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Thursday, 20 April 1961


Minister for Health) [8.44]. - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of this bill is to provide machinery for financing the eradication of foot and mouth disease from the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory should that disease ever gain access to either of these Commonwealth Territories.

Foot and mouth disease is an extremely contagious and devastating disease of cattle, pigs and sheep. It is widespread throughout much of the world, including the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa and South America. It is one. of the worst livestock diseases in the world. A vigilant, highly competent quarantine service has so far ensured that Australia is still free of this disease. This has been possible, however, only by imposing rigid prohibitions and controls on imports of such things as meat, hides, fertilisers and fodder, and of animals which might bring the disease into this country. Precautions are also taken to ensure that rural migrants do not introduce the disease into Australia in soil on their boots or clothing.

Notwithstanding all the precautions taken through quarantine, the possibility nonetheless exists that the disease could break through, for example, by wilful evasion of the quarantine laws. Should it ever do so, there will be grave implications for our economy. A rigorous and costly eradication campaign would have to be implemented to combat an outbreak of the disease to prevent its spread throughout the country. Furthermore, it would be necessary to act quickly to effect the immediate slaughter of infected animals and animals in contact with them, and the destruction of all other sources of infection.

The principles to be followed and the action to be taken in such an event were agreed upon some time ago by the Commonwealth and State members of the Australian Agricultural Council. The Commonwealth has agreed to share the costs of an eradication campaign on a £1 for £1 basis wherever foot and mouth disease might break out in Australia. However, it will be necessary to have funds available to conduct an eradication campaign, and owners of stock and property will have to be compensated for their losses. For these reasons this bill proposes the establishment of a trust account to provide for compensation payments and other expenses in the event of a campaign ever having to be mounted against foot and mouth disease in the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory.

Moneys received from the States under agreements to share the costs of eradication of foot and mouth disease will be paid into the trust account, as will amounts from Commonwealth Consolidated Revenue. These will be used to pay the expenses of eradication measures and to pay compensation. Compensation will be paid for animals and property which have to be destroyed and for animals which die from the disease in quarantined areas. Owners will be paid the market value of the stock tor property so lost. They will, under the provisions of clause 13 of this bill, be entitledto sue in a court or agree to go to arbitration to settle any dispute over the amount of compensation due.

This bill could be described as an effective means of providing for a situation which we all hope will never occur. Should it in fact occur, then the existence of an act erribodying the provisions of this bill will be of material assistance in enabling the outbreak of foot and mouth disease to be dealt with swiftly and effectively. I commend the bill to honorable members.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Allan Fraser) adjourned.

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