Biosecurity Review 2016

Submission to the Biosecurity Review 2016

Introduction
The Invasive Species Council (ISC) welcomes the Biosecurity Legislation Review and the
opportunity to make this submission. The ISC is a national community-based organisation that
seeks to reduce the environmental impact from invasive plants, weeds, diseases and other
invaders.

A principle interest of ISC is to see the environmental impacts of invasive species reduced to a
minimum. The importance of a strong biosecurity system to Tasmania’s agricultural industries
and trade has already been reflected in the various State Acts that are the subject of this review.
But those same Acts do not reflect the modern understanding of biosecurity as centrally
important in protecting the natural environment, wildlife and ecosystems. This puts at risk the
natural environment including Tasmania’s parks and protected areas, wildlife, marine
ecosystems and the strong nature based tourism industry reliant on these.
Protection of the natural environment from invasive species must now be a prominent and
central element of the State’s biosecurity system, just as the environment is now seen as central
to the future of Tasmania’s clean, green “brand”.

Our comments below indicate some best practice means of ensuring that protection of the
environment is provided for in the new Act. These include:

  • Tasmania playing a national leadership role in environmental biosecurity
  • Putting the Environment up-front
  • Starting with what’s safe
  • Ensuring science-based risk assessments
  • Promoting proper effective regulation
  • Taking a tenure-neutral approach
  • Covering all Life-forms
  • Including key principles
  • Providing for a general biosecurity obligation or duty
  • Including environmental experts and stakeholders
  • Ensuring adequate scope including islands and the marine environment
  • Providing accountability and review mechanisms
  • Establishing inclusive processes to develop and implement a Biosecurity Act
  • Please note that throughout this submission our use of the term “species” is intended to be
  • inclusive of all taxa including sub-species, cultivars and varieties of a species. 

Means of ensuring Tasmania’s environmental biosecurity

The proposed new Biosecurity Act can best ensure Tasmania’s environmental biosecurity by the
following means:

  • Tasmania playing a national leadership role in environmental biosecurity
  • Tasmania should play a strong leadership role in national policy on biosecurity and invasive
  • species. National biosecurity policy is dependent on a cooperative approach with other
  • governments, largely guided by the Intergovernmental Agreement on Biosecurity. Tasmania
  • should exert its influence to achieve much needed reforms, for example by:
  • Accepting the recommendations to the 2015 Senate Inquiry into environmental biosecurity,
  • Supporting the proposal to establish Environment Health Australia
  • Improving the National Environmental Biosecurity Response Agreement,
  • Improving transparency and involvement of the environmental sector in biosecurity decisionmaking
  • Closing off pathways for high risk environmental invasive species.

Leadership in these areas would not only benefit Tasmania but all of Australia.

Putting the Environment up-front

The review of Tasmania’s biosecurity legislation must bring the natural environment to the
centre of the State’s biosecurity system. Historically, biosecurity attention has focused
predominantly on threats to agricultural production and economic interests. While retaining this
effort, we need now to boost efforts to protect national parks, bushlands, native grasslands,
riparian, estuarine and marine ecosystems from the impacts of invasive species. To achieve this we urge inter alia that:
1. The new Act include an explicit object of reducing the impact of invasive species on the natural
environment and biodiversity.
2. Statutory provision be made for a minimum proportion of members of any statutory committees
dealing with environmental biosecurity to have expertise in ecology and the management of
invasive species’ impacts on the natural environment.
3. The new Act specify central role(s) for the Minister for Environment, and for delegates with
expertise in natural and cultural heritage management, management of parks and conservation
reserves, and ecological management of marine biodiversity.
4. The new Act contains checks and balances in its decision-making provisions to ensure that
departments, agencies or interests that are involved in the importation, trade, breeding,
promotion or development of taxa that may pose an environmental biosecurity risk do not have
any role in risk assessment or decision making about the relevant taxon or taxa.
5. The precautionary principle be enshrined in the new Act, as in the Environment Protection and
Biodiversity Conservation Act (Cwlth)

Starting with what’s safe
A permitted list or “safe list” approach should be instituted under the new Act for all animal and
plant taxa. The most practicable way to prevent most new weed and pest problems is to assess
the specific risk of taxa proposed for introduction, and permit the importation, sale and
movement only of those that present a very low risk. This approach already operates for
proposed new introductions to Australia and to Western Australia, and for the importation of
wildlife to Tasmania. It involves establishing a permitted list of taxa and prohibiting or requiring
risk assessment of taxa (species, subspecies, cultivars and variants) not on that list.
Complementary prohibited lists can identify taxa that do not pass the risk assessment or are
already declared and prohibited.

This approach has a default precautionary position appropriate to a jurisdiction such as
Tasmania with very high environmental values susceptible to potentially irreversible loss from
biosecurity risks. The diagram below (Taken from the current draft of the Queensland Weed and
Pest Animal Strategy, p.10) indicates the cost-effectiveness of precautionary approaches aimed
at ensuring prevention of entry of invasive species. A permitted list approach is one such highly
cost-effective approach.
Tasmania should work with other governments, particularly Victoria and the Australian
Government, to promote the adoption of a consistent permitted list approach across all states.
This would provide clarity for industry and stakeholders, and increase efficiency (allowing states
to share resources). Promotion of a consistent national permitted list approach should not delay
Tasmania’s implementation of a comprehensive permitted list approach of its own.

For more detail about applying a permitted list approach see our website at
http://invasives.org.au/files/2014/02/fs_weedwhitelist.pdf.

Ensuring science-based risk assessments
We endorse the emphasis on evidence-based risk assessment as the foundation for biosecurity,
and we emphasise the central importance of science in this regard. Risk assessments under the
new Act should be scientifically robust, precautionary, and must be applied comprehensively
and systematically. Adequate environmental and ecological expertise must be employed in
making assessments of environmental biosecurity risks.


The systematic risk assessment of non-indigenous organisms must cover both taxa already
introduced to Tasmania and those taxa proposed to be introduced to Tasmania from time to
time. Risk assessment should apply also to new variants or subspecies of already introduced
organisms, to prevent the introduction of more invasive cultivars or hybrids and to limit the
potential for combination with existing varieties to increase biosecurity risk.
Risk assessments will help to identify the most appropriate interventions for prevention,
eradication, containment and management.

Consistent with a cost-effective focus on prevention, a very low threshold of risk should be applied in identifying environmental risks, and only organisms assessed as very low risk should be permitted to be introduced into Tasmania.

Higher levels of risk may be appropriate to trigger requirements for control of already
established invasive species, with priority for resources accorded to those with higher levels of
risk. Statutory provision for a rigorous and comprehensive risk assessment process will help to
ensure that barriers to action on more contentious aspects of biosecurity (e.g. deer
management, cat management) are minimised and seen in the proper context.


The Act should provide that environmental biosecurity risk assessments be made or approved
by an independent expertise-based committee that includes sufficient independent people with
expertise in environmental biosecurity and ecological science, and through a transparent
process. This committee should be bound to a rigorous science-based and precautionary
approach, and must make the final decision under the Act about the degree of risk that a taxon
poses (subsequent decisions about any action to be taken on the basis of this independently rated risk would appropriately be made by the Minister or their delegate).

Provision should be made for the public to make proposals to the committee as to taxa
warranting assessment and as to the level of risk that might be accorded to taxa (including
through public comment on on-line publication of draft decisions).
Promoting proper effective regulation References in the position paper to reducing the regulatory burden (p. 12) are politically loaded, inappropriate and counter-productive.

While we acknowledge that regulatory efficiency is desirable to an optimal point, we urge that it
not be sought injudiciously at the expense of the effective achievement of Tasmania’s
environmental biosecurity. Recognising the central importance of regulation to invasive species
policy (especially where one is attempting to avert high risk and high impact phenomena) we
urge that the word “burden” not be used in relation to regulation. We also strongly urge that the loaded phrase “red tape”, and the pejorative phrase “green tape” not be used in future
papers or in the new Act. Instead, the matter-of-fact term “regulation” can simply be used.
Government must embrace the fact that strong regulation is a necessary tool, and that some
regulatory redundancies are at times appropriate, especially where a precautionary approach is
being taken to avert high risks.


Taking a tenure-neutral approach
The new Act should reflect a tenure-neutral approach, with responsibilities for ensuring
Tasmania’s environmental biosecurity consistent regardless of the tenure of the land or waters
in question.

Covering all Life-forms
The new Act must cover all life-forms including aquatic invasive species, and all taxa including
sub-species, cultivars and varieties of species.

Including key principles
The position paper refers to the Convention on Biological Diversity, yet fails to include the
precautionary principle- a key part of that convention. We urge the inclusion of the
precautionary principle as reflected in the EPBC Act (Cwlth).

Similarly, while the importance and cost-effectiveness of prevention is noted in the position
paper, this is not reflected in the principles proposed. While the principle of the biosecurity
continuum arguably includes prevention, the overall suite of principles outlined in Appendix B
downplays the importance of a preventative approach. “Hidden” as it is amongst references to
“least-restrictive measures”, “flexibility”, “adaptive management” and the remainder of
elements in the continuum, prevention appears to recede in importance.


Prevention is in fact of primary importance in biosecurity. We urge that the new Act reflect this
by including Prevention as an explicit principle of the Act. To ensure that environmental biosecurity ensues from the Act’s administration we further propose that principles of intergenerational equity, and of the conservation of biodiversity and ecological integrity and resilience be included in the Act.

Providing for a general biosecurity obligation or duty We strongly endorse the concept of a ‘general biosecurity obligation’ promoting a shared responsibility for biosecurity, to apply in concert with the other measures outlined in this submission. If it is rigorously and comprehensively applied through clear, enforceable standards, extensive public education and strong enforcement, this has the potential to foster a culture of biosecurity awareness and responsibility. We note that both Queensland and NSW already have statutory general biosecurity obligations consistent with the inclusive and collaborative approach needed to properly reflect the responsibilities and roles of the many players in biosecurity. A stakeholder working group, including with representatives from environmental NGOs, could assist the Government in bringing about an effective biosecurity obligation. 

Including environmental experts and stakeholders
There has been insufficient involvement of people and organisations with environmental
interests and expertise in the development, implementation and governance of Australian
biosecurity policy to date. This has resulted in inadequate and tardy attention being paid to
environmental biosecurity threats, with resultant impacts both on the environment and on the
public purse (when called on to attempt difficult and costly rear-guard actions to protect
environmental assets).

We embrace the concepts of shared responsibility and collaboration in biosecurity. We also note
that governments have a leading role to play including on private land, in facilitating prompt and
adequate attention to biosecurity aligned with overarching State and national policy objectives.
We urge that environmental stakeholders and experts also be actively engaged in the
development and through relevant provisions of the new Act. This includes non-government
organisations, academics and scientists with environmental interests and expertise.

If stakeholder-based committees are created under the new Act it is crucial that at least one
third of members have interests and/or expertise in environmental biosecurity (to complement
those who may have expertise in agricultural or other aspects of biosecurity). This will ensure an
adequate mix of skills and knowledge is applied to implementation, and ensure that
implementation is not skewed towards agricultural or any particular sectoral interest (e.g. deer
hunters; salmon farmers, the plant nursery industry).
We urge that the biosecurity legislation include a specific object of promoting community
participation in biosecurity including at the policy level and including community environmental
interests.

Ensuring adequate scope including islands and the marine environment
The new Act should encompass all of Tasmania’s islands and islets, estuaries and marine waters
including management of ballast water and biofouling.
Tasmania has an opportunity to lead Australia by adopting cutting edge provisions to tackle the
biosecurity issues arising from both ballast water and biofouling, and by urging a strong and
consistent approach to these from all Australian governments. For further discussion of
important aspects of marine biosecurity to be considered in the development of the new Act
please see ISC’s submission to the National Marine Pest Biosecurity Review 2015 at
http://invasives.org.au/publications/response-to-national-marine-pests-biosecurity-reviewmay-2015/.

Providing accountability and review mechanisms
The new Act must include best-practice measures for accountability such as requirements for
public consultation, publication of risk assessments and decisions, and third party review and
enforcement rights. 

To engender confidence in their credibility, risk assessments and other analyses informing
decisions should be published and scientifically reviewed. The concept of ‘shared responsibility’
should be underpinned by extensive information collection, publication and reporting so that
the community can understand biosecurity risks and trends, understand the bases of decisionmaking, and monitor public good outcomes.

Therefore the new Act should mandate reporting, publication and consultation requirements to
optimise transparency and promote understanding of biosecurity
The new Act should also provide third parties acting in the public interest with the right to
review and appeal decisions on their merits and to enforce compliance. Consistent with the
‘shared responsibility’ concept, the public should be granted ‘open standing’ to allow any person
to take civil proceedings to remedy or restrain a breach of the law. The public has multiple
strong interests at stake: as landowners affected by invasive species, as taxpayers paying for
control programs, as consumers of affected ecosystem services, and as enjoyers and defenders
of the natural environment. Decision-making would also be enhanced and the public interest
served by a broad public right to apply for merits review of decisions.


Establishing inclusive processes to develop the Act
It is important to properly engage the community in the further development of the Biosecurity
Act. We therefore urge establishment of a consultative group, including representatives from
NGOs and environmental experts, to be involved in the further development of the Biosecurity
Act. We also urge that an exposure draft of the Biosecurity Bill and draft regulations be made
available to the public well prior to their introduction to the Parliament.

Make no exceptions for Deer
Deer are not native to Tasmania and cause significant damage to public and private lands. They
should be treated as an invasive species subject to the same risk assessment and control as
other species. In this regard we recommend to you the draft findings of the NSW Natural
Resources Commission review of pest animal management (http://www.nrc.nsw.gov.au/pestanimal-management)
that provides sound analysis and recommendations that deer be declared
a pest species and managed appropriately.

Conclusion
We thank you for the opportunity to comment on the position paper. We urge that sufficient
emphasis be placed on environmental biosecurity in the drafting of the new Biosecurity Act.
We look forward to further discussion and involvement in the development of the Act.