All Queenslanders have an obligation to manage biosecurity risks under the Biosecurity Act 2014 (Act).
In particular, there are obligations to mitigate biosecurity risks posed by a “prohibited matter” and certain categories of “restricted matter”. Under the Act, such matter includes a variety of diseases, viruses, parasites, insects, animals and weeds, which can have catastrophic economic, social and environmental impacts if left un-managed both in Queensland and Australia-wide. In recognition of the severity of these biosecurity risks, similar obligations exist in most Australian States and Territories.
Notably, if a person becomes aware of a “prohibited matter” or a “restricted matter”, they must:
- report the presence of the biosecurity matter to the relevant authority as soon as possible;
- take action to minimise the biosecurity risk posed by the matter; and
- not take any action that may exacerbate the biosecurity risk.
A person who fails to notify the relevant authority of a biosecurity risk or take the correct action may be subject to prosecution of an offence under the Act, which carries a maximum penalty of $195,825 or 1 year’s imprisonment.
Accordingly, it is crucial for those involved in industries, such as agriculture, and those who work with livestock and crops to be aware of and be able to identify “prohibited matter” and “restricted matter”, so that any potential biosecurity risk may be mitigated. For example, owners of livestock may need to be able to identify the symptoms of cattle tick so that they do not inadvertently spread the pest into the cattle tick-free zone.