MS TIERNEY (Western Victoria—Minister for Training and Skills, Minister for Higher Education, Minister for Agriculture) (14:10): I rise to advise the house of the leadership being shown by the Andrews Labor government and Agriculture Victoria as we prepare for the escalating threat of foot-and-mouth disease. We have established an emergency animal disease planning task force to prepare and provide rapid response if an outbreak were to occur. The task force is co-chaired by Agriculture Victoria CEO Matt Lowe and emergency management commissioner Andrew Crisp AM, APM. They will take advice from Dr Graeme Cooke, Victoria’s chief veterinary officer, who has extensive experience in biosecurity management, having had a leadership role in the UK during the foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks in 2001 and 2007.
But let us be clear: foot-and-mouth disease is not present in Australia. I heard firsthand the concerns of the community whilst at Sheepvention in Hamilton over the weekend. I assured everyone that I met that we are working around the clock to protect Victoria. National biosecurity is top of mind, and Victoria is playing a big part by bolstering the biosecurity workforce to manage the potential social, economic and environmental impacts if this disease was to reach Victoria. Prevention and preparedness are this government’s absolute priority.
This government is focused on having a united and bipartisan approach to protecting livestock in Victoria. Yesterday we conducted a bipartisan briefing of all MPs, and it is our shared responsibility to ensure our farmers are informed and are able to implement best practice on-farm biosecurity. I am proud that Victoria leads the country in biosecurity management, and it is our shared duty to be united in our approach as we face this challenge together.