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Ovine Johne's disease (OJD): Anderson announces further action

Federal Primary Industries Minister, John Anderson, today announced further decisive action to break through the current impasse on OJD.

"The urgent, independent assessment requested from the Australian Animal Health Council Ltd (AAHC) on the best strategy to deal with the OJD problem was received several weeks past the deadline given by Commonwealth and State/Territory governments," the Minister said.

"AAHC has cast serious doubts on the technical and economic viability of a national eradication program, but has not made a definitive judgement one way or the other.

"There is no national consensus at government or industry level on any of the key issues or options for pursuing a co-operative national strategy.

"I have received a stream of supplementary papers and lobbying approaches, many of which are clearly designed to 'take me for a ride'.

"Clearly, a decision taken under pressure with insufficient information to embark on an eradication campaign that ultimately fails would be an inexcusable waste of hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

"I have asked an eminent, independent agricultural consultant with unquestionable credentials to review all the information assembled from the AAHC study and to make an unequivocal, balanced judgement on whether there is a case for an immediate Commonwealth commitment to a national eradication campaign.

"Mr Denis Hussey, a principle of the ACIL agricultural consultancy firm has agreed to take on this task and to provide a definitive judgement, within a month.

"Professor Roger Morris, a world class veterinary epidemiologist and animal health economist has been asked to co-author the morass-breakthrough statement.

"I have also instructed the Bureau of Resource Sciences (BRS) to design a 'blind' survey to test the theory that OJD spread in Australia has arisen solely from livestock movements, and is not related to natural spread in the environment.

"The BRS survey design work will also be completed within a one month time- - frame. AAHC will be asked to provide funding support and NSW Agriculture will be invited to collaborate in implementing the survey.

"I am very concerned to address expert scientific advice that national eradication of OJD is unlikely to produce a net benefit to cost result without a more reliable, animal specific diagnostic test.

"Proposals have been made to the meat, dairy and wool research RD funding bodies to fast-track the scientific work currently in train at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory. I will make urgent approaches to the Chairs of each of these RD funding bodies to finalise their decisions.

"It should be recognised that the Commonwealth virtually fully funds the Australian Animal Health Laboratory and, on a dollar-for-dollar basis, the rural Research and Development Corporation, which represents a considerable contribution in this area," Mr Anderson said.

Media inquiries:

Robert Haynes, 02 6277 7520; 0419 493 511