The Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources appointed Dr Helen Scott-Orr as the inaugural Inspector-General of Biosecurity (IGB) from 25 July 2016. This is a part-time position.
Dr Scott-Orr has over 40 years’ experience in veterinary and agricultural science in Australia, Indonesia and the United Kingdom.
She has an outstanding record of achievement in animal health management, having served as Executive Director, Research, Advisory and Education; Chief Veterinary Officer; and Director, Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Eradication, with the NSW Department of Primary Industries.
Dr Scott-Orr is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. She has served on the board of Animal Health Australia and boards of the Cooperative Research Centres for Invasive Animals, Weeds, Beef, Sheep, Cotton and Rice.
Dr Scott-Orr has led veterinary capacity-building projects in Indonesia, focusing on zoonotic disease control. She has also worked on increasing preparedness for a rabies incursion into Northern Australia.
The Biosecurity Act 2015 and Biosecurity Regulation 2016 define the IGB role, authority and independent powers of review. This includes reviewing the Director of Biosecurity’s performance of functions and exercise of powers. The Secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is the Director of Biosecurity.
The IGB makes recommendations for system improvements and provides an assurance framework for stakeholders.
If requested by stakeholders, the IGB may also review the department’s process for preparing draft biosecurity import risk assessments.
The IGB provides reports to the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources and publishes these on the IGB’s website—unless they contain information that is considered prejudicial to the public interest.
The IGB is independent of the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources and the Director of Biosecurity. However, the IGB may:
- consider the minister’s request for a review; and/or
- seek immediate action from the Director of Biosecurity (or senior department executives) and the minister to protect or enhance the integrity of Australia’s biosecurity systems.
Australia’s biosecurity system relies on various government programmes, in cooperation with industry, to ensure the safe international movement of people and goods. These programmes minimise the risk of the entry, establishment and spread of exotic pests and diseases that could cause significant harm to people, animals, plants and Australia’s unique environment.
The IGB’s mission is to enhance the integrity of Australia’s biosecurity systems through independently evaluating and verifying the performance of these programmes across the biosecurity continuum—pre-border, at the border and post-border.
The IGB has authority to review biosecurity risk management measures and systems that:
- are prescribed under the Biosecurity Act 2015 and are the responsibility of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
- relate to human health and the environment and are undertaken by Department of Agriculture and Water Resources on behalf of the Department of Health and the Department of the Environment and Energy.
The IGB’s scope does not extend to Australia’s national biosecurity policies, international trade issues and market access opportunities.
Responsibilities and functions
The IGB sets an annual review programme in writing, in consultation with the Director of Biosecurity and the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. This review programme is available on the IGB’s website.
The IGB may liaise with stakeholders, including the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, the Department of Health and the Department of the Environment and Energy, state and territory authorities and agencies, overseas authorities and agencies, and companies and individuals.
Australian Government departments must provide reasonable access to documents, staff and facilities to allow the IGB to undertake her functions. Under the Act, the IGB may require a person to answer questions, give information in writing or produce documents relevant to a review, within a certain time frame.
When conducting a review, the IGB may invite written submissions from the public or organisations on a subject area and publish them as part of a transparent review process.