Federal agriculture minister Joe Ludwig has written to his state and territory counterparts urging them to prioritise efforts to improve Australia’s Foot and Mouth Disease response systems, after an independent review identified weaknesses in existing contingency measures.
Earlier this year Senator Ludwig’s office commissioned former senior public servant and recently retired National Water Commission CEO Ken Matthews AO to undertake an independent review of Australian levels of preparedness for an FMD outbreak.
Mr Matthews' final report has not been publicly released but it is believed to have identified eleven key areas where the country’s capacity to effectively manage an FMD threat need to be improved.
Senator Ludwig’s office told Beef Central last week that Mr Matthew’s report would not be released until state and territory agriculture ministers had been given adequate time to consider it.
The Age newspaper recently reported that the review has found that Australia was not well positioned to adequately deal with a major outbreak, largely due to a lack of sufficient human resources to manage anything other than a small foot-and-mouth incursion.
It said departmental modelling predicted that losses over a 10 year period would range from $7.1 billion for a small three-month outbreak, to $16 billion for a large 12-month outbreak.
Senator Ludwigs’ office said the majority of the report was favourable, and acknowledged the many strengths of Australia’s existing biosecurity systems.
However it also identified weaknesses in existing management systems.
“The minister has now written to each of the state ministers outlining the fact we need to come to a national action plan in regard to bringing these areas up to standard, so if there was an FMD incident we would be able to cater for it,” a spokesperson for the minister told Beef Central.
“The report itself is still being considered by the States so we’re not in a position to release it, but it will be released.”
Beef Central understands the minister is seeking better federal, state and industry cooperation in areas such as the development of uniform policy on vaccination and traceability issues.
Australia has not had an FMD outbreak since 1872.