Senate debates

Wednesday, 7 October 2020


Biosecurity Amendment (Traveller Declarations and Other Measures) Bill 2020; Second Reading

6:55 pm

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Minister for Aged Care and Senior Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

This Bill is about protecting Australian agriculture. Australia is a marvellous country—we produce the best agricultural products in the world. We have some of the most diverse and pristine natural wonders in the world. And we love visitors from all over the world coming to see what a great place Australia is.

But we need to be vigilant to protect Australia from an ever-increasing number of pests and diseases that threaten our industries, our country, and our way of life. Biosecurity is critical to Australia. Pests such as the brown marmorated stink bug, which has the potential to decimate our crops and do untold damage to our natural environment, pose a continual threat. Diseases such as African swine fever—some strains kill almost every pig infected—would cripple our $1.2 billion pork industry, as well as threaten our trade, environment and economy.

We are investing millions of dollars into preventing these pests and diseases entering Australia but we need everyone to do their bit when they come to Australia.

Despite our information campaigns, our videos shown on incoming flights and our information at the airport, not everyone is doing their bit. We ask people entering Australia to accurately and carefully declare what they have in their bags. It's not much to ask, and it's really not very hard. JUST DECLARE IT.

We have biosecurity officers at the airport to inspect what travellers have in their luggage and assess any biosecurity risk.

These same biosecurity officers continually see serious risk products not being declared on the incoming passenger card. We have seen a passenger arrive at Brisbane Airport with one kilogram of limes and another brought dried citrus peel with them. All of the products tested positive for the citrus canker pathogen. This pathogen would have a devastating impact on our multi-million-dollar citrus industry.

Yula, one of the biosecurity detector dogs at Sydney Airport, detected the equivalent of a small shopping trolley's worth of undeclared goods in a passenger's baggage: 3.5 kg of pork, 4 .5 kg of millet, nearly a kilogram of dried fruit, almost 10kg of rice and an assortment of fruit, vegetables and spices weighing about 2kg. None of these goods were declared by the passenger. Pork can transmit African swine fever and foot and mouth disease, and rice can introduce khapra beetle—all of which would be devastating to Australian agriculture.

This Bill will enable infringement notices with a higher value to be issued for goods that have not been declared on an incoming passenger card and that pose a high biosecurity risk. This is a response to travellers—whether they be Australian citizens, residents or international visitors—continuing to enter Australia with high biosecurity risk items, such those detected by Yula, and not declaring them.

We've made it as simple as possible: if in doubt just declare it. Having a biosecurity officer check your declared goods takes just a few minutes, and this doesn't necessarily mean you won't be able to bring your goods into Australia. Declaring doesn't always mean having the goods confiscated. It just enables the biosecurity officers to have a look and assess whether there is a biosecurity risk that needs to be managed. And it doesn't cost you to declare something.

The Director of Biosecurity will determine, using scientific evidence and risk analysis, what goods pose a high biosecurity risk and can therefore be subject to a higher infringement notice amount than currently applies. The goods will be listed in a legislative instrument. Before listing goods that have a high biosecurity risk, the Director of Biosecurity must be reasonably satisfied that there is a high level of biosecurity risk associated with the goods or the class of goods.

This tiered approach will highlight to incoming travellers how serious biosecurity is to Australia. This Bill introduces sensible changes to help us protect Australia from biosecurity pests and diseases—all we ask of travellers coming to our country is that they take a few minutes to just declare it.

Debate adjourned.