More effective biosecurity needed in face of high risk, says PRA

Shay Dougall, PRA, 28/07/2022

This position statement has taken note of the statements by Bali resident and long-time cattle industry vet Dr Ross Ainsworth.  He believes that the risk of foot and mouth disease entering Australia is now 50-50.

PRA chair Shay Dougall

It is far better to stop Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD) entering Australia against the mammoth task of eradication which will conservatively cost the economy $80-100 Billion. Additionally, it should not be forgotten the risk of Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) also entering Australia from Indonesia.

On Friday 22nd July the Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt enacted a Biosecurity Response Zone for travellers returning from Indonesia. Introduced in the 2015 Biosecurity Act, Biosecurity Response Zones make it mandatory for biosecurity measurers to be followed.

Bali is a very popular Australian tourist destination and contact with animals in Bali is inevitable. It is just one giant farm according to Dr Ross Ainsworth. Even if tourists don’t visit a farm or the markets, just by walking around temple grounds, the road or the footpath, visitors, although unaware, have likely stepped in faeces or have infected soil, dirt, or residue on their clothes and especially their shoes.

Data gathered by Stuart Austin clearly shows a very high risk profile, with an average of 118 inbound flights per week of passengers returning from Bali, and the only country in the top 20 without FMD under control.

“Dr Ainsworth’s major concern has been the lack of foot baths at airports. “When an animal is infected, it can be shedding virus on to the footpath out in front of your villa for up to four days before showing any clinical signs. You can be into the taxi and in Darwin in four hours,”

Note that he talks about “foot baths”, not sanitisation foot mats being introduced by the Federal Government.

It should be mandatory that people returning from Biosecurity Response Zones use foot baths (preferably) or sanitisation foot mats and have their luggage inspected, with close attention paid to footwear, soiled clothing, equipment and any food products.

Fines for banned food products should be increased.

Usually, the greatest biosecurity risk is food product in luggage or being sent in parcels. Sniffer dogs must be in every airport and international mail centre. If they are unavailable some airports must be closed to travellers from high risk centres such as this biosecurity response zone.

Every traveller from a Biosecurity Response Zone must be screened. Forget about an honesty system. They aren’t declaring these food products because they fully intend to bring them in. Bali presents a high risk.

On flights to Bali or to a Biosecurity Response Zone, passengers should be provided with information about how devastating FMD would be in Australia.  Advise that before they come home, that clothes are washed and shoes scrubbed. Some passengers may have equipment that has contacted soil or sand. Recommendation is made of wearing cheap footwear at the destination & disposing of them before coming home.

With the FMD virus’ ability to live in a human nasal passages for 24 to 48 hours, everyone returning from a country with FMD should quarantine for a minimum of two days in the city of arrival making no contact with cloven foot animals or farm land.

Our Farm biosecurity plans should be amended to restrict access to the property to a minimum of 7 days post being in a Biosecurity Response Zone.

It is in Australia’s interest to provide generous aid to Indonesia to control FMD. This aid should also involve vaccination teams to help get the Bali cattle herds vaccinated. Greg Pankhurst as costed a plan to bring the Bali outbreak under control at $32 million.

“32 million in one year might sound a lot but if you look at it as an insurance policy to prevent FMD coming to Australia at a cost of $32 billion suggesting a benefit-cost ratio of 1,000, that looks like money well spent. Rome is burning and the fire is in the house next door. We need to do more than offer our neighbour a bucket of water or our house will surely catch fire next. A lot more action is required urgently.”

The advice to the Minister has been questionable. Response has not been timely. Even promised measures are not yet being effectively implemented.  In these circumstances it is quite reasonable that farmers continue to call for the closing of borders until such time the government can demonstrate that risk management actions are effective and reliable.

Therefore it is unfortunate that it is necessary to call for the Australian government to, having provided the Indonesian government notification before any public statement is made, a temporary ban be placed on Australian tourists and non-essential travel to Bali until the FMD and LSD threats are under control.


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  1. Jim Litchfield, 30/07/2022

    The obvious step is to close borders with Indonesia or at the very least Bali. In the absence of that each passenger entering Australia should sign a
    declaration they will not be in contact with cloven footed animals or visit non urban areas for whatever the appropriate time is. Severe penalties if in breach.

    • Garrey Sellars, 05/08/2022

      yes with legal consequence like covid but much more serious

  2. GARRY HEDGER, 29/07/2022

    Well said Shay Dougall, Your last comment is what this government should be implementing.Its time to stop talking about it and do it. Close the borders help Bali and Indonesia get FMD under control and then when the time is right reopen. Indonesia is already cancelling imports so they should understand the closures so we can all work together. Not all people returning home to Oz from either country can be trusted to declare so close the borders.

  3. Rob Atkinson, 29/07/2022

    How can we afford to ignore the advice from Ainsworth and Pankhurst.
    Shut the border and enact their plan. Simple.
    Stop playing Russian Roulette with our industry!

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