New legislation has been introduced by the Australian Government that may see visitors to Australia who conceal plant and animal products in their luggage without a permit have their visas cancelled.

The rules apply to visitors including international students, working holidaymakers, maritime crew and temporary workers.

In December 2022, the Biosecurity Act was amended to create a new civil penalty provision for people who bring or import Conditionally Non-prohibited Goods without the required permit where “the goods are concealed for the purpose of preventing [them] being found, or preventing the true nature of the goods from being determined by a biosecurity official”.

Such goods include meat products, live animals and animal reproductive material, plants or plant products, seeds, animal material, infectious agents, microorganisms and fungi. Breach of that provision is punishable by fines of up to $375,600.

In a regulation dated 26 October and published on 31 October, the government expanded the grounds for visa cancellation to include “circumstances where the minister reasonably believes” a visa-holder has breached the section.

Existing grounds to cancel visas include if a visitor makes false or misleading declarations or refuses to answer questions from biosecurity officials.

According to an explanatory statement issued by the immigration minister, Andrew Giles, the government intends and expects that it will use “education and counselling” as a first resort, with visa cancellation occurring “only in repeat or egregious cases”.