'Solid progress' in Aussie biosecurity upgrades

December 13, 2009

Australia continues to make solid progress in implementing tougher biosecurity measures after the 2007 equine influenza outbreak, a fresh report reveals.

Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke has released the third independent report by Professor Peter Shergold.

Shergold is reporting to the government on progress in implementing changes recommended by Ian Callinan, who conducted a Commission of Inquiry into the outbreak.

The flu is estimated to have cost Australia up to $A1 billion.

"I am pleased to assure you that there continues to be solid progress," Shergold told the minister in his report.

He said he was pleased that several earlier concerns over "the burden of bureaucratic process" seems to have addressed, particularly in respect of paperwork that needs to be completed by non-quarantine personnel before gaining access to quarantine stations.

"The challenge, of course, is to keep administrative procedures to a minimum while continuing to ensure that the more rigorous horse importation regime ... is being monitored for compliance, reviewed for effectiveness and evaluated for further enhancement."

Burke, in his response to the report, reaffirmed his government's determination to finish implementing the Callinan reforms.

"Professor Shergold's report reassures me we're well advanced down that path."

Key reforms include upgrading horse quarantine facilities and undertaking an import risk analysis to review the circumstances under which horses are permitted to enter Australia.

Shergold was appointed to provide regular reports to the Government on the implementation of all 38 recommendations of the Callinan Inquiry.

Burke said he was particularly reassured by Shergold's assessment of new systems at Eastern Creek Quarantine Station, enabling staff to deal swiftly with any suspected exotic disease.

The new import risk analysis for horses is also on-track for completion early in 2010, meaning horse imports from Japan, which are critical for the Australian industry, could resume next year.

Burke said Shergold's report also identified good progress being made in facility upgrades - another priority area identified by the reforms.

All recommendations from the Callinan Inquiry are progressing as scheduled, with 32 recommendations implemented as of December 2009.