News National Foot and mouth response to be reviewed

Foot and mouth response to be reviewed

foot and mouth
Australia will re-examine its biosecurity response after a foot and mouth outbreak in Indonesia. Photo: AAP
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Australia’s biosecurity measures and response to diseases like foot and mouth and varroa mite will go under the microscope in the Senate.

The upper house has referred the adequacy of biosecurity measures with a focus on foot and mouth, which has made its way to popular holiday destination Bali, to the rural and regional affairs reference committee for an inquiry.

Labor originally wanted to send the matter to a government-chaired legislation committee instead of the more typical references committee route chaired by the opposition but amended the motion at the last minute.

Nationals Senate leader Bridget McKenzie welcomed the reference but was disappointed at the narrowed terms of reference compared to those put forward by her colleague, Senator Matt Canavan.

The committee will report back by October 10.

The reference comes after the coalition used the first Senate question time on Tuesday to attack Agriculture Minister Murray Watt over the government’s response to the foot and mouth outbreak in Indonesia.

Australia has ordered a million vaccines to be delivered to Indonesia in August and rolled out disinfectant footmats at international airports.

Senator Watt says the first line of defence if the disease was discovered in Australia would be a 72-hour livestock standstill to stop a broader outbreak.

“We would not immediately vaccinate all livestock or even a large segment of livestock,” he told the Senate.

“That’s because if you vaccinate your livestock … you are then deemed by the rest of the world as having foot and mouth diseases and that is what then prevents the export of our product overseas.

“It’s effectively the same as having the outbreak here.”

A stockpile of one million vaccines can be accessed by Australia in under a week, with further supplies available at short notice but the priority is on bringing Indonesia’s outbreak under control, Senator Watt said.

“That’s not only in their national interest, it’s in our national interest.”

He said 23,600 travellers entered Australia from Indonesia last week – 90 per cent from Bali – and all were going through the foot mats.