I rise to speak on the Livestock Disease Control Amendment Bill as well. Firstly, can I say that I do not have a veterinary science or a medical background, but I did have the honour of working for the Australian Public Service Association. It was through the portfolios of the federal Department of Primary Industry and Energy and the quarantine services that I became quite familiar with the work that our members undertook. It is in that context that I first wish to acknowledge the hard work and commitment of the men and women who have provided this country with disease control regimes that are second to none compared with those of other countries. Whilst our geographic location as a nation protects us somewhat from disease having easy access to our borders, we have not been complacent. We have been vigorous and proactive to ensure that our country is protected from disease.
Many of us have actually grown up in a culture where quarantine processes and procedures were discussed and reinforced.
At primary school, protecting primary industry was drilled into our collective consciousness and remains there today, I would argue. Hence the continued support for organisations such as the CSIRO and the state and federal departments of primary industries. So it is in this light that we can continue to be vigilant. We know what is at stake. In the blink of an eyelid the meat industry, the poultry industry, the dairy industry — those very industries that are prominent in western Victoria — could be brought to their knees by a lack of procedure, a lack of education or just sheer carelessness.
Clearly animals can be affected by the spread of disease, which is what the Livestock Disease Control Amendment Bill attempts to deal with, but there are also primary producers, farmers, process workers, inspectors, supervisors and saleyard workers who are in the front line and who can be seriously affected by the spread of disease.
Overnight our export contracts can collapse and securing future markets can become much more difficult, all of which can have a significant impact on the Victorian and the nation’s economy that we will feel the effect of in years to come.
The amendments before us arose from an exercise that Mr Vogels mentioned. It was conducted in 2005 and was based on a hypothetical outbreak of avian influenza in Victoria. It was to test that our disease response systems were reliable and to ensure that we were prepared in the advent of a real situation such as that. The participants in the exercise from the Australian government were the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry; the Department of Health and Ageing; the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet; the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; the Department of Environment and Heritage; the Department of Transport and Regional Services; Food Safety Australia and New Zealand; Emergency Management Australia: and the Australian Animal Health Laboratory.
Participants from the states and territory governments were the Department of Primary Industry; state and territory departments of health; first ministers; Emergency Management Australia; and the Environment Protection Authority. Industry organisations that played an important role were the Australian Chicken Meat Federation; the Australian Egg Corporation; Free Range Egg and Poultry Australia; Game Bird Australia; and the Australian Poultry Industries Association. Other participants included Animal Health Australia, the Australian Poultry Cooperative Research Centre and the Australian Biosecurity Cooperative Research Centre. All in all there were about 1000 people who participated directly in the exercise.
The exercise identified some shortcomings in the act, which the bill provides for as follows: expanding the definition of fittings to include implements and items which have been in contact with livestock products; providing an inspector with the power to dispose of or destroy fittings and fodder when he or she suspects contamination; enabling the inspector to issue a disinfection notice when he or she believes that a vehicle, premises or place where livestock products are kept is infected with disease; and providing greater clarification on the source of milk that can be fed to pigs.
The bill also includes amendments to the compensation arrangements for tuberculosis in cattle, which was also mentioned by Mr Vogels. It also provides a vehicle for the national agreement to allow contributions to be made to the Cattle Compensation Fund by industry bodies and to require the minister to contribute to payments. This provision will come into effect when the relevant agreement is signed.
The amendments provide greater definition and clarification, they provide additional authority to inspectors and, I would argue, they streamline the compensation arrangements. I think there is general concurrence that these initiatives are important and worth while and will contribute to the control of livestock disease in this country. Industry supports the amendments to the act, and appropriate consultation has occurred.
I would also like to take this opportunity to raise another aspect, which is mentioned in section 2.5 of the evaluation report. It states that during the exercise international observers indicated that Australia may consider working with international bodies to further explore the capacity for developing countries to undertake similar exercises to test their procedures for controlling and/or eradicating disease. We all know that disease does not recognise geographical boundaries and working more closely with our neighbouring countries can only assist in controlling disease and prioritising and protecting our primary industries. The industry and the agricultural and health sectors at all levels of government need to be congratulated not just for participating in the exercise itself but for raising consciousness of the issue, for raising the bar on controlling disease, and for reinforcing the need for ongoing exercises and the need to update our response mechanisms to disease. I commend the amendments to the house and look forward to seeing ongoing work between industry and government into the future.