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More calls to close border with Indonesia

Liv CasbenAAP
An outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, detected in Indonesia, would cost Australia $80 billion. (AP PHOTO)
Camera IconAn outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, detected in Indonesia, would cost Australia $80 billion. (AP PHOTO) Credit: AP

Livestock transporters want the Australian border with Indonesia temporarily closed until foot and mouth is contained on the archipelago.

Mathew Munro, from the Australian Livestock and Rural Transporters Association, told a senate hearing into the adequacy of Australia’s biosecurity any outbreak of the highly contagious livestock disease would be “devastating” for the whole agricultural industry.

“An Indonesian outbreak cannot yet be declared under control and we would support a temporary closure of the Australian-Indonesia border to all unnecessary passengers, mail and cargo,” Mr Munro told the inquiry.

“We recognise that many Australians love a Bali holiday but there’s just too much at stake to risk our domestic livestock industries.”

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The senate hearing moved to the cattle country region of Rockhampton in Queensland on Tuesday to focus on foot and mouth disease, which was detected in Indonesia earlier this year.

Foot and mouth re-emerged on the archipelago in May, while the potentially deadly lumpy skin disease was detected there in March.

Australia has since stepped up its biosecurity measures including risk profiling travellers from Indonesia and introducing disinfectant foot mats at airports.

It’s estimated an outbreak in Australia would cost the livestock industry $80 billion.

But Mr Munro said that was an underestimate.

“That’s only direct impacts that really doesn’t include the impacts on our industry,” he told the inquiry.

The border closure call was one of 10 recommendations made by the federation which represents about 700 road transport businesses servicing agriculture.

However, cattle producers warned against any border closure.

“My real concern in all of this is if we shut this industry down even for a short period of time, we are at risk of the ongoing viability of this industry into the future,” central Queensland beef producer David Hill said on Tuesday.

Cattle producers told the inquiry they had already been impacted, with international customers asking if they needed to source meat from elsewhere because they thought foot and mouth had reached Australia.

Earlier the inquiry was told there is no need for panic around Australia’s biosecurity system.

Meat and Livestock Australia managing director Jason Strong told the inquiry it was important not to create unnecessary panic.

“Let’s go as hard as we possibly can to continue to improve what we have and I think that’s the lesson but we can do that without unnecessary concern,” he said.

Senator Susan McDonald said she was concerned over the failings in Australia’s biosecurity system.

“We’ve got fire ants, we’ve got yellow crazy ants ... we’ve got a whole range of things that have incurred,” she said.

“The fact that we don’t have foot and mouth is one that we haven’t.

“I think we have to be very cautious about claiming that we have a strong wall of security when the evidence would not support that.”

The head of LiveCorp, the research and development arm of the live export industry, told the hearing closing the border would have a significant lasting impact.

“I think something like shutting the borders down ... obviously it’s a significant action which would have significant lasting ... ramifications,” Wayne Collier said on Tuesday.

Mr Collier told the inquiry the live export industry had been trading for many years to countries with exotic diseases, including parts of the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

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