Strengthening biosecurity safeguards

The Biosecurity Legislation Amendment (Incident Response) Bill 2024, recently passed in parliament to help strengthen Victoria’s biosecurity response system.

In an announcement on February 8, the state government said the amendment is to ensure the bill is fit-for-purpose and can respond to ongoing and evolving threats from diseases, pests and weeds.

The legislation has set increased penalties for trespassing on agricultural premises, doubling them to up to $23,077 for an individual and $115,386 for an organisation.

Agriculture Minister Ros Spence said it’s critical the government makes changes now to create a more resilient biosecurity system.

“[This] will ensure Victoria’s $20.2 billion agriculture industry continues to thrive into the future,” she said.

“These laws strengthen the enforcement powers of our inspectors and Victoria Police and set out stricter penalties for non-compliance, particularly during biosecurity emergencies.”

Fines will also increase for not following biosecurity and traceability requirements during an emergency response, including for breaching movement restrictions under a Control Order, and for deliberately spreading an exotic disease.

Victoria Police will also be recognised as livestock inspectors to enhance their ability to effectively investigate farm crimes involving livestock theft.

Inspectors will also receive additional powers, including allowing them to direct vehicles in emergency animal disease outbreaks.

The legislation has also made it an offence to possess livestock whose identification tags have been illegally removed or replaced, preventing fraudulent practices that undermine Victoria’s livestock traceability and access to export markets.

The administration of compensation for livestock owners and businesses impacted by emergency animal diseases has also been strengthened, ensuring fair payments tied to market value and more streamlined processes for replacement livestock.