It is unfortunate that our media has not publicized the Australian Parliament’s Biosecurity Bill 2012.
It is the best chance in 100 years to protect Australia’s native plants and animals from the destructive forces of invasive species. The new Bill is a replacement for the century old Quarantine Act 1908.
In the most recent Australian State of the Environment report, the level of invasive species in native vegetation was found to be very high and worsening. The deteriorating trend is due to both new invasions and the spread of established species. New invaders such as Myrtle Rust and Asian Honeybees attest to the need for more rigorous surveillance and quarantine, also the spread of invasive species into new regions demonstrates the need for a nationally consistent focus on prevention and containment.
The new Bill has made some environmental advances, one of significance being the establishment of a national system for regulating the discharge of ballast water and sediment.
However, the government takes a very active interest in the concerns of agriculture industries, and it has been very difficult for environmental groups to achieve environmental improvements to the Bill. ANGAIR has recently made a donation to the “Invasive Species Council”, which is the major environmental community group lobbying the Federal Government.
Unfortunately, the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), has the responsibility for Biosecurity in the current Bill, instead of there being an independent expert as the Director of Biosecurity. The Secretary of DAFF, who also has the potentially conflicting roles in trade and industry, will make the Biosecurity decisions in the current Bill.
The Bill lacks transparency as, for example, imports of new species/taxa will have no requirement for community consultation, publication of assessments, third party appeal rights or merit reviews. Only import applicants will have the legal right for review.
The Bill has already passed a public comment phase with only one small amendment. A Senate inquiry is currently being conducted and this is the last chance to influence the composition of the Bill before it is debated in Parliament this year.
For further details about the Bill go to www.invasives.org.au