opinion

Ben O’Shea: Bali travellers need to wake up to foot and mouth disease threat from undeclared food

Headshot of Ben O'Shea
Ben O'SheaPerthNow
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VideoFears for foot and mouth disease prompt urgent action at Aussie zoos.

There’s an old saying in government: You can’t legislate against stupid.

A government can bring in the toughest laws in the world to stop drink driving, or to prevent people from using their phones in the car, but there’ll always be a few idiots who just don’t get the message.

And why is that?

Because some people are just plain dumb.

Which is exactly why Aussie farmers are quaking in their Blundies right now about foot and mouth disease — because preventing it from getting into Australia will really depend on the behaviour of people coming in from Bali.

So, straight away, you’re talking about a cohort in which rocket scientists are probably not overrepresented, but an incident in Darwin last week has revealed the true extent of the problem.

How much coverage do you think foot and mouth has got in the media over the past month?

A bloody lot, is the correct answer, so you’d think by now that the message to returning travellers was pretty clear — if you’re arriving from Bali you could be bringing in a disease that could destroy a multi-billion-dollar livestock industry.

Heck, it’s already dented the political career of Alannah MacTiernan, and she didn’t even go to Bali.

But, despite all the rhetoric from the authorities, the concern from farmers and the warnings from biosecurity officers, some numpty in Darwin allegedly arrived from Bali and failed to declare two sausage and egg McMuffins and a ham croissant they had hidden away in their backpack.

Even doubling the fine will not stop morons from thinking new foot and mouth restrictions somehow don’t apply to them.

Authorities allege this backpacker provided a false and misleading customs document, presumably thinking smuggling a couple of McMuffs into the NT was an Ocean’s Eleven-level heist, but was caught out by Darwin Airport’s new biosecurity sniffer dog.

Anyone who has eaten McDonald’s in their car knows the smell hangs around for days, so it would’ve been the easiest bust of the sniffer dog’s nascent career.

A staff member from the Animal Health Center wearing protective suit gives a dose of vaccine to a cow during a foot-and-mouth disease FMD nationwide livestock vaccination program in Karanganyar, Central Java, Indonesia, July 1, 2022. (Photo by Bram Selo/Xinhua via Getty Images)
Camera IconA staff member from the Animal Health Center wearing a protective suit gives a dose of vaccine to a cow during a foot-and-mouth disease vaccination program in Indonesia. Credit: Xinhua News Agency/Xinhua News Agency via Getty Ima

As an FYI, there are five Macca’s restaurants within a 20-minute drive from Darwin Airport, which makes McMuffins even easier to come by than KFC in Casuarina Prison (IYKYK).

So, you’d have to say this criminal enterprise was probably not worth the $2664 fine the person copped.

Now, you might be thinking that’s a pretty hefty deterrent, but clearly it didn’t stop this person from breaking Australia’s biosecurity laws and forever rebranding the Breakfast of Champions into the Brunch of Buffoons.

That’s why you can say with absolute certainty that even doubling the fine will not stop morons from thinking new foot and mouth restrictions somehow don’t apply to them.

These donkeys will still attempt to bring in undeclared food and they’ll also try to slip through with mud on their shoes, because doing the right thing seems like an unnecessary inconvenience.

When you can’t trust some people to do the basics of being a good citizen — or a half-decent backpacker in this instance, which is a very low bar to clear — you can’t blame authorities for taking matters into their own hands.

No one wants to live in a nanny state, but the fact is some of us need a nanny, because we’re too stupid to follow the rules.

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