Officials at Sydney International Airport have used new legislation to cancel a passenger’s visitor visa for the first time because of a serious biosecurity breach. Minister for Agriculture, Bridget McKenzie, says the cancellation showed that Australia would not tolerate people putting their environment, industries, economy and way of life at risk.
“The biosecurity threats that our country is facing are real and could be devastating for all Australians,” Minister McKenzie says. “We have significant diseases like African swine fever on our doorstop, and one key pathway for this and other threats to arrive in Australia is by international passengers bringing in risk items.
“The passenger, a 45-year-old woman from Vietnam, had her visitor visa cancelled for failing to declare an extensive cache of food concealed in her luggage, including over 4.5 kilos of pork. In the midst of what is potentially the biggest animal disease event the world has seen, it beggars belief that someone would deliberately attempt to bring pork meat past our border.
“That act could deal a very heavy blow to our $5.3 billion pork industry, as well as the 36,000 jobs that depend on it in rural and regional communities. Each of the items seized could pose a direct threat to our $60 billion agricultural industries. Australian authorities won’t stand for it.”
The passenger was also found to be carrying garlic, fruit, raw eggs and over a kilo each of squid and quail.
“Ensuring strong borders means ensuring a strong biosecurity system to protect our international trade reputation as a leading supplier of safe, healthy, high-quality food,” McKenzie says. “This passenger will now be unable to come back to Australia for three years. The punishment must fit the crime and that’s why we introduced this new legislation to cancel visitor visas when a passenger commits a significant biosecurity breach or repeatedly contravenes our biosecurity laws. Returning Australians who do the same could face criminal prosecution or civil court action. They could be ordered to pay up to $420,000 and be sentenced up to 10 years in jail. This government is serious about biosecurity and we will keep working to ensure the measures we have in place safeguard Australia from deadly pests and diseases now and into the future.”
The introduction of visitor visa cancellations is in addition to a range of measures in place to support Australia’s airport biosecurity. In response to the spread of ASF, heightened screening for banned imported pork products has been implemented at the border. A stronger approach to enforcement is also in place to ensure the issuing of infringements reflects the seriousness of the breach.