April 22, 2008

The final report from the Commission of Inquiry into Australia's equine influenza outbreak is scheduled to be released on Friday.

Horse-related industries have been keenly awaiting the report in the hope it will add weight to any claims against the federal government for loss of income as a result of the flu outbreak last August.

Quarantine services are a federal responsibility in Australia and it is widely expected that the report from Commissioner Ian Callinan will point to shortcomings in its operation.

Counsel assisting the commissioner, Tony Meagher, in a wide-ranging 191-page submission at the end of the evidence in the inquiry, submitted that even the most rudimentary of biosecurity precautions at Eastern Creek quarantine centre, near Sydney, would most likely have prevented its spread into the general horse population.

Such measures would have included, at a minimum, people having contact with the horses in the equine enclosure being required to shower and change their clothes before exiting the area, and to leave contaminated clothing and equipment in the quarantine station.

"That such a measure was not being implemented within the quarantine station in August 2007 is a serious failure by those within the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Sercice (AQIS), who were responsible for the management of quarantine risks and in particular the management of post entry quarantine arrangements."

Mr Meagher argued, that, on the evidence:

Horsetalk will be carrying a full report the inquiry's findings.