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Ovine Johne's Disease: Minister urges action

Federal Primary Industries Minister, John Anderson, held talks today with several of his State counterparts to discuss the possibility of a national strategy for managing regional areas of Ovine Johne's Disease (OJD) infection.

"Unfortunately, not all State Ministers could participate in today's teleconference, but the discussion provided a useful forum for exchanging views and planning next steps", Mr Anderson said.

"I noted that the Australian Animal Health Council (AAHC) had presented a professional and independent assessment concluding that further information is required on a number of key technical, economic and management issues before an effective national program could be recommended.

"AAHC has produced an integrated plan of action to address each of the outstanding issues.

"For example, the issues requiring further clarification include prevalence and rate of spread of the disease, confirmation of the costs and benefits and the range of management issues.

"Until such fundamental issues are resolved I said I was simply not prepared to seek Federal Cabinet agreement to a fixed strategy or funding commitment on the basis of proposals from the NSW Government. I think this point was well understood by my colleagues.

"We are all concerned about some hardship cases with OJD affected producers in regional NSW.

"I believe, however, that the best way forward is to develop an effective disease management strategy that we can all support backed up by good science and reliable information. We do not have this at present and we need to move urgently to be in such a position.

"I have said quite clearly on numerous occasions that the Commonwealth will play an appropriate national support role, particularly in the areas of RD to produce a better diagnostic tool and support for a market assurance program.

"However, the reality is that Constitutional responsibility for dealing with regional animal health problems rests with the State Governments.

Accordingly, the NSW Minister will need to take the lead government role in implementing any pilot destocking program this summer in NSW.

"Following today's talks I have called a special out-of-session meeting of ARMCANZ ministers to discuss further the implications of the AAHC report on December 17, 1997.

Media Contacts:

Robert Haynes, Mr Anderson's Office, 06 277 7520; 0419 493 511

Attachment: Text of AAHC recommendations on OJD control

ATTACHMENT

RECOMMENDATIONS FROM AAHC TO THE AGRICULTURE AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT COUNCIL OF AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND (ARMCANZ) ON OJD

That Council:

(a) NOTES that AAHC has not been able to provide a recommendation on funding options for a national OJD control and progressive eradication program;

(b) NOTES that an enhanced surveillance program to better ascertain the prevalence of OJD is required and that work by AAHC is underway to provide advice on how this should be carried out and the likely costs involved. This advice will be provided to ARMCANZ for consideration at its February 1998 meeting;

(c) NOTES that work is being commissioned by AAHC to provide a professional objective basis on which to make decisions on apportionment of funding responsibilities should a national control and progressive eradication program for OJD be implemented and that ARMCANZ will be provided with this assessment no later than its meeting in August 1998;

(d) NOTES that AAHC will request the Wool and Sheepmeat Councils of Australia to commit to an enhanced research effort for OJD;

(e) NOTES that AAHC will write to CSIRO emphasising the high priority that AAHC places on bringing forward research to develop a reliable test for early detection of individual OJD infected animals; and

(f) AGREES that in the interim, the OJD market assurance program be continued.