LEGISLATION passed Parliament on Wednesday giving courts access to higher penalties that reflect the true seriousness of biosecurity non-compliance.
Minister for agriculture David Littleproud said the proposed Biosecurity Amendment (Strengthening Penalties) Act 2021 will increase the penalties for 28 civil and criminal provisions under the Biosecurity Act 2015.
“The Australian government is committed to a strong biosecurity system that protects Australian agriculture and jobs, grows our exports and, importantly, maintains our environment and lifestyle from devastating pests and diseases, which we can insure against with the correct system in place,” Mr Littleproud said.
“The new legislation sends a clear message to individuals and companies who put at risk Australia’s $66 billion agriculture industry and over $1 trillion in environmental assets by contravening the Biosecurity Act 2015.
“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.
“If you intentionally contravene Australia’s biosecurity laws, you could now cop significant jail time and a bigger fine of up to $1.11 million.
“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.
“Pests such as brown marmorated stink bug have the potential to decimate our crops and do untold damage to our natural environment and pose a continual threat.
“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.
“The increased maximum penalties reflect the seriousness impact contraventions may inflict on our biosecurity status, market access and economy. In some cases, they are up to eight times the current penalty. They are no longer merely a cost of doing business.
“The amendments focus on individuals and businesses, such as commercial importers and biosecurity industry participants, that have a particular responsibility to know and understand their obligations under the act and take necessary steps to comply with the law.
“The message is clear: comply with Australia’s biosecurity requirements or feel the full force of the law.”
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.