The federal government has outlined a multi-million dollar package to help prevent foot-and-mouth disease from arriving in Australia, amid concerns that an outbreak could wipe out parts of the country’s agricultural sector.
Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said $ 14 million would be spent on combating the spread of the disease in Australia and abroad.
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Of this, $ 5 million will go to on-site measures in Indonesia, Timor-Leste and Papua New Guinea, including technical assistance and epidemiological support.
An additional $ 9 million will be spent on 18 new biosecurity officers to be deployed at Australian airports and post offices, as well as detector dogs in Cairns and Darwin.
Funding will also go to a new coordinator in Northern Australia to manage surveillance and contingency strategies across the region.
Watt warned that the disease could cause an $ 80 billion hit for the economy if allowed to spread in Australia.
“We need the traveling audience to take this seriously,” he said.
“If foot-and-mouth disease enters our country, it will be a devastating blow to our agricultural industry, especially our livestock industry.
“Although there is a great deal of attention paid to the traveling public returning from Indonesia … the highest risk of foot-and-mouth disease is returning to our country through animal products, meat products and dairy products.”
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said a balance should be struck between relaxed travel restrictions and protection of the agricultural industry.
“We need to ensure that we act quickly and err on the side of caution because the devastating impact that can have, particularly on our rural and regional NSW agricultural providers, is significant,” he said Friday.
“I know that Prime Ministers are working very closely with the Commonwealth Government to achieve a result that protects our farmers while balancing the possibilities of open borders.”
The federal government had previously given $ 1.5 million for at least one million doses to Indonesia’s foot-and-mouth disease vaccine program, following a formal request for assistance after the disease spread to Bali.
Watt said as a result of this proliferation, the government now risks high-profile passengers returning from Indonesia.
“If any of these passengers match the risk profile … then these passengers will be screened and reviewed … will be questioned, have their shoes cleaned, have their luggage examined, have detector dogs,” he said.
“If anyone comes back to the country and declares that they have had contact with a dam or livestock, or have been given grain or meat products or anything of the usual that you need to disclose, then those passengers will also be screened.”
Watt has returned from Jakarta, where he discussed the disease outbreak with his Indonesian counterpart.
Cases of foot-and-mouth disease were discovered in the country in May and later appeared in Bali, which welcomes more than 100 flights from Australia each week.
Travelers traveling into Australia have been advised to ensure that their clothing and shoes are free of soil or manure.
The agriculture minister said it was a shared responsibility to keep the disease out of the country.
“We need the governments of the state and the territories to play their part in ensuring that they are prepared if we see an outbreak coming to Australia,” he said.
“We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our farmers, and we owe it to all Australians to take this disease seriously.”
The Nationals have called on the government to introduce mandatory gun contamination and a two-day ban on returning to regional Australia in the wake of the outbreak.