News National ADF not on foot and mouth standby: Watt

ADF not on foot and mouth standby: Watt

foot and mouth
Agriculture Minister Murray Watt announced an animal disease taskforce to help prevent outbreaks. Photo: AAP
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The prospect of involving the defence forces should an Australian outbreak of foot and mouth occur is “very unlikely”, says federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt.

While there have been no domestic cases of the highly contagious disease, which affects cloven-hoofed livestock, authorities continue to work to prevent it entering the country after an outbreak in Indonesia.

“At this point, we don’t believe it’s necessary to have the ADF involved if we do have an outbreak,” Senator Watt told Sydney radio 2GB on Wednesday.

“Of course if things changed, we would immediately do that – just as we have with the NSW floods.

“But basically there is a very well-developed plan put together by the federal government with the states and territories about how we manage any biosecurity outbreak.”

Despite opposition criticism that the government was slow to install sanitising foot mats at airports in response to the threat, Senator Watt said all of Australia’s international terminals were now using them.

“These foot mats are not the kind of things you can just roll down to Bunnings and pick up and throw in your ute,” he said.

“We’ve had to put in a special order for those to make sure they’re industrial-scale mats that are not widely available because they are going to be having heavy traffic walking over them at the airports.”

More passengers coming into the country from Indonesia are also being profiled by security, Senator Watt said.

“If there is anything at all to suggest that they are a risk of doing the wrong thing with biosecurity, they are stopped, they are searched, they are questioned, their luggage is looked at,” he said.

Meanwhile, penalties for bringing meat products into Australia which could contain live viral fragments have been stiffened.

In one instance, a woman caught bringing in a Subway sandwich was fined $2500.

Australia’s international border will remain open amid the overseas outbreaks.

Senator Watt said calls to shut it are damaging the nation’s agricultural reputation and causing hysteria.

“We have absolutely no evidence at all that the virus is in Australia … it does affect our international trade if people think that Australia has this disease,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

Industry leaders have reported questions from export partners over whether or not the disease is spreading in Australia.

Senator Watt said that is putting an extra workload on the industry to ensure correct information is being circulated to the world about the situation.