IMPROVED compliance with biosecurity measures among returned passengers from Indonesia has been reported by the Federal Government, as Victorian farmers and Opposition politicians organise a march for more action on Foot and Mouth Disease measures.
The positive compliance reports follow the Albanese government last week establishing Biosecurity Response Zones at international airports in response to the Indonesian outbreak of FMD.
The Director of Biosecurity, and Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Andrew Metcalfe established the zones on Friday afternoon for the first time under section 365 of the Biosecurity Act 2015.
Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said had been concerned about rare reports that some return travellers were not doing the right thing when returning from Indonesia.
“These zones strengthen and widen the powers of biosecurity officers to direct passengers to use foot mats and other biosecurity control measures such as the cleaning of shoes.
The Albanese Government said its strong measures to keep FMD out of Australia continue to ramp up, with all passengers returning from Indonesia being risk assessed by border officials.
This led to nearly 3700 travellers more intensively being assessed or questioned by biosecurity officers in Melbourne Airport on Saturday alone.
Border biosecurity officials have told the government that rates of undeclared FMD risk items and undeclared contaminated footwear was also drastically down compared with last week.
The increased compliance comes as airports that receive direct flights from Indonesia will begin to roll out sanitisation foot mats this week, the government said.
Darwin, Adelaide, Perth, Sydney and Melbourne Airports have all taken delivery of the foot mats with some having started testing them prior to use, with other airports expected to follow in the coming days.
The stronger measures at airports are also being matched by stronger measures in mail centres. All mail incoming from Indonesia and China is now being screened for meat products, as another new action to keep Australia FMD-free.
The government said it is important to remember that the foot mats are not a silver bullet to keep FMD out of Australia, but provide another layer of protection in addition to measures already imposed.
Last week it was announced that viral fragments of FMD were detected in a pork floss product imported from China and on sale in Melbourne. Viral fragments were also found in an undeclared beef product at the Adelaide airport, brought in by a returning passenger from Indonesia.
The government said Australia remains FMD-free “and Australian meat is not only safe to eat, but delicious too.”
Mr Watt it is great to see our message getting through to travellers about the seriousness of this disease overseas.
“It is not hard to make the right declarations when coming back from Bali and our $80 billion agriculture industry relies on people doing the right thing.
“Passengers entering from Indonesia need to know that our operations, both overt and covert, are assessing you and anyone caught doing the wrong thing will be fined,” he said.
“As we have said all along, we believe the greater risk of FMD getting into Australia is via incorrectly or illegally labelled meat products from overseas.
“We have now increased our surveillance of mail from Indonesia and China so that every parcel is screened and so we can identify any potential biosecurity risks,” Mr Watt said.
“All up, our new measures mean we have the strongest response to a biosecurity threat in Australian history.
“We will continue to put more measures in place, in line with expert biosecurity advice, to keep this disease out.”
Victorian FMD action rally planned
A ‘Rally For a Response’ is planned for 11.30am, Wednesday July 27th, at the Colac Memorial Square to fight for more government action to prevent FMD getting to Australia.
Rally organiser and dairy farmer from Alvie, Peter Delahunty, said the rally symbolises the mounting regional anxiety.
“Farmers are feeling left-out and isolated in the silence emanating from Canberra and Spring St – and firmly believe not enough action is being taken.
“Wednesday’s rally is a siren to those in Government that fear is palpable among farmers and they want leadership from the political master class,” he said.
Liberal Member for Western Victoria, Bev McArthur, said Victorian farmers are losing faith in the federal or state governments to act with the urgency required.
“In Victoria, the Government’s policy to allow campers on riverfront Crown land leases must end. The biosecurity risk is simply too great.
“This disease will also be spread by feral animals, such as pigs and deer, in our national and state parks,” she said.
Liberal Member for Polwarth, Richard Riordan, said Colac is home to the Australian Lamb Company, and Bulla, which produces 80 percent of Australia’s processed fresh dairy products.
“Just down the road at Warrnambool is Midfield Meats – another giant of Victoria’s cattle and sheep processing capacity as well as the dairy industry,” he said.