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Wednesday, 20 May 1970

Mr Maisey (MOORE, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) asked the Minister for Health, upon notice:

(1)   What precautions have been taken by his Department to prevent a possible outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Australia.

(2)   What plan of action would be used in the event of an outbreak of this disease.

Dr Forbes - The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1)   Comprehensive measures are implemented under the Quarantine Act 1908-1969 to prevent an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Australia.

The importation of susceptible species from countries where the disease exists is prohibited.

The importation of many animal products such as uncanned meat, milk, animal casings, fertilisers and slock feed of animal origin, is prohibited from foot and mouth disease countries. Other animal products from such countries are either accompanied by valid certificates of disinfection or are disinfected under quarantine control when they arrive.

Vaccines, cultures and the like are subject to special permission for importation and if any risk exists of foot and mouth disease or other unwanted virus being present permission is not granted.

Empty cattle vessels arriving in Australian ports, if not scrupulously clean, are cleaned and disinfected on arrival and before loading Australian animals.

Migrants corning from foot and mouth disease countries are carefully screened and if they are rural' people (i.e. have had contact with farm animals or animal products) they are usually obliged to travel by sea vessel. This is to reduce the risk of any chance virus contamination surviving and to facilitate inspection of heavy baggage on arrival. In some cases these 'rural' migrants are allowed to travel by air (e.g. if sea transport is impracticable) in which cases their baggage is inspected for prohibited items such as meat and salami, and any clothing which has not been freshly laundered or dry cleaned. If found these articles are removed. At the same lime any risk footwear is disinfected. All this is done under the supervision of Australian Medical Officers and in addition their baggage is subjected to 100% inspection on arrival in Australia.

With the co-operation of the Department of Customs and Excise an examination of passengers baggage is made for quarantine prohibited items and the passenger is obliged to declare whether he or any of his family accompanying him have had contact with farm animals or animal products in the last 3 months. If so. and if the contact was in a foot and mouth disease country, footwear is disinfected and any unlaundered working clothes are removed for laundering. The passenger is also obliged to declare any quarantine items as a preliminary to examination of his baggage.

To prevent entry of disease by overseas ships garbage, this item is strictly controlled at all Australian ports. To facilitate safe disposal the Commonwealth has offered to grant to each State the necessary finance for the installation of incinerators at ports where overseas vessels call. Many incinerators are either operating or under construction and others are in the planning stage.

More recently a problem was posed by the advent of oil exploration at remote areas around the Australian coast. To eliminate risk of infective material coming ashore, each oil rig is stripped of overseas meat and other prohibited items on arrival thus being obliged to restock their larders with Australian foodstuffs.

I would add that the efforts of the Animal Quarantine Service are especially directed to preventing the introduction of foot and mouth disease into Australia in the realisation that precautions taken against the entry of this disease will cover many of the other exotic diseases of ruminant animals and pigs.

(2)   Some years ago my Department initiated action for all States to prepare detailed contingency plans for the eradication of foot and mouth disease if it ever occurs in Australia.

These plans have been finalised and have been adopted by the Australian Agricultural Council.

In the event of an outbreak the Commonwealth has agreed to meet 50% of the expenses of eradication and the States, collectively, the other 50%, regardless of where an outbreak may occur.

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