens;
  • contaminants; or
  • carriers of these things.
 

The Queensland Biosecurity Bill also imposes animal tracking obligations for disease tracing purposes and obligations to report the presence of restricted and prohibited biosecurity matters.


2. Introduction Of Proportional Powers To Combat Threats – Emergency Situations And Ongoing Biosecurity Risks


The Bill adopts a “precautionary principle” that, where serious damage is plausible, emergency biosecurity responses should not be postponed, notwithstanding an absence of scientific certainty. Regulatory tools to deal with emergency biosecurity situations are introduced in the Bill, including emergency powers and orders, movement control orders and biosecurity zones. Powers are also introduced (such as the creation of biosecurity zones) to deal with ongoing biosecurity threats.


3. Improvement Of Intergovernmental And Industry Cooperation


The State will be able to form agreements with other jurisdictions and industry participants to recognise biosecurity (assurance) certificates, allowing a business to self-certify that its produce meets the biosecurity requirements of its destination. This eliminates the need to unload and treat animals or plants moving from a disease-affected area at a quarantine station.


Other intergovernmental and industry agreements will establish rapid response arrangements to newly identified risks and will provide cost-sharing and risk management-sharing arrangements.


4. Local Governments To Manage Pests


Local governments will be required to develop and implement plans to manage invasive plant and animal species within their local government area in consultation with industry stakeholders and the State. These plans may be developed concurrently with other local governments and no longer require departmental or ministerial approval.


5. Provision Of New Compensation Arrangements


The State will take all reasonable steps to ensure that an applicant for scheme compensation for loss or damage arising from biosecurity responses will receive their entitlement under the scheme. Where no applicable scheme exists, a person who suffers loss or damage to property arising from biosecurity responses may claim statutory compensation from the State. This will not affect the right of individuals or companies affected by biosecurity responses to bring actions for damages in court.

 

Interface With Commonwealth Initiatives

 

Background

 

On 28 November 2012 the former federal government introduced the Biosecurity Bill 2012 (Cth) (Commonwealth Biosecurity Bill) into federal Parliament, in response to the recommendations of the 2008 Beale Review of the Quarantine Act 1908 (Cth). However, this Bill lapsed before being passed following the September 2013 federal election, when the Parliament was prorogued.


Given the significant changes proposed by the Beale Review, the extensive subsequent industry consultation and the length and expense of conducting a new review or drafting a new bill, it is anticipated that the new Federal government is likely to reintroduce the Commonwealth Biosecurity Bill in the coming year.

 

Interaction Between The Queensland And Commonwealth Biosecurity Bills


The Queensland Biosecurity Bill applies to all ships in Queensland waters (being the internal waters and coastal waters of the State). Queensland has, for the most part, exclusive powers to legislate within coastal waters, therefore the operation of the Queensland Biosecurity Bill will be largely unaffected by the possible future reintroduction of the Commonwealth Biosecurity Bill. One key exception, however, is the provisions pertaining to the discharge of ballast water in the Commonwealth Biosecurity Bill, which are made pursuant to the Federal government’s international obligations under the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ballast Water and Sediments, 2004. Accordingly, if the Commonwealth Biosecurity Bill is passed, compliance with Chapter 5 of this Bill will still be necessary, notwithstanding the provisions of the Queensland legislation.


In some circumstances, the Queensland Biosecurity Bill may apply outside the coastal waters of the State. In these situations, the Queensland Biosecurity Bill will operate concurrently with the Commonwealth Biosecurity Bill, except in relation to prohibited goods, ballast water and biosecurity and human biosecurity emergencies (in which case the provisions of the Commonwealth Biosecurity Bill will prevail).


Next Steps

 

  • All stakeholders and industry participants should review the Queensland Biosecurity Bill and its implications for their business operations. Written submissions can be made to the Agriculture, Resources and Environment Committee until 6 January 2014, here.
  • A public briefing on the Bill will be held between 12.30pm and 2pm on Thursday, 5 December 2013, at Parliament House, Brisbane.
  • The Legislative Assembly will next sit on 11 to 13 February 2014, but the date of the Bill’s consideration in the Chamber will be determined by the outcome of the Committee’s final report.
  • If passed, the Queensland Biosecurity Bill will commence on a date to be fixed by proclamation, or if no such date is fixed, 1 July 2016.
  • The Federal government has not yet indicated if it intends to reintroduce the Commonwealth Biosecurity Bill.

 

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For further information, please contact:

 

Paul Newman, Partner, Ashurst
paul.newman@ashurst.com


Shane Bosma, Ashurst

shane.bosma@ashurst.com


David Morgans, Ashurst

david.morgans@ashurst.com


Yun Ho, Ashurst

yun.ho@ashurst.com

 

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