Frequently Asked Questions: Biosecurity Legislation

Answers to questions on the human health aspects of the Biosecurity Act 2015.

Page last updated: 10 March 2016

What is the benefit of the new Act?

The Biosecurity Act 2015 replaces the century-old Quarantine Act 1908 to make Australia’s biosecurity regime more responsive and streamlined. The new act is a modern piece of legislation that takes the realities of contemporary biosecurity into account and reflects the fundamentally changed environment in which we now live and work.

The Act recognises the need for international traffic and trade to pass through the border without unnecessary intervention. It allows for a flexible approach to managing the threat of serious communicable diseases to human health by providing a range of options to respond where a risk is identified. It takes into account the rights of individuals when deciding what measures to take and ensure that interventions are proportionate to the risk posed.

When does the Act start and what will it mean?

The Biosecurity Act 2015 comes into effect 16 June 2016, with certain aspects rolled out over a longer period of time. Those entering and leaving from Australia will experience minimal disruptions, with day to day operations remaining largely unchanged.

What is the role of the Department of Health in the implementation and management of functions under the new legislation?

The Minister for Health is co-administrator of the Biosecurity Act 2015.

The Department of Health is responsible for policy under the human biosecurity chapter of the Biosecurity Act 2015, and provides input to the operation of other parts of the Act where appropriate, including the biosecurity emergencies chapter. The Department of Health works closely with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, and state and territory health departments to ensure that these policy measures are in place.

Under the new legislation, what will happen to passengers arriving in Australia who are unwell?

Airlines and vessels are still obliged to report ill passengers prior to arrival. However, it is the passenger’s responsibility to approach a Biosecurity Officer upon arrival in Australia and inform them if they are feeling unwell.

A Biosecurity Officer will ask the passenger a series of questions to determine if the passenger has signs or symptoms of a serious communicable disease. They will discuss the best course of action with the passenger to ensure he or she manages their health, and to protect the health of the passenger’s family, friends and community. Passengers may be taken to hospital for treatment if it is appropriate.

Under the new legislation, what will happen if there is another international outbreak of a disease like H1N1 Influenza?

As part of a co-ordinated approach with state and territory governments, the Commonwealth Government will give directions and take actions to prevent entry, as well as manage the spread, of any serious communicable disease. This may lead to an increase in activity at Australia’s borders, including an increase in passenger screening that may involve requesting incoming passengers to provide information about their health and travel history.

Under the Biosecurity Act 2015, government officials have certain powers to protect Australia’s health interests in the case of an emergency.

Any emergency measure will be discussed with state and territory health departments prior to implementation, and will be selected on the basis of being the best fit for that particular disease risk. Each emergency is different, so the public health response will be tailored as appropriate.

Under the new legislation, what are the Australian quarantine requirements for Yellow Fever?

Yellow Fever is a viral disease of short duration and varying severity that is primarily transmitted by mosquitoes. The World Health Organization (WHO) closely monitors reports of yellow fever infection.

Travellers who are one year of age or older, and who have stayed overnight or longer in a yellow fever declared country six days prior to arriving in Australia are strongly recommended to hold an international vaccination certificate.

Travellers who are required to possess a yellow fever vaccination certificate but who do not possess one will be permitted to enter Australia. However, they will be given information about seeking medical advice if they develop any signs or symptoms of yellow fever. Further information about yellow fever can be accessed on the Department of Health's website.

How does the new legislation impact the importing and exporting of human remains?

The requirements for importing and exporting human remains largely remain the same under the Biosecurity Act 2015, however import permits are no longer required for importing human remains.

Further information regarding the transport of human remains into or out of Australia can be accessed at the Department of Immigration and Border Protection website.

More information

For information on provisions that relate to the management of biosecurity risks relating to animal and plant pests and diseases, visit the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources Biosecurity Legislation website.