Introducing the Inspector-General of Biosecurity
The Minister for Agriculture appointed Mr Rob Delane as the Inspector-General of Biosecurity (IGB) from 25 July 2019. This is a part-time position.
Mr Delane has over 20 years experience in biosecurity (quarantine), and risk management strategies for the agriculture sector and natural resources in Australia.
Between 2008 and 2009, Mr Delane was the Deputy Secretary (Biosecurity Services Group) and Executive Director of Australia’s Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) at the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. He was Director General, Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia during 2009–2016.
Mr Delane has an outstanding record of achievement in biosecurity management in Australia, having held a range of senior roles (involving both the public sector and industry), including as: a member of the Quarantine and Export Advisory Council (QEAC); founding board member of Plant Health Australia Ltd; Chair of the National Biosecurity Agreement working group; Co-Chair of the AQIS-Meat Industry Reform Taskforce; Western Australian Government Chief Agriculture Protection Officer; alternative Chair of the National Biosecurity Committee; and a member of the Australian Biosecurity Intelligence Network advisory board. His other roles have included: Chair of the Board of InvestWest Agribusiness Alliance; CEO of the Rural Business Development Corporation; Commissioner of the Forest Products Commission (WA) and Agricultural Produce Commission (WA).
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, Water and the Environment is the Director of Biosecurity.
The Inspector-General makes recommendations for system improvements and provides an assurance framework for stakeholders.
If requested by stakeholders, the Inspector-General may also review the department’s process for preparing draft biosecurity import risk assessments.
The Inspector-General provides reports to the Federal Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management and publishes these on the Inspector-General of biosecurity’s website—unless they contain information that is considered prejudicial to the public interest.
The Inspector-General is independent of the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management and the Director of Biosecurity. However, the Inspector-General may:
- consider the minister’s request for a review; and/or
- seek immediate action from the Director of Biosecurity (or senior departmental executives) and the minister to protect or enhance the integrity of Australia’s biosecurity systems.
Australia’s biosecurity system relies on various government programs, in cooperation with industry, to ensure the safe international movement of people and goods. These programs 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 Inspector-General’s mission is to enhance the integrity of Australia’s biosecurity systems through independently evaluating and verifying the performance of these programs across the biosecurity continuum—pre-border, at the border and post-border.
The Inspector-General 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, Water and the Environment
- relate to human health and are undertaken by Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment on behalf of the Department of Health.
The Inspector-General’s scope does not extend to Australia’s national biosecurity policies, international trade issues and market access opportunities.
Responsibilities and functions
The Inspector-General sets an annual review program in writing, in consultation with the Director of Biosecurity and the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management. This review program is available on the Inspector-General’s website.
The Inspector-General may liaise with stakeholders, including the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, the Department of Home Affairs, and the Department of Health, 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 Inspector-General to undertake his functions. Under the Act, the Inspector-General 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 Inspector-General may invite written submissions from the public or organisations on a subject area and publish them as part of a transparent review process.
On 25 September 2007 the Hon. Ian Callinan AC was appointed commissioner by the then Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, under section 66AY of the Quarantine Act 1908, to conduct an independent inquiry into the outbreak of equine influenza in Australia. Mr Callinan delivered the final report to the Australian Government on 25 April 2008.
In response to the Callinan report recommendations, the government appointed Dr Kevin Dunn as Inspector-General of Horse Importation on 11 September 2008.
In April 2008 the government appointed Mr Roger Beale AO to lead the Review of Australia's Quarantine and Biosecurity Arrangements. In its preliminary response to the Beale review the government agreed to establish a statutory office of the Inspector-General of Biosecurity. The IGB would absorb the role of the Inspector-General of Horse Importation and incorporate the intent of the independent audit function recommended by the Callinan report.
On 1 July 2009 the government appointed Dr Dunn as the Interim Inspector-General of Biosecurity pending creation of a statutory position. Dr Dunn was succeeded on 30 June 2013 by Dr Michael Bond, who retired on 29 April 2016.
The position of Inspector-General of Biosecurity was formally established under s 566A the Biosecurity Act 2015 (the Act), which came into force on 16 June 2016. On 25 July 2016 Dr Helen Scott-Orr was appointed first Inspector-General of Biosecurity under the Act. She was succeeded by Mr Rob Delane on 25 July 2019.