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Wednesday, 9 March 1966

Dr FORBES - I have seen the article but I do not agree with its conclusions. I note, for instance, that Professor Campbell is a Professor of Agricultural Economics, which no doubt qualifies him to speak expertly on some matters but his remarks do not necessarily carry great weight when he refers to matters which are more the province of, for example, a veterinarian or a plant breeder. The quarantine laws are based on the proposition that the admission into Australia of some of these exotic diseases - such as blue tongue, of which I spoke in answering the honorable member for Corangamite, and foot and mouth disease - could have an absolutely catastrophic effect on Australia's livestock industries and therefore on the economic situation and prosperity of this country.

I am afraid that I cannot go along with Professor Campbell's statement that we in this country should learn to live with something like foot and mouth disease. As far as I know, there is no country which has either blue tongue or foot and mouth disease which would not be glad to be in our situation of not having them. I point out that it has been reliably estimated that production from livestock industries in a country with foot and mouth disease goes down almost immediately by 25 per cent. If we apply that figure to Australia and add the facts mat our meat trade with the United States, which is worth between $100 million and $150 million a year, would be cut off immediately and that our whole trade in livestock and meat with most places in the world would be cut off, I believe there is justification for a very strict and severe policy.

Professor Campbell suggests in his article that we have rather a static, unthinking approach to this matter and that the people responsible for quarantine do not recognise the value to the livestock industries and plant industries, for instance, of introducing new strains and new methods into Australia. I say that they do. It is a question of the balance of advantage in any particular case. To make the point I mention that in relation to blue tongue the quarantine authorities, together with veterinarians, have worked out a method by which bovine semen can be imported into Australia from the United Kingdom and New Zealand, provided that various precautions are taken for a period of two years.

I make that point to show that there is not a static approach and that somebody who wants to improve the strains of our cattle in Australia can bring semen into the country. In relation to crossing Zebu cattle with northern cattle, a study is being undertaken in the hope of achieving the same purpose.

Mr Cope - We want the previous Minister back.

Dr FORBES - I have a reputation to live up to in this portfolio, and I intend to live up to it. I think I have said enough to show that the quarantine policy is necessary and that it is not static.

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