Biosecurity Bill inquiry neglects big issues

The Australian parliament is a step closer to adopting deficient biosecurity laws after the senate review of the Biosecurity Bill 2014 failed to address major deficiencies in accountability and environmental protection. 

This is despite the report by the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislative Committee, released on Tuesday, stating that the legislation is ‘inherently problematic from the point of view of effective parliamentary scrutiny, and avoids detailed parliamentary debate of the content of important provisions’.

“It will now be up to the cross-benchers and Labor opposition whether Australia will have biosecurity laws that are up to the task,” said Andrew Cox, Invasive Species Council CEO.

“The Biosecurity Bill 2014 was introduced in November last year and is largely the same legislation as that introduced by Labor in 2012, but weakened to remove a statutory inspector-General of Biosecurity role.

“While the review has made a few sensible recommendations, it didn’t respond to criticisms made in submissions and evidence from four hearings during the not-completed 2012-13 review.

“Ignored by the senate review were calls to implement the widely supported 2008 Beale inquiry reforms designed to build confidence in Australia’s biosecurity system and remove potential conflicts of interest.

“The central reform recommended by the Beale inquiry was the creation of an independent National Biosecurity Authority and an expert commission.

“The Invasive Species Council strongly supports the ‘additional comments’ by the Greens and Labor’s dissenting report in the senate review.

“Only the Greens responded to the environmental issues raised in the joint submission from 28 environment groups, making eight recommendations. They have called for a delay in the bill until after draft regulations are presented to stakeholders and the creation of a body to improve planning for environmental biosecurity.

“Labor’s dissenting report called for the establishment of a statutory Inspector-General of Biosecurity, a measure arising from the Beale review. We strongly support this,” said Mr Cox.

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Andrew Cox on 0438 588 040

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