Tougher penalties in place for false declarations at borders

THOSE travellers that fail to declare plant and animal matter when arriving in Australia may face fines, possible criminal prosecution and court proceedings, according to Agriculture Minister David Littleproud and Immigration Minister David Coleman.

Returning Australians who do the same will face penalties ranging from fines of up to $63,000 and up to five years in jail.

“Our inspection officers are now able to send overseas travellers home immediately if they bring in a serious biosecurity risk to our agriculture, or if they’re a repeat offender trying to bring in banned items,” Mr Littleproud said.

“If we send you home, you won’t be able to come back to Australia for three years with very few exceptions on compassionate grounds.”

The action follows confirmed detections of both African Swine Fever and Foot and Mouth Disease – considered the biggest threat to Australia’s agriculture – in meat confiscated at airports by Department of Agriculture staff last year.

Studies have estimated $50 billion of economic losses over 10 years if there were a large to medium outbreak of FMD in Australia.

Mr Littleproud said the pest and disease-free status of the near $60-billion farming industry was a big advantage for Australian farmers.

“We want to keep our farmers safe from invading biosecurity risks and give them a fair go,” he said.

“If you fill out the forms honestly and declare what you’ve got, you’ll have no problem.”

Mr Coleman said along with the biosecurity cancellation power, the government had also strengthened the cancellation powers available to ABF staff when a person is detected with abhorrent materials, such as child exploitation material or material that incites or advocates terrorism, crime or violence.

“Australia has strict rules on what can and cannot be imported into the country,” he said.

“These rules minimise the biosecurity risk to Australia’s unique environment and agricultural industries and also ensure that abhorrent material, such as child exploitation material or material that incites or advocates terrorism, crime or violence, is not disseminated in the Australian community.

“While general cancellation powers already existed for offences relating to these types of abhorrent materials, creating a specific visa cancellation ground linked to the action of illegally importing these materials sends a strong deterrence message to non-citizens that behaviours that contravene Australian standards of decency are unacceptable to the community.”