Skip Ribbon Commands Skip to main content
Sign In
Inspector-General of Biosecurity > Review of recent pest and disease incursions, border breaches and high risk interceptions in Australia

Review of recent pest and disease incursions, border breaches and high risk interceptions in Australia



The Inspector-General of Biosecurity is undertaking a review to examine the biosecurity risk management lessons that may be learned from an analysis of pest and disease incursions, barrier breaches and high-risk interceptions in Australia and the past 10 years

Australia is free from many biological threats, such as foot and mouth disease (FMD), that have had major economic and environmental consequences for other countries. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, along with other Commonwealth, state and territory government agencies, industry and the community, plays a vital role in maintaining Australia’s enviable biosecurity status, adding to our natural geographic defence as an island nation.  Nevertheless, pests and diseases do penetrate the border and become established in Australia through a variety of mechanisms.

Incursions of exotic animal diseases have not been frequently detected in Australia; when they do occur they can be very disruptive and costly. The most significant recent animal disease outbreak was equine influenza in 2007—costing Australia approximately $522 million in direct and indirect losses (AHIC 2008; Smyth et al. 2011). An outbreak of FMD would be far worse as the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (Buetre et al. 2013) estimated that a large, multi-state FMD outbreak could cost the Australian economy up to $52 billion over 10 years. A considerable volume of risk material which could conceivably carry FMD is intercepted each year at the border, particularly from incoming passengers and mail, by Australia’s biosecurity inspectors.  More concerning are products such as stockfeed, including diverted milk products, and products such as therapeutics and genetic material where there is a direct pathway.

Plant and environmental pest incursions are far more numerous, and every year a large number of plant and environmental pests are intercepted at the border by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. Many of the plant and environmental pests which have become established in Australia are not easy or feasible to eradicate, and some incursions of exotic plant pests have been disruptive and costly to governments and industry.

This highlights the need to review past incursions, barrier breaches and interceptions in order to identify approaching threats, regularly review biosecurity systems across the continuum (pre-border, at border and post-border) in light of changing risk profiles, and determine whether there are further lessons which will assist the targeting and application of preventive actions in the future. It is also planned to consult other countries with similar biosecurity systems and challenges, notably the other members of the Quadrilateral (QUADS) group, New Zealand, Canada and USA, to share in their experience of and responses to incursions, border breaches and incursions.

What are incursions, border breaches and interceptions?


An incursion is defined as a pest or disease that has passed through the quarantine barrier and migrated from its original (imported) host material and established in/on other host material.

Border breach

A border breach is defined as a pest or disease that has passed through the border undetected, but is later detected in its original host material and subsequently destroyed.


An interception is defined as a pest, disease or biosecurity risk material that has been detected before it passes through the border. Interceptions can be broadly classified into two categories:

  • High risk interceptions are priority pests and imported goods that have a higher risk of containing pests or disease not present in Australia which have the ability to cause wide spread damage to the Australian agriculture, the environment and human health. Examples of high risk imported goods include, raw meat (foot and mouth disease); raw poultry (avian influenza); live animals (numerous diseases); live plant cuttings/seeds for sowing (numerous diseases); fresh vegetables for growing (numerous diseases).
  • Moderate risk interceptions are other pests and imported goods that still pose a risk of containing pests, which however have been deemed less likely to cause damage to Australian agriculture, due to processing of the commodity, end use of the commodity, or the commodity’s potential to possess certain pests. Examples of moderate risk imported goods include, cooked meat: may still pose a risk of disease but due to cooking process it should be  reduced compared to in its raw form; Human or animal therapeutics: still pose a risk however in most cases that risk can be eliminated with treatment; Mushrooms: still pose a risk of disease, however some varieties are permitted; Wooden items: may still contain pests but not all wooden items will, and if they do contain pests, many of these are already present in Australia.

Scope of review

The scope of this review is to identify features and insights that are shared across multiple incursions, border breaches and high risk interceptions, both in Australia and overseas. This may include:

  • trends in incursions, border breaches and high risk interceptions over the 10 year period of the review, both in Australia and other QUAD countries;
  • the actual and potential consequences of past incursions, border breaches and interceptions;
  • the pathways of entry (where known) and response times to act in border breaches and incursions;
  • the department’s mechanisms to share information on border breaches and interceptions with other public and private bodies responsible for biosecurity, especially State and Territory agencies;
  • lessons learnt and system improvements already made or needed in response to incursions, border breaches and interceptions; and
  • the contributing factors to successful prevention of pre-border and border incursions, barrier breaches and high-risk interceptions.


Interested stakeholders are encouraged to provide comments on this review to the Inspector-General of Biosecurity. Before providing comments please consider the review scope described above.

When making a submission the inclusion of specific examples or data, where possible, would assist the IGB.

The closing date for submissions is 16 March 2016.

There is no limit on the length of submissions. If your submission is more than 3 pages in length, please include a summary of your key comments and suggestions.

A submission made to a review may be published on the IGB’s website at the discretion of the Inspector-General unless you indicate that your submission is confidential, either wholly or in part.

Making your submission

All submissions must be accompanied by a completed submission coversheet which identifies the review to which you are providing comment. Should you wish to provide comments to more than one review you will need to complete a separate coversheet for each review.

You may make your submission in one of two ways:

  • Preferably, email your submission to Inspector General of Biosecurity
  • Mail your submission with a completed coversheet to:

    Inspector General of Biosecurity
    GPO Box 657
    MASCOT  NSW  1460


If you wish to discuss this review or how to make a submission you can contact the IGB office by emailing to Inspector General of Biosecurity or calling +61 2 8334 7409.