Invasive species represent one of the most potent, persistent and widespread threats to the Australian environment. They have a direct negative impact on species through predation, displacement and competition, and also have enormous detrimental effects on the health, viability and functioning of communities, ecosystems and landscapes. These effects occur through both direct and indirect disruption of ecological services such as soil stabilisation, pollination and seed dispersal, and changed fire regimes (see Box LAN3).
Australia’s biosecurity system is designed to manage the risk of pests and diseases entering, emerging in, establishing in or spreading in Australia, and causing harm to human, animal or plant health, the economy, the environment or the community.
At Australia’s borders, including airports, seaports and international mail centres, the Australian Government coordinates activities that assess and manage potential biosecurity risks before they enter Australia. Onshore and offshore, the Australian Government uses a range of sophisticated technologies and approaches, including research, shared international resources and intelligence, to prevent the introduction and spread of disease, and to manage and contain established pests and diseases.
Invasive species already in Australia are managed through investments and actions at all levels of government, frequently with coordination between the different levels of government. As of December 2015, there were 21 under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), 16 of which involve exotic invasive species, and 11 , all of which mention exotic invasive species. Lists of targeted invasive species for various levels of control are also maintained at state and territory level.
The Biosecurity Act 2015 extends the power of the Australian Government to management of invasive pests, consistent with the United Nations . The Act is designed to be flexible and responsive to changes in technology and to perceived risks and threats, and provides for improved collaboration across governments and industries. The legislation includes higher penalties for bringing in prohibited goods if they have the potential to cause harm to the environment.
The Australian Weeds Strategy (Australian Weeds Committee 2007) and the Australian Pest Animals Strategy (Vertebrate Pests Committee 2007) provide national guidance on best practice for weed and vertebrate pest animal management. They aim to guide coordination of effort across all jurisdictions and affected stakeholders, and to inform plans and actions by state and territory governments, local governments, regional NRM agencies, industry, landholders and the wider community.