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Wednesday, 9 March 1966

Dr FORBES (BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) (Minister for Health) - I saw the article in question. The honorable member's belief about a reported outbreak of blue tongue disease is correct. There was not an outbreak. What happened was that some semen was illegally imported into Australia from Canada and several cows were inseminated with it. That semen could have contained blue tongue disease, and it would have been highly undesirable to take the risk of allowing the disease to become established and to spread. I should say that the determination of whether the disease is present involves quite a lengthy process. Because blue tongue is a virus disease that may be transmitted by biting insects, such as midges, there is a danger that before its existence can be established it will spread and never be capable of being brought under control. The tests in the present case proved to be negative. The semen did not contain blue tongue. Nevertheless, the immediate slaughtering of stock and the fogging action taken to get rid of the insects in the area were vitally important precautions, particularly when it is remembered that if this disease became established in Australia it is almost certain that it could never be eradicated. This has been the experience in the United States and it would almost certainly be ours. In view of the great dependence of this country on the sheep industry, which is the industry mainly attacked by blue tongue, I am sure that all honorable members will agree that the precautions taken in this case were vitally necessary.

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