Life Science Environment Government backs foot and mouth vaccine drive

Government backs foot and mouth vaccine drive

An outbreak of foot and mouth disease has spread to Bali, a popular tourist destination for Aussies. Photo: EPA
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Australia will fund vaccinations against foot and mouth disease in Indonesia in an attempt to stop the disease spreading amid concerns a local outbreak could decimate agriculture.

The government’s $1.5 million contribution will provide at least a million doses for Indonesia’s vaccine program following a formal request for assistance after the disease spread to Bali.

But the Nationals have called for the government to go further and introduce compulsory shoe decontamination and a two-day ban from returning to regional Australia for all travellers returning from the popular tourist destination.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt discussed support with his Indonesian counterpart in Jakarta on Thursday.

He said Australia offered to share expertise on emergency disease management and biosecurity as part of the government’s “two-pronged” approach to preventing the disease from spreading.

This also involved strengthening biosecurity measures at the Australian border, he said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong said the vaccine pledge underscored Australia’s commitment to its northern neighbour.

“Safeguarding the biosecurity of our region is a shared concern for Australia and Indonesia – this was something confirmed during the recent Indonesia-Australia annual leaders’ meeting,” she said.

An outbreak of foot and mouth disease detected in Indonesia in May later surfaced in Bali, where more than 100 flights from Australia land every week.

Travellers entering Australia have been advised to ensure their clothes and shoes are free from soil or manure.

Opposition trade spokesman Kevin Hogan called for the government to place further restrictions on travellers from Bali.

“I am strongly urging the government to introduce compulsory shoe decontamination on all travellers coming back from Bali – a move it has seemingly rejected,” the Nationals MP said.

“I have also asked them to consider that all travellers returning from Bali spend two days in the city before returning to the regions.”

Mr Hogan said an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Australia would force a ban on red meat exports that could last for years, decimating the livestock and meat processing industries.

The highly contagious disease affects pigs, cattle, sheep and goats.

Australia has also committed 435,000 lumpy skin disease vaccine doses, which are being distributed in affected parts of Indonesia.