Government members

The plant biosecurity system works under the controls of Commonwealth and state legislation. A national approach to the management of plant biosecurity in Australia is maintained through the national committees framework and PHA membership.

Under the Australian Constitution, state and territory governments are responsible for plant biosecurity services within their respective borders, provided by agriculture or primary industry departments.

Australian Government

Most of the responsibilities of the Australian Government are delivered through the agriculture portfolio, in collaboration with other agencies. The Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) was formed in 2020 and focuses on maintaining a strong and resilient biosecurity system that will protect Australia from new biosecurity challenges, whatever they may be.

The millions of people, mail parcels, baggage, ships, animals, plants and cargo containers that enter Australia every year are screened and inspected by departmental staff, supported by x-ray machines, surveillance activities and detector dogs. Of equal importance are the pre-border measures to prevent pests and diseases from arriving in the country. Managing Australia’s biosecurity is a big job and the department promotes a shared responsibility with clients, stakeholders and the general public, all of whom have a role to play.

DAWE also pursues international market access for Australia’s plant production industries and access to the Australian market for our trading partners through bilateral, regional and multilateral engagement. Priority is given to:

  • working to remove barriers to international trade
  • progressing and resolving market access priorities and issues
  • facilitating targeted technical assistance and agricultural cooperation
  • assisting the development and implementation of international standards.

This work is supported and enhanced by a network of agricultural counsellors located in Belgium, China, Dubai, Europe, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, the Middle East, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Chile, Mexico, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The agricultural counsellors’ role is to build and maintain key relationships with Australia’s trading partners. Counsellors organise and lead discussions, receive and respond to requests for information, facilitate visits and inspections to progress market access requests and promote Australian products. They work closely with industry, overseas authorities and the department in the process. The negotiations for access to overseas markets, including technical consultations about the importing nation’s biosecurity requirements, can sometimes take years to work through. DAWE’s overseas officers play a key role in facilitating this process. The outcome of a 2020 review of the overseas network is available on the DAWE website.

Within the department, Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) provides current scientific and economic advice to decision makers to support the plant biosecurity system. DAWE also contributes to the development of national policies on invasive pests, weeds and diseases that cause harm to the environment.

The Biosecurity Act 2015 (Commonwealth) establishes that a biosecurity risk includes diseases or pests that can cause harm to the environment, including invasive pests. Complementing this, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cwlth) is used to establish the list of live animal specimens considered suitable for live import into Australia, known as the Live Import List. While imports of live plants are managed separately by the DAWE, live animal imports can also impact on plant health and the natural environment. The import of live plants and animals should not be inconsistent with the Biosecurity Act 2015 (Cwlth).

DAWE is responsible for ensuring that Australia complies with its obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Aichi Targets and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), manages permits for the import of CITES listed species (plants or animals), and works with the Australian Border Force to implement the conventions.

Australian Capital Territory

Lead agency: Environment Planning and Sustainable Development Directorate (EPSDD)

The ACT Government manages plant biosecurity through the EPSDD, together with the Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) Directorate. EPSDD is responsible for policy development and shares operational implementation with TCCS.

Plant biosecurity activities in the ACT are underpinned by the Plant Diseases Act 2002 and the Pest Plants and Animals Act 2005. Although the ACT does not have many plant production industries within its boundaries, the government participates on national committees during plant pest emergency responses and in the development of associated national frameworks and strategies when it has expertise to contribute. It has particular expertise in forestry, urban tree management and national parks.

Following the release of the ACT Biosecurity Strategy 2016–26, the ACT has commenced development of a comprehensive Biosecurity Bill to modernise the ACT’s biosecurity legislative framework and align it with similar legislation in other jurisdictions, particularly NSW.

Modern biosecurity tools with enhanced emergency response powers, combined with regular plant surveillance activities to check for exotic pests (like fruit flies, gypsy moths and bee pests) around the airport will help address the increased biosecurity risks presented by international flights to Canberra Airport.

There have been several major plant health incidents in the ACT in 2020. The ACT in collaboration with DAWE, NSW Department of Primary Industries and other jurisdictions will be undertaking ongoing surveillance as part of national response plans. Earlier in 2020 a suspected potato wart report was found to be root knot nematode. The ACT also participated in initial investigations within the ACT where the serpentine leaf miner was suspected as part of the outbreak in NSW.

New South Wales

Lead agency: Department of Primary Industries (NSW DPI)

NSW DPI is the principal agency responsible for plant biosecurity in the state, ensuring that policies, management and procedures are in place to minimise the impact of existing, invasive and Emergency Plant Pests. NSW DPI maintains rapid response mechanisms for pest incursions in order to protect trade and market access, agricultural resources, regional economies and the environment.

The NSW Biosecurity Strategy 2013–21 defines how NSW DPI, in partnership with other government agencies, industry and the public, manages biosecurity risks to NSW.

Within the DPI, the Plant Biosecurity and Product Integrity unit develops plant pest policy directions and has oversight of operational responses to Emergency Plant Pests. The group provides advice to, and participates actively in, national decision-making forums for plant pests of national significance and interstate market access for NSW plants and plant products.

Surveillance and diagnostic activities are supported by the Plant Health Diagnostic Service at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute, the Biosecurity Collections Unit at Orange Agricultural Institute, the state-wide network of compliance officers, Local Land Services and the emergency management First Response Team. Close collaboration with entomology and plant pathology researchers is integral to these activities.

Following the commencement of the Biosecurity Act 2015 in 2017, all NSW plant biosecurity incursions, infringements and investigations have been successfully managed under this new legislative structure. The act has proven to be an innovative and positive step forward in the way NSW DPI manages biosecurity.

Northern Territory

Lead agency: Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade (DITT)

Plant biosecurity in the Northern Territory (NT) is managed by the Plant Biosecurity Branch, within NT DITT’s Biosecurity and Animal Welfare Branch. The Plant Biosecurity Branch is responsible for the development and implementation of plant biosecurity policies, programs and procedures aimed at maintaining NT’s freedom from plant pests that could adversely impact trade, market access, public health and the environment.

The NT agricultural sector provides over $610 million to the Australian economy each year. Horticultural industries contribute almost half of this value ($278 million in 2018), with a significant proportion of that being derived from production of iconic NT produce such as mangoes and melons. Other markets offer growth opportunities. To protect this, the environment and social amenity, the Plant Biosecurity Branch undertakes the following services:

  • maintaining and improving the plant health status of the plant and plant product industries
  • minimising the risk of exotic pests entering NT through education, engagement, surveillance and compliance
  • facilitating interstate trade of plant and plant products through certification, inspection and the Interstate Certification Assurance program
  • conducting active and passive pest surveillance to support market access nationally and within NT
  • conducting active surveillance for the early detection of a range of exotic pests
  • preparing effective response mechanisms in the event of an incursion
  • developing, implementing and reviewing plant health policy and legislation.

In 2015, browsing ant was detected and the NT Government, through the National Browsing Ant Eradication Program, is on track to eradicate browsing ant.

In 2018, citrus canker was detected and the NT Government is in the process of eradicating this pest under the National Citrus Canker Eradication Program and working towards declaring proof of freedom from citrus canker at the end of 2020.

Fall armyworm were detected in agricultural areas around the NT in March 2020. The NT government continues to work closely with other jurisdictions, industry groups and communities to manage this pest.

Plant biosecurity programs in the NT are underpinned by the Plant Health Act 2008 and Plant Health Regulations 2011. In addition, the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Control of Use) Act and the Biological Control Act support NT work. A major review of the Plant Health Regulations 2011 was undertaken during 2020. The review effectively contemporised the regulations, and sought to clarify a number of regulations to remove potential ambiguities in their interpretation.


Lead agency: Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF)

Biosecurity Queensland is the lead agency within the DAF, responsible for managing biosecurity risks within the state. The Plant Biosecurity and Product Integrity program within Biosecurity Queensland is responsible for: developing policies, standards, delivery systems and services to reduce the risk of introducing exotic plant pests; minimising the impacts of new plant pest incursions on Queensland’s plant industries, environment and communities; facilitating market access for Queensland’s plant-based industries; and managing risks associated with the use of agriculture and veterinary chemicals.

The Plant Biosecurity and Product Integrity program is responsible for the implementation of programs for the prevention and preparedness, detection, diagnosis, response, control, containment and eradication of high priority plant pests. Other DAF business groups also contribute to managing the risk of plant pest threats.

Links with other Queensland Government departments provide access to a range of relevant expertise across all plant production sectors, including native and plantation forestry. Key links include:

  • DAF Agri-Science Queensland, which provides science, research, innovation and associated services, including additional diagnostic capability, surveillance and integrated management packages to limit the impacts of pests within farming systems.
  • Department of Environment and Science, which plays a role in managing the natural environment and environmental plant pests.
  • Queensland Museum, which specialises in the identification of molluscs, mites and spiders.

The Biosecurity Act 2014 and Biosecurity Regulation 2016 provide the framework for plant biosecurity management in Queensland. The act is underpinned by the concept of shared responsibility, where everyone has a general biosecurity obligation to take all reasonable and practical steps to manage biosecurity risks that are within their control.

This legislation is complemented by a number of other acts, including the Chemical Usage (Agricultural and Veterinary) Control Act 1988 and the Agricultural and Veterinary Chemicals (Queensland) Act 1994.

South Australia

Lead agency: Department of Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA)

Biosecurity SA, a division within PIRSA, develops and implements plant biosecurity policies, programs and procedures aimed at maintaining SA’s freedom from pests that could adversely impact trade, market access, public health, food safety, the rural economy and the environment.

PIRSA prepares for and responds to a range of plant pests but, given SA’s freedom from fruit flies of economic significance, PIRSA has a major focus on operations to prevent their entry and establishment. Activities include a dedicated state-wide fruit fly trapping grid, static quarantine stations and random roadblocks, targeted awareness and education campaigns, regulatory arrangements for importers, and specific measures to effectively respond to and eradicate any fruit flies that are detected.

Currently the National Sterile Insect Technology Facility in Port Augusta produces 20 million sterile Queensland fruit flies per week for supply to Lindsay Island and Cobram in VIC, and Hillston in NSW, as well for eradication responses as required nationally, such as is in Perth.

The South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) is the principal research institute and provides Biosecurity SA with plant diagnostic, pathology and entomology capacity and advice. SARDI also undertakes targeted research and development to reduce losses from plant diseases in the cereal, pulse, pasture, viticulture and horticulture industries. This includes delivery of plant health diagnostic services to state and national plant biosecurity authorities, growers and consultants. The group collaborates closely with breeding companies, pre-breeding programs and the private sector to develop disease resistant plant varieties.

Plant biosecurity programs in SA are underpinned by the Plant Health Act 2009 and Plant Health Regulations 2009. In addition, the Plant Quarantine Standard for South Australia has been established under the act to identify the relevant conditions of entry for fruit, vegetables, plants, plant products, machinery and equipment of biosecurity concern.


Lead agency: Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania (DNRE Tasmania)

DPIPWE’s Biosecurity Tasmania Division manages biosecurity policy and programs for plant pests. The Plant Biosecurity and Diagnostics Branch of the division supports and maintains the Tasmanian biosecurity system in the development of plant biosecurity policy and the delivery of plant health diagnostic, market access, surveillance, and associated areas. It does this via programs across three areas: plant biosecurity policy and administration; plant health diagnostics (entomology); and plant health diagnostics (plant pathology). The branch also contains a market access unit in relation to plants and plant products, a plant biosecurity surveillance unit that manages the policy and smaller operational aspects of surveillance, and delivers on communication services specific to plant biosecurity.

The branch also provides diagnostic and control advice for plant pests and diseases in primary industry, horticulture and biosecurity situations. Plant Diagnostic Services, administered by the branch, provides state-wide laboratory services that supply a range of tests for plant pests and pathogens, using microbiological, molecular, ELISA and electron microscopy techniques on a wide range of plants and seeds for private industry, government research bodies and certification schemes.

The branch maintains and develops Tasmania’s capability to effectively respond to and recover from plant biosecurity emergencies, compiles and maintains official pest records to assist market access and trade, and leads the implementation of plant biosecurity risk analysis activities consistent with the Tasmanian Import Risk Analysis Framework.

The Biosecurity Operations Branch implements regulatory requirements with respect to the import of plants and plant products into Tasmania, and undertakes a range of surveys for plant pests, including Queensland and Mediterranean fruit fly.

Tasmania’s new biosecurity legislation, the Biosecurity Act 2019, received Royal Assent on 26 August 2019. Work is underway to implement the changes, which will be rolled out in a way that minimises the impact on businesses and the community. Until those changes are made, the regulations made under the many separate pieces of legislation (including the Plant Quarantine Act 1997) that were previously used to manage biosecurity, will remain in place as the main compliance tools. This is until the provisions of the new act are proclaimed.

Full implementation will take three to four years and will involve consultation and ongoing participation between government, industry and community.


Lead agency: Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (DJPR Vic)

Within DJPR, Agriculture Victoria provides a clear identity to the agricultural services and initiatives delivered. There are five branches within Agriculture Victoria, including the Biosecurity and Agriculture Services (BAS) Branch, which has the responsibility for delivering biosecurity and product integrity programs across the agriculture, horticulture, forest and amenity plant sectors. Activities are guided by the BAS Strategy which aims to minimise the impact of emergency plant and apiary pest incidents on production systems and the environment, and maintain access to local and overseas markets.

The Chief Plant Health Officer Unit, within BAS, is responsible for the development, review and monitoring of policies, protocols and procedures in accordance with national and international obligations. They are also the lead for preparedness and response activities and policy relating to plant and apiary pests.

The Plants, Chemicals and Invasives Unit within BAS operates from metropolitan and regional centres according to technical standards and protocols that are underpinned by the Plant Biosecurity Act 2010 and Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 and implemented by the Plant Biosecurity Regulations 2016 and Livestock Disease Control Regulations 2017. Opportunities are provided under the legislation for producers and marketers to adopt quality assurance arrangements which are subject to regular audits and improvement.

Scientific and diagnostic support is provided by the staff of Agriculture Victoria Research, including expert technical advice on suspect and exotic plant and apiary pests, and assistance with incursion responses, market access programs and other biosecurity initiatives. The research team, and its associated Crop Health Services diagnostic business, supports biosecurity by conducting research and providing diagnostic services in the areas of entomology, mycology, nematology, virology and bacteriology. Staff also help develop and review biosecurity plans for industries, conduct pest risk analyses and import risk analyses and serve on national committees and working groups.

Agriculture Victoria invests extensive resources into emergency preparedness planning, surveillance and training to prevent the entry and establishment of exotic plant and apiary pests and diseases that threaten agricultural industries.

Western Australia

Lead agency: Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD)

DPIRD is the lead agency responsible for plant biosecurity in Western Australia (WA), with development and implementation of plant biosecurity policies, programs and procedures delivered under the Sustainability and Biosecurity organisational pillar. This includes biosecurity, resource management, operations and compliance functions. It is largely regulatory and market access focused, helping WA to maintain its reputation as a producer of safe, sustainable and biosecure agricultural and aquatic products.

Plant biosecurity in WA is mainly managed under the Biosecurity and Agriculture Management Act 2007, designed to prevent declared pests and diseases from entering the state and manage those that are already present. The act provides for a modern biosecurity system to control the entry, establishment, spread and impact of harmful organisms (pests and diseases), control the use of agricultural and veterinary chemicals, establish standards to ensure the safety and quality of agricultural products and raise funds for biosecurity related purposes. Throughout 2020, WA responded to several biosecurity incidents and increased surveillance and preparedness activities to strengthen readiness for future incursions.

Fall armyworm (FAW) was detected in the state in February 2020. A network of pheromone traps were initially established in the Kimberley, Pilbara and Gascoyne
district. When FAW was detected in the northern grain belt outside of Geraldton, the surveillance network was expanded to include the wider grain belt of the south-west of the state.

Russian wheat aphid was detected in August 2020 on properties along the south coast of the state. Delimiting surveillance activity was undertaken and, while it was not widespread, it was not eradicable.

Queensland fruit fly was detected in Dalkeith through DPIRD’s permanent grid of approximately 2,000 surveillance lure traps located across the Perth metropolitan area, triggering an incident on 26 March 2020. The response expanded to cover an area of 2,049 hectares and more than 13,500 premises, with over 300 personnel working on the incident at the height of the response. An additional 600 surveillance lure traps, 1,250 biolure traps and 13,000 bait and kill traps were deployed, which supplemented bait spraying, the primary eradication tool. Sterile Queensland fruit fly were released from December 2019 to January 2020.

The Carnarvon Area Wide Freedom surveillance program of trapping at 100 sites concluded in June 2020. There were no detections of targeted pests, including tomato potato psyllid, glassy winged sharpshooter, exotic fruit flies, Asian citrus psyllid, brown marmorated stink bug, invasive ants, and vectors of plant diseases such as thrips, leaf hoppers and plant hoppers.

The annual WA Biosecurity Blitz event was conducted from 19 October to 16 November 2020 and promoted the International Year of Plant Health 2020. The blitz is a citizen science project, aimed at improving community engagement in science and building an understanding that biosecurity is a shared responsibility.

The information on this page is from the 2020 National Plant Biosecurity Status Report