A traveller at Brisbane International Airport has been fined A$5,500 under Australia's tough new biosecurity laws.

Earlier this month a traveller arriving at Brisbane International Airport from overseas was found to be carrying plant seeds concealed within items including a pamphlet, knitted baby clothing and tissues. An examination by biosecurity officers found 290g of seeds, 1g of tamarind seeds and 860g of bark for therapeutic use. The items were seized and destroyed.

The Brisbane passenger is the first person to be issued with Australia’s new 20-point penalty infringement notice of A$5,500 for deliberately concealing biosecurity risk materials. The new offence was introduced under the Biosecurity Act 2015 in December 2022 for those intentionally trying to circumvent Australian laws with concealed undeclared biosecurity goods.

“This is exactly why our government introduced these penalties – banned items can pose a serious risk to the agriculture industry and we make no apologies for coming down hard on people who gamble with our production value and food security,” said Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt.

“To knowingly try to sneak items into Australia is extremely disappointing, and that’s why these penalties are the toughest we’ve seen to date.”

Seeds for sowing can pose a major risk to Australia’s plant health status if they are not inspected and cleared by a biosecurity officer. Seeds can introduce unwanted weed species or exotic viral pathogens such as tobamoviruses that impact vegetable crops including melons, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, and capsicum.

The new 20-point infringement is in addition to increased financial penalties introduced on January 1 2023, which saw penalty units increase from A$222 per penalty unit to A$275 per penalty unit.

Images: Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Australia