How can the Department ensure regulation imposed on industry accurately reflects the risk posed to the export sector?
Applying a risk-based regulatory approach to Australian seafood exports
In 2020-21, the value of Australian agricultural exports was over $50 billion. With 72% of Australia’s total agricultural production being sent overseas, the agricultural export sector is a major contributor to the livelihood and economy of Australia. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is the regulatory body that ensures the quality of exports being sent to other importing countries. As the regulator of the agricultural export sector, it is the Department’s responsibility to ensure that the products meet all international standards and regulations, and thereby maintain the agricultural industries’ access to international markets.
The Agricultural export industry is a diverse sector, with a range of different players – from small fishing vessels to large meat processing establishments. The challenges faced by the industries in gaining access to markets and complying with regulations is very different across this spectrum.
The Department identified opportunities for more responsive regulation in the export sector and is driving toward a more risk-based approach to regulating establishments. Based on our prior expertise in setting up risk-based regulatory systems in other areas of the government, we at ThinkPlace were engaged to help support the Dairy, Eggs and Fish export areas with designing such an approach for them. Through a series of workshops, we discussed fundamental definitions and priorities relating to risks. The collaborative process ensured that we had a rich set of views from different areas of expertise coming together to build a holistic view on risk and regulation. The process helped develop an ecosystem view of what this risk-based approach would look like thereby providing a blueprint for building such a system for the Department.
The key benefits of the risk-based approach are that it makes regulation exponentially more efficient and effective. As a regulator, the Department will be able to proactively predict risks based on data-driven intelligence and mitigate them before they manifest. For industry, this approach will ensure that the compliant entities are not over-regulated, and they get targeted support for their needs. Meanwhile, those that need the additional oversight will get the targeted regulatory action that helps keep them compliant.
The new approach we designed was ahead of all previous attempts to implement a risk-based approach to regulation in this area, so much so that other commodities were also interested in adopting this approach for their areas. The work was recognised at the Trade Reform Showcases which is likely to lead to the whole of exports side adopting a similar approach to regulation in the near future.