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Tuesday, 6 September 1983
Page: 372

Mr MILDREN —I direct my question to the Minister for Science and Technology. Has the Government made any decision about the future of the Australian National Animal Health Laboratory?

Mr BARRY JONES —Total expenditure on ANAHL near Geelong now amounts to $157m with an annual projected operating cost of $8m. But given modern developments in biotechnology and diagnostic procedures the Government is very concerned about the future of ANAHL. In late 1972 the McMahon Government approved the commencement of design work but it was not until March 1978 that construction began under the Fraser Government. Construction was speeded up in 1979 after a Tasmanian outbreak of a vesicular disease in pigs with symptoms resembling those of foot-and-mouth disease. While the building has been under construction a revolution has been taking place in the diagnosis of animal diseases. There is now a major difference of scientific opinion about how best to tackle the problems of diagnosing and treating exotic and indigenous animal diseases. This is essentially a difference between a rigid, centralised approach, such as that of ANAHL, or a flexible, decentralised model using experienced flying squads of diagnosticians, as recommended by the Australian Academy of Science. The Academy 's report on establishing a mobile diagnostic capacity for foot-and-mouth disease in Australia was released in August.

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is in a position of great embarrassment about the future of ANAHL. The CSIRO Chairman recently recommended to me that a ministerial committee be set up to consider the future of ANAHL. The Prime Minister has agreed that a ministerial committee will be established immediately comprising the Minister for Trade, the Minister for Defence, in whose electorate ANAHL is located, the Minister for Primary Industry, the Minister for Health and me.