Recent threats are again highlighting the critical need for Australia to vigilantly maintain a robust biosecurity system. It feels like the threats are coming thick and fast at the moment and we must all work together to protect our industries, the health of our communities and our nation's economic security.
In February, Japanese encephalitis was detected and confirmed in piggeries in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales and by March cases were detected in South Australia. There are now more than 70 infected piggeries across the four states.
Lumpy skin has also raised its head. Originally limited to Africa, since 2019 the disease has spread through China and south east Asia. In March it was officially reported by Indonesia on the island of Sumatra, and in Singapore.
Until recently, Australia was one of the few countries in the world to remain free of varroa mite but an outbreak in NSW has occurred with controlled border movements now in place to try to contain the spread. We have all been reminded of the critical role bees play in agriculture in the form of pollination.
In May, an outbreak of the dreaded foot-and-mouth disease was reported in cattle in Indonesia and confirmed cases of infection have continued to rise since. FMD is a highly contagious animal disease that affects cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. If this virus spreads to Australia there will be severe consequences not only for our animal health, trade, agricultural industries but also for the broader community.
The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is currently assisting in Indonesia to try to contain the outbreak and is ramping up protection and detection measures on Australia's northern perimeter. Some of the new measures include biosecurity detector dogs in Darwin and Cairns airports, additional signage, flyers at major airports, informing travellers of FMD risk and precautions, social media campaigns informing travellers of their biosecurity responsibilities, additional training of airport biosecurity staff, and boarding by biosecurity officers on arriving flights from Indonesia.
Amid all the additional actions and collective concern, there are reports of passengers who have falsely declared or don't declare all their movements, while they have been in Indonesia. To those of us who understand the seriousness of the situation, this beggars belief.
Biosecurity is everybody's responsibility. If you are returning to Australia from travelling overseas, particularly Indonesia at this time, you have a responsibility to make yourself aware of the requirements and follow procedures to do your bit to keep Australia safe.
QFF continues to call for a long-term commitment to developing and maintaining strong biosecurity measures including significant, adequate investment and ongoing capacity building at national, state and regional levels.
QFF will continue to work with all levels of government to ensure biosecurity is prioritised but let's remember that we all have a role to play in this. We must all help protect our industries, our environment, and our way of life through keeping informed, following procedures, taking responsibility and remaining vigilant with a focus on prevention and early detection.
As the federal Ag Minister and NFF president prepare to travel to Indonesia, QFF offers our support to all levels of government in actioning every possible option available to work to keep FMD out of Australia.
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