NPBS – Legislative and policy background

The Beale Review

In 2008, the Australian Government initiated a major review of Australia’s biosecurity system, resulting in the release of the report One Biosecurity: A Working Partnership also known as the Beale Review1. The Beale Review established that although Australia had a ‘good biosecurity system’, it was ‘far from perfect’. It noted that since 1996 when the last review was released (the Nairn Report6), there had been deterioration in cooperative biosecurity arrangements between some stakeholders.

The Beale Review states there is a requirement for a new approach that provides:

  • A common understanding between the Australian Government, state and territory governments, business and the community of their respective roles and responsibilities and how these will be met
  • A legal framework that can underpin a genuinely national approach for managing responses to exotic pests
  • A framework to underpin a more effective approach to risk analysis, including assessment and management (monitoring, surveillance and response) of established pests
  • The institutions, protocols, information systems, programs, research, and resources (funding and skills) necessary to achieve these objectives.

The Australian Government’s preliminary response to the Beale Review was released on 18 December 2008, agreeing in-principle to all of the Review Panel’s 84 recommendations. The reform process will take some time and existing systems will continue to operate until the new arrangements are in place.

In 2010, key activities underway to improve Australia’s biosecurity system included:

  • Development of the IGAB between the Australian Government and state and territory governments to implement a working partnership under the new arrangements
  • Development of new federal biosecurity legislation to replace the Quarantine Act 1908 and other subordinate legislation
  • Commencement of a number of interim measures within the Australian Government as a first step towards the introduction of new national biosecurity arrangements. Measures achieved so far include the appointment of an interim Inspector General of Biosecurity, the establishment of a Biosecurity Advisory Council and the consolidation of biosecurity functions across the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) into the Biosecurity Services Group (BSG).

The Beale Review recommendations (and subsequent actions) have been taken into account in developing the NPBS. In a number of cases, adoption of the NPBS will give effect to the recommendations contained within the Beale Review.

 

Inter-Governmental Agreement on Biosecurity

As part of its response to the Beale Review, the Australian Government, with the support of a working group of primary industry officials from each state and territory, has developed the IGAB. The agreement aims to strengthen the working partnership between governments, broadly identifies their roles and responsibilities and outlines the priority areas for collaborative effort to improve the national biosecurity system.

The IGAB covers specific recommendations in the Beale Review and provides a mechanism to progress them. It includes the development of a national priority pest list and increased Australian Government involvement in post-border monitoring and surveillance. Key aspects of the national biosecurity system addressed in the IGAB include:

  • Decision making and investment frameworks
  • Information sharing
  • Monitoring, surveillance and diagnostics
  • Arrangements for established pests
  • Preparedness and response arrangements
  • Research and development.

The NPBS has been developed recognising IGAB and its principles.

 

Emergency response agreements

Australia has a number of agreements in place that formalise response arrangements to exotic pests. Of greatest importance to plant industries is the Emergency Plant Pest Response Deed (EPPRD)7, a formal, legally binding agreement between Plant Health Australia (PHA), the Australian Government, all state and territory governments and national plant industry representative body signatories. The EPPRD covers the management and funding of responses to Emergency Plant Pest (EPP) incidents, including the potential for Owner Reimbursement Costs (ORCs) for producers. It also formalises the role plant industries play in decision making as well as their contribution towards the costs related to EPP responses. The Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement (EADRA)8 is the equivalent formal agreement for animal industries.

In addition to the EPPRD and the EADRA, the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement (NEBRA)9 covers responses to nationally significant biosecurity incidents where there are predominantly public benefits or where the incident is not covered under other currently existing arrangements. It was endorsed by the Primary Industries Ministerial Council (PIMC) on 23 April 2010 as the first deliverable under the IGAB.

The NPBS recognises the role of the EPPRD and where applicable, the role of the NEBRA in the plant biosecurity system.

 

Australian Weeds Strategy

The Australian Weeds Strategy (AWS)10 provides a framework to establish consistent guidance for all parties and identifies priorities for weed management to minimise the impact of weeds on Australia’s environmental, economic and social assets. It was endorsed by the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council (NRMMC) in November 2006. The strategy has three key goals:

  • Prevent new weed problems
  • Reduce the impact of existing priority weed problems
  • Enhance Australia’s capacity and commitment to solve weed problems.

The NPBS recognises and builds on the goals and strategic actions presented in the AWS. The NPBS encompasses many of the principles that form the basis of the AWS, such as shared responsibility, science based management and decision making, prevention and early detection.

 

Scope of the National Plant Biosecurity Strategy

The NPBS addresses challenges and threats posed by plant pests to Australia’s food security and primary production, and has been developed in alignment with Australia’s state government biosecurity strategies. The strategy covers pests of agriculture, horticulture, forestry and amenity plants and plant products. Achieving the aims of the NPBS will make a significant contribution to delivering the improvements to Australia’s plant biosecurity systems and performance called for in the Beale Review.

The scope of the NPBS covers the national response to exotic plant pest incursions as well as the containment and management of established plant pests by government, industry and other affected stakeholders. It also covers Emergency Weeds.

The NPBS recognises that pests of significant environmental concern are covered under the NEBRA and that weeds are managed more directly under the AWS. The NPBS does not cover the undesirable economic, environmental and social impacts of terrestrial vertebrate animals (such as mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish), which are addressed in the Australian Pest Animal Strategy (APAS).11