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Wednesday, 28 March 1973
Page: 772

Mr O'KEEFE (PATERSON, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I ask the. Minister for Health: Have outbreaks of foot and mouth disease occurred in some European countries? If this disease spread to Australia could it ruin our great cattle industry? Can the Minister say what precautions are being taken to prevent this disease entering this country and will he ensure that these precautions are stepped up to prevent such a happening?

Dr EVERINGHAM - There is no guarantee that foot and mouth disease cannot enter this country, no matter how stringent are the measures taken. However, I believe that the measures adopted by Australia are as stringent as those applying anywhere else in the world. In fact, there are constant complaints about the stringency of these measures, particularly from cattle breeders who have to contend with long waits before they can import blood stock into this country. These stringent conditions have been stepped up on occasions, particularly on one or two occasions when foot and mouth disease obtained a very temporary hold in this country and cost a lot of money. As the honourable member said, there have been outbreaks of foot and mouth disease from time to time in Europe and, for example, it has cost the United Kingdom many hundreds of millions of dollars to stamp out the disease when it has entered that country. If such an outbreak occurred among the wild stock in this country, for instance among the buffaloes, it probably would be impossible ever to eradicate the disease from this continent.

One of the things at which my Department ls looking is the possible provision of an offshore island such as Norfolk, Cocos or Christmas Island, so that the long quarantine period in Britain would be done away with and we could have cattle, sheep, goats and pigs imported into this country, particularly for breeding purposes, with a wait of only 6 to 9 months instead of the wait of, from memory, 9 to 18 months that is required under the present arrangements. This would also result in substantial savings for people importing stock and would make it possible for the stock to be imported without any relaxation of the stringent requirements Australia has.

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