Inspector-General of Biosecurity
Role and responsibilities
The Inspector-General of Biosecurity is an independent, statutory officer responsible for reviewing the performance of functions, or exercise of powers, by biosecurity officials in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (the department).
The Biosecurity Act 2015 creates the Inspector-General’s mandate, sets out the relationship with the Director of Biosecurity (the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) and the Minister for Agriculture, and requires the appointment of the Inspector-General. The Biosecurity Regulation 2016 further prescribe the review, information gathering and reporting process relevant to the Inspector-General.
Inspector-General reviews are systems’ reviews rather than assessments of only a single function or biosecurity official. Their purpose is to provide assurance over Australia’s preventative biosecurity risk management systems. The recommendations and insights gained through independent performance assessments support the continuous improvement of Australia’s biosecurity system.
The Inspector-General prepares review reports and gives these to the Director of Biosecurity and the Minister for Agriculture. Review reports are published on the Inspector-General’s website, except for information that would be prejudicial to the public interest.
The Inspector-General’s scope includes all biosecurity arrangements and actions within the remit of Australia’s federal biosecurity agency:
- Pre-border arrangements and actions. For example, the department’s work with foreign government agencies to manage biosecurity risks, international standard-setting bodies, importers, offshore risk assessments and intelligence gathering, and capacity building to mitigate biosecurity threats to Australia.
- At the border arrangements and actions. For example, screening and inspections, enforcement, quarantine, and engagement with regulated entities.
- Peri-border arrangements and actions. For example, surveillance and emergency response planning and execution, and the department’s work with states, territories and industry.
The Inspector-General’s scope does not extend to domestic biosecurity policies administered by state and territory governments and industry, or to international trade issues and market access opportunities. The scope also excludes management of human health biosecurity risks by the Department of Health and Aged Care.
In any review, the Inspector-General may choose to explore topics such as: governance, regulation, policymaking, strategy and innovation, assurance and verification, people capacity and capability, technology, infrastructure and operational capability, data management, funding and investment, stakeholder engagement, and the implementation of plans and recommendations.
The Inspector-General of Biosecurity is independent of the Minister for Agriculture, the Director of Biosecurity (the Secretary of the department) and any other biosecurity officials in the department.
Information gathering power
Under the Biosecurity Act 2015, the Inspector-General can request information or documents, or answers to questions relevant for a review from biosecurity officials in the department.
Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis (BIRA)
The Inspector-General may also review formal Biosecurity Import Risk Analyses (BIRA) as regulated under the Biosecurity Act 2015.