Foot and Mouth Disease

The AUSVETPLAN disease strategy for foot-and-mouth disease says that foot-and-mouth is the single biggest threat to Australia’s livestock industries and an outbreak would cause far-reaching economic and social disruption in many parts of the community, including increased unemployment in the rural sector. I urge the government to take this extremely seriously. Every farmer that I met at the recent dairy conference was unbelievably concerned, and everyone who’s contacted my office is the same.

I would encourage the government to invest even more in Indonesia and be that good neighbour, because every dollar spent in Indonesia will save over $1,000 in Australia. Stop it in Indonesia before it gets here. I want to see everyone and everyone’s luggage screened. Every single person is a high risk, not just those who are deemed to be a high risk. Everyone is a high risk. They don’t tell the truth on those forms. I don’t know how you can possibly identify who is a high risk and who is not when often the people who work in the tourist areas actually live in those rural areas where the high risk exists. So there are real issues there.

I want to touch on a fact and make it a bit real for people. People in this place know that I’m a dairy farmer and was before I came into this place, and our family is still dairy farming. In our dairy business, this would be really hard to deal with. In fact, it would break our hearts. We know that one outbreak is going to shut down every movement for 72 hours. We know that if one positive is found then potentially it could be two years before we get to export again. That’s if we’ve got the stock. At my dairy farm, I’m likely to get a regional veterinary officer, who will come to our place and test every animal. If we get one positive, nothing moves—no-one in, no-one out, and not our milk either. Then that positive will mean that there will be a cull, and the 50-plus years that we’ve put into the breeding of our herd, our beautiful cows, will be gone. They’ll be shot and either burnt or buried. Then everyone within at least a three-kilometre radius will be tested, depending on what they might find in that area, and there will be an absolute freeze on any movement in that to start with. Every positive in that perimeter, every single time, will increase that area and that perimeter. There will be no animals on our farm till the regional vet officer says so, which will be two years at least. So what do we do?

It affects all our local businesses. I did a quick rundown for Harvey. I thought, ‘Who’s going to be affected by this in my patch?’ Harvey Fresh, which produces milk and dairy products, Harvey Water, where we get our irrigation, and LP & JA Fryer, which we get all our services from. There’ll be no income. We saw the massive effect of deregulation in our patch. There will be no animals into or out of Harvey Beef. They won’t be exporting as they do now. Milne Feeds, who supply the feed; the grain and feed merchants; the livestock agent; the livestock
transporters—all of those will be affected, just in my patch alone. In WA, Mark Talbot said at that very meeting that his business would stop dead. He’s been begging the state government for more washdown facilities.

How much food and produce is going to be on the shelves will depend on how many animals are affected. It does last a bit longer in moist soils. Yes, we’ll do everything we can to minimise the outbreak. But I’ll tell you what worries me as well: the feral animals. If it gets in, how the heck will we ever get rid of it? That is a very deep concern for us on our farms. Every farmer is desperately concerned about this. So I would say to the government: what you’ve done so far—get into Indonesia. Do even more in Indonesia. Do what you can do to stop it there, and let’s stop this getting in. Everybody needs to do the right thing.