Measures in place to prevent an outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in Australia are woefully inadequate and must be substantially increased.
One Nation leader Senator Pauline Hanson – formerly a cattle farmer herself – said Australia’s border to Indonesia must be closed immediately, the importation of animal products from all countries where FMD is endemic must end, and much greater penalties should be introduced for anyone breaching travel regulations and restrictions associated with preventing outbreaks.
“There was a terrible outbreak in Britain in 2001 which resulted in millions of animals being slaughtered and burned in huge pyres,” Senator Hanson said, “It’s impacts are still being felt today – Britain’s livestock industry has never completely recovered more than 20 years later.
“A similar outbreak in Australia would be even more devastating, and with large populations of feral animals roaming freely across the continent it would be impossible to eradicate. There are about 24 million feral pigs in the bush, along with many goats and camels, which can all carry FMD. Even vaccinated animals can still pass it on. Humans can too.
“Much stronger measures are needed to prevent this disease from entering our country and devastating our livestock and dairy industries. These would already be in place if we had a government which put the interests of Australia and Australians over our relationships with other countries.
“All non-essential travel to and from Indonesia must cease immediately. If some travellers can’t redeem airfares, compensate them – it would be a lot cheaper than compensating Australian farmers for their losses if FMD takes hold.
“All imports of any potential FMD host material must also be suspended until the threat has passed. While I don’t oppose Australian assistance to Indonesia to help with containment and eradication efforts the government must remember that its priority is to protect Australia’s livestock and dairy industries, not Indonesia’s.
“We must also consider ramping up penalties for breaches – fines in the thousands of dollars and potentially a prison sentence. The government must send the strongest possible message that we will not allow anyone to put our livestock and dairy industries at risk.
“I don’t know that Australia’s new agriculture minister – a Gold Coast lawyer who wouldn’t know a cow if it bit him – truly appreciates the nature of this threat or is not too concerned about the possible demise of an industry his party almost destroyed a decade ago over Indonesian slaughter practices.
“The government’s response to this threat needs to be heavily scrutinised with the understanding the ALP is replete with members who would happily sacrifice our livestock and dairy industries on the altars of environmentalism and climate change. For the moment, the government’s response is completely inadequate.
“Australians won’t stand for the Labor government standing by to watch our livestock and dairy industries perish from FMD. Close the border now.”