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Thursday, 28 February 1985
Page: 361


Mr IAN CAMERON(11.52) —I support the Quarantine Amendment Bill. The Quarantine Act was enacted in 1908. The changes that are to take place are very much for the good, particularly the proposal to move the responsibility for livestock quarantine from the Department of Health to the Department of Primary Industry. I am sure livestock quarantine will be administered in a much more efficient manner by the Department of Primary Industry. The changed procedures do not require additional funds. In fact, I believe that much duplication will be avoided. For that reason, the taxpayers of this country may even save some money, for a change.

My interest in quarantine goes back a long way. It is interesting to note that when this country was first settled there were no cloven-footed animals here. There were only marsupials, people and some dogs. The animals that were here, such as kangaroos, had diseases peculiar to them. Since settlement, we Europeans have introduced a range of animals to support ourselves. Terrible animals such as rabbits were introduced, presumably to support us. Initially, also, animals such as the red fox were introduced for the landholders to hunt. The red fox is presently spreading rabies throughout Europe. The foxes have spread throughout this country and are now nothing more than a nuisance. They are covered in mange and spread that disease to sheepdogs. The fox is an animal that we could well do without. I do not need to tell the people of Australia how much damage the rabbit has done over the years.

Although we now have enormous herds of cattle and flocks of sheep, we must remember that those animals are very vulnerable to diseases that we do not have here. The bluetongue virus, which affects sheep, is a major disease that we have managed to keep out of the country. The major disease affecting cloven-footed animals is foot and mouth disease. We have managed also to keep that disease out of the country. An enormous amount of praise is due to the people employed by the departments as quarantine officers throughout the country. Australians who travel overseas are always annoyed when the jumbo has to be fumigated when they arrive home, but I can assure them that that is a very necessary burden and a very small burden for us to carry if we are to keep these diseases away from our shores. We go to enormous cost to try to stop foot and mouth disease entering the country. The nearest country which has foot and mouth disease is Indonesia, where it is quite rife. Indonesia is really only a swim away from Australia, so it is amazing that foot and mouth disease has not already come into the country. The fact that it has not is basically due to the dedication of our quarantine officers and to the fact that people are prepared to declare their goods and not to bring in prohibited goods. Thus, we have been able to keep foot and mouth disease at bay.

As the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Everingham) mentioned, the ever increasing smuggling of drugs into this country makes it much harder for us to stop foot and mouth disease entering. We should consider the enormous costs caused to the beef industry in Australia by the cattle tick. It was introduced from Indonesia through the Northern Territory and travelled rapidly through the sub-tropical regions to New South Wales.

My family has been associated with this area of interest for many years. My grandfather, Dr S. S. Cameron, has the Cameron Laboratories of the Victorian Department of Agriculture at Werribee named after him; my father is a veterinary science graduate of Melbourne University; and I have been brought up on the land and have dealt with livestock for many years. It is always of interest to me to see the tremendous work that the departments do in this area. I was fortunate enough to visit the Australian National Animal Health Laboratory installation in Victoria, where roughly $350m has been spent. A high security, high risk laboratory has been established there for research into these diseases, so that they may be kept at bay. This will help the livestock producers of this country. Although the ANAHL installation is not the responsibility of the Department of Primary Industry but that of the Department of Science, it is still one of the most important installations that we have.

I am one who did not support the introduction of live foot and mouth disease virus. I have never believed it necessary to introduce the live virus. The policy on both sides of the House is that the present policy will be reviewed in 1987. Foot and mouth disease is the major concern in all the effort and money that is expended in this area. It is to be understood that, if foot and mouth disease broke out, a total slaughter campaign would be imposed. If it broke out in a herd, as it did recently in the Northern Territory, Tasmania and New Zealand, all animals within a radius of a certain number of kilometres would automatically be slaughtered. The animals just outside that radius would be inoculated with a live virus to help stop the spread of the disease once detected and proved to be such. That process would be carried out as quickly as possible. The samples would be flown to London or South Africa to be tested. Of course, once the disease was brought under control, those inoculated animals also would be slaughtered.

Thus, there has never been any reason, as far as I can see, for the introduction of live foot and mouth disease virus, other than so that a few scientists can dabble with it in experiments. I have always thought that they could go to some country that has foot and mouth disease. As previous speakers have mentioned, only a couple of countries in the world are free of the disease. The scientists have only to take a trip to Indonesia to do all the experiments on foot and mouth disease they want to do. The risk of live foot and mouth disease virus escaping from the ANAHL installation, although slim, is too big a risk to take.

It is interesting to note the number of passengers who arrive in Australia and who have to be checked. Two and a half million people arrived in Australia last year. Roughly 300,000 people came by ship. Officers have to check these people and ensure that no diseases are being imported.

The other thing of note I mention today is the fact that for the first time since 1952 live pigs have been imported into Australia. Only yesterday an announcement was made that consignments had arrived. This is being done through the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. Stud cattle imports come into Australia that way and I believe that is what is happening with the pigs. Certainly many pigs have been imported. They will be spread throughout Australia. Of course, these animals are very expensive, prize stud animals that will go into improving our livestock throughout Australia. Not only pigs but also beef cattle have been imported into Australia, particularly from America and Canada, in the last few years. New Zealand, of course, has been used as a quarantine station for a number of years because it is free from foot and mouth disease. We have been importing live animals into New Zealand and Australian cattle breeders have been breeding cattle there. The time spent there acts as an incubation period for blue tongue and foot and mouth disease. The pregnancy period of a cow is roughly that of a human-nine months. Once the calves are born in New Zealand they can be brought to Australia. They are brought here disease free because they have served an incubation period in New Zealand.

The deep freezing of semen has been developed by science in the last few years-human as well as animal semen. We read a lot today about in vitro fertilisation et cetera in humans. Of course, the experiments that are taking place on the human side of things these days happened many years ago with livestock, particularly with cattle. Australia has been at the forefront in the deep freezing of semen in liquid nitrogen. The semen is collected and processed in places such as France and England. Once the quarantine period has been undergone we are able to import the semen and rapidly improve the standard of our livestock. We have not had to import the live animal with the associated risk of its carrying a disease.

I believe that the eradication of wild pigs is most important. I applaud the honourable member for Eden Monaro (Mr Snow) for his endeavours since he has been a member of parliament to get the Government to move on this front. I am not one who believes that we cannot eradicate wild pigs; I believe that we can. I have them running around the back of my property all the time. I go out and shoot them every second night of the week, trying to keep their numbers down. I believe that we can achieve anything with a concerted effort. We have proved this with brucella and with lepto, which we have practically eradicated, at enormous cost. Of course, it is not such a great cost when we consider the future. If we ever get an outbreak of foot and mouth disease it will be nearly impossible for us to control it while these huge numbers of wild, cloven-footed animals are running around Australia.

The former member for Gippsland and Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Nixon, was very keen to get a scheme going to eradicate wild pigs but it never came to fruition. I believe that the present Government is keen to start such a scheme. I certainly urge the Government in its efforts in that area. I do not believe that it is beyond us to do that. I believe that we can do it with effort-of course, with the expenditure of money also. Perhaps once the current programs of brucella and lepto eradication are well and truly in hand we, as a nation, ought to look at the eradication of wild pigs. They now seem to affect every State in Australia. It is high time we tried to eliminate the problem.

I also support the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Everingham) in his concerns about the surveillance of our coastline. Being a Queenslander and representing a third of that State-although none of it touches the coastline-I certainly spend quite a bit of time flying up and down our coast. Queensland has an enormous coastline. It is very difficult to maintain proper surveillance of it. Our native birds are being exported in vast numbers. What is going out of the country can just as easily come into it. Previously I have mentioned drugs and people. The Torres Strait Act took a long while to come to fruition. A lot of it was tied up with we Queenslanders ensuring that the quarantine in that area was up to scratch, and that prospects of bringing diseases across from New Guinea and Indonesia were not heightened at all and that we continued to keep a very close watch in that area. I believe that we must help the Government by supporting continued surveillance. We want to see more patrol boats built. I know that there has been quite a reduction in the surveillance program but we must see that the program continues and is improved.

It is interesting to note the types of animals that come into Australia. I think they represent a fairly good cross-section of members of this House! Last year, 63 circus animals came into the country. I think some of them may have made it into here! Thirty-five bees-there are a few queen bees buzzing around here-and 1,734 cats and dogs came into the country last year.


Mr Hunt —Any tabbies?


Mr IAN CAMERON —A few tabbies. From New Zealand came 2,800 head of cattle, which highlights what I was talking about previously-that New Zealand is used by Australia as a quarantine station. I wonder what else it might be used for now. After the kerfuffle that has been going on in the last few days, New Zealand may even stop our using it for quarantine purposes. Last year 79 head of cattle came from Canada and the United States of America. Nearly nine million fish came into the country. I know that we do not want some of the species. One of the species that was introduced, the carp, has practically eaten every sort of native fish we ever had in inland Australia and has taken over every waterhole. We certainly did not want that type of species introduced.


Mr Hunt —The Chinese like them.


Mr IAN CAMERON —A few Chinamen came in, too. Forty goats were imported into Australia last year, and there are a few of those in here! The record shows that 82 guinea pigs, 2,757 laboratory animals and 226 pigs, which I have mentioned before, entered Australia last year. Fourteen primates-there are probably a few of them here, too!-came into Australia last year. Fifty-four rabbits entered Australia. Of course they have multiplied. I do not know why we are still importing rabbits. I thought we would have had enough by now. Last year 127 sheep entered Australia. There are a few sheep here, too! I support the changes contained in the Bill. Certainly, as an opposition, we thank all the officers involved in this area. I look forward to working with them in the future.