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Thursday, 24 May 2001
Page: 27081

Mr St CLAIR (9:49 AM) —I rise today to discuss something very important to the people of New England and Australia generally—that is, foot-and-mouth disease and the fact that we must do all that we can to prevent this disease coming across our borders. I take this opportunity to congratulate the Howard-Anderson government on making Australia a fortress against such diseases as foot-and-mouth. The $596 million package to strengthen Australia's border agencies in their work to counter threats from exotic pests and diseases is certainly welcome in my electorate of New England and is certainly something we now look forward to seeing put in place to keep out these sorts of diseases.

I raise specifically some of the initiatives in the package, particularly for those in my electorate who contact me regularly and ask what we are doing. I want to put on the record that there is $5.7 million for AQIS until 30 June 2001 to fund extra measures that we introduced back in February due to the UK and European FMD outbreaks; there is $281.4 million from 2001-02 to 2004-05 for AQIS border operations; there is $238.8 million from 2001-02 to 2004-05 for the Australian Customs Service to support AQIS quarantine service—and it is certainly good to see the two agencies working very closely together—and there is $68.8 million for new infrastructure at international airports and international mail centres, and ongoing costs for Australia Post, to allow greater scrutiny of incoming mail, passengers and goods. I have been contacted by people in my electorate who have flown into Australia and have been held up as they have come through customs. I must say it was positive for them. They felt it was important that people coming into this country via the airways and their baggage be given appropriate inspection.

There is also $1.2 million over four years to strengthen risk management and preparedness arrangements for FMD—that is absolutely vital in this country—as well as for BSE, being coordinated by a high-level industry and government management group. There is $500,000 for the purchase of reagents to allow the rapid testing of suspected FMD cases as part of Australia's program. It is a great program. I commend the government for it and I commend the minister Warren Truss, my National Party colleague for Wide Bay. (Time expired)