Veterinarians call on the government to think past the border

28 Feb 2019

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) commends the commitment of the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, the Hon. David Littleproud to protecting Australia’s biosecurity.

To ensure Australia’s biosecurity, and the protection of Australia’s industries, it is essential that investment is made into biosecurity at the border. However, this is only half the story. It is also essential that investment is made into response capability in the case of an incursion of an emergency animal disease.

Australia’s agricultural sector, at farm-gate, contributes 3% to Australia’s total gross domestic product (GDP). Farm production contributes $62 billion each year to the Australian economy1. This is an asset that the government must protect, and every dollar spent on prevention and preparedness protects against potentially billions in losses.

Recently, the swift actions of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources prevented the entry of African Swine Fever and Foot and Mouth Disease, detected in confiscated meat. Thankfully, Australia remains free of these serious diseases, but it’s a solemn reminder of the threat of illegal importation of animal products.

AVA President, Dr Paula Parker, said tight border security and disease surveillance is critically important to maintain Australia’s favourable animal health status and for the early detection of animal disease emergencies. Emergency animal diseases are a significant threat to animal industries, and veterinarians are key to Australia’s surveillance capacity.

Dr Parker reminds us that true preparedness involves investment at the border and in response capability in the case of an incursion. We don’t have to look too far back into history for a costly example. The equine influenza outbreak in 2007-08 cost Australian governments over $370 million in response activities and industry assistance. It also cost a further $1.5 billion in indirect costs to the horse industry and the Australian economy.

“This is dwarfed by the prospect of a foot and mouth disease outbreak in Australia, which has been estimated to cost at least $7 billion and up to $16 billion depending on our ability to deal quickly with the outbreak. This could blow out to as much as $50 billion over 10 years in costs to industry.

“Effective disease surveillance and response capabilities embedded within Australia’s agricultural systems will mean the difference between a manageable outbreak and a catastrophic impact on our important livestock industries,” said Dr Parker.

“The Government has made a strong commitment to activities at the border. It is essential that the commitment to ensuring response capabilities and preparedness is equally as strong,” Dr Parker said.

References:

  1. http://www.agriculture.gov.au/abares/research-topics/agricultural-commodities

For further information and requests for interviews contact the AVA media office on 0439 628 898 or media@ava.com.au.

The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) is the only national association representing veterinarians in Australia. Founded in 1921, the AVA today represents 9000 members working in all areas of animal science, health, and welfare.