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Horse flu inquiry has AQIS in its sights -

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Horse flu inquiry has AQIS in its sights

The World Today - Thursday, 12 June , 2008 12:19:35

Reporter: Sara Everingham

EMMA ALBERICI: It brought the racing industry to a halt and cost billions of dollars.

This afternoon the report by the former High Court judge Ian Callinan into last year's outbreak of
equine influenza will be released.

It's expected the report will blame the crisis on a breakdown in processes at the Australian
Quarantine and Inspection Service.

Sara Everingham reports.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The racing industry knows only too well what happened on that day in August last
year. Today it hopes to know how it happened, when the report done by former High Court judge Ian
Callinan is tabled in the Senate.

It's expected Justice Callinan's report will criticise the way imported horses were handled by the
Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, particularly when they arrived at Sydney's Eastern
Creek Quarantine Station.

Anthony Cummings is the president of the New South Wales Trainers' Association and has worked at
Sydney's Randwick racecourse for the past three decades. He's not surprised the report points the
finger at Eastern Creek.

ANTHONY CUMMINGS: The strain that broke out here was only available elsewhere in the world in Japan
and that's where these stallions that were in AQIS came from, so you didn't have to be Einstein to
work out that it did come from Japan via the Eastern Creek facility.

SARA EVERINGHAM: He says the horse flu virus had a devastating impact, crippling the industry. He
says the Federal Government's compensation package released during the outbreak did help, but only
a few. And he says more may be needed, particularly now that the breakdown in the system has been
determined.

ANTHONY CUMMINGS: There's certainly potential for that, you know there were some businesses, some
breeding businesses around Australia that did go to the wall and those people would obviously have
claims, you know, that would need to be looked at.

I think most of the trainers as I say were probably adequately looked after, but once again, there
would always be individual cases of hardship that were brought about directly by the outbreak of
influenza in Australia.

SARA EVERINGHAM: Bob Frappell is the president of the Queensland Thoroughbred Breeders Association.
He says his organisation has passed a motion to join a class action on the outbreak.

BOB FRAPPELL: We want to be very careful we don't put in an ambit ridiculous claim that's got no
credibility. The main thing is that when we go to this Government and say we need some help, we're
serious, we mean what we say and we have a chance of getting it because if there's any fairness in
the procedure I don't think we'll have to push the Government very hard.

Peter V'Landys, the CEO of Racing New South Wales, wants the Federal Government to immediately
implement the recommendations made by Ian Callinan to make sure there are no future outbreaks of
equine influenza.

PETER V'LANDYS: We're also looking for an ongoing vaccination program just in case the quarantine
system fails again. It's cost us billions of dollars. The industry wouldn't financially survive
another crisis like this. We just want to be sure and guaranteed that the industry doesn't suffer
to the level it did last year.

SARA EVERINGHAM: But he's worried the Federal Government is planning to ban the importation of the
horse flu vaccine at the end of the month.

It's a decision Anthony Cummings from the New South Wales Trainers' Association wants reversed.

ANTHONY CUMMINGS: The veterinary officers around Australia are voting to say that we don't
inoculate against equine influenza. They've got some sort of purist idea that because we're an
island it will never happen again. Well they said it wouldn't happen the first time, it's happened.

The history of it is that it does repeat. Every country that has had one outbreak has had at least
two or three coming within a short space after, and yet the authorities here are still blindly
going forward with some nirvana about it not happening again.

SARA EVERINGHAM: But the industry has been given a reprieve of sorts. Earlier this week the Federal
Agriculture Minister Tony Burke said the Federal Government would foot the $100-million bill for
controlling the horse flu outbreak. But he says he won't be surprised if there are claims of
compensation from the industry.

TONY BURKE: One of the industry players said to me some months ago, he said to me, "Tony we're
punters and we reckon this one might not be a bad bet". And made clear that regardless of what was
in the report there would be some legal action that would follow, so I've got no doubt that those
issues will end up being settled in the courts.

SARA EVERINGHAM: The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service says it will wait until the
report has been released before making any comment.

EMMA ALBERICI: Sara Everingham.