The Army is being called in to advise the federal government on Australia’s preparedness for a potential outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).
- A task force has been established to advise on Australia’s preparedness to deal with a livestock disease outbreak
- Agriculture Minister Murray Watt says the approach will be similar to that taken during a natural disaster
- Senator Watt says one million vaccines are set to arrive in Indonesia “very soon”
Australia has been free of the disease, which affects pigs, goats, cattle and sheep, for more than a century, but an outbreak detected in Indonesia in May has authorities on high alert.
Agriculture Minister Murray Watt says the new task force will provide urgent advice over the next four weeks on Australia’s response in the event of a potential outbreak.
“The new exotic animal disease preparedness task force will include officials from a range of government departments, including the Australian Defense Force, Australian Border Force and Animal Health Australia,” Senator Watt said in Canberra.
“By bringing together the best expertise from across government, we can ensure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities if there were to be an outbreak, and that there are no gaps in our response.”
Senator Watt said federal, state and territory governments had well-prepared biosecurity response plans and that the task force would “leave no stone unturned to ensure we are ready, should an outbreak occur”.
Likening the approach to a disaster response, Senator Watt said the ADF would provide planning advice.
“The main thing we’re looking for from the ADF at this point of time with the task force is to draw on their planning expertise,” he said.
“Our ADF has some of the best planning and logistics expertise that we have anywhere in the country.”
The task force will be led by a senior bureaucrat at the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry and the Director-General of Emergency Management Australia.
Animal Health Australia chief executive Kathleen Plowman, who will be part of the taskforce, said it was important to ensure government agencies were working together.
“Should we ever have an emergency animal disease incursion we will be all the more stronger working together to rapidly respond to, contain, and eradicate a disease to ensure a quicker return to market and in turn our economic and national wellbeing,” Ms Plowman said .
Vaccines for Indonesia due ‘very soon’
Last month Senator Watt announced Australia would provide one million FMD vaccines for Indonesia.
They are yet to be delivered.
“There is a worldwide shortage of these vaccines, but the procurement process is very well advanced and I expect them to be hitting the ground in Indonesia very soon,” Senator Watt said.
He said almost one million vaccines have been administered to Indonesian livestock.
Experts have advised there is an 11.6 per cent chance of an outbreak of FMD in Australia in the next five years.
The risk of a lumpy skin disease outbreak over the same period is 28 per cent.