Japanese thorougbreds look likely to be back in Australia for the 2010 breeding season and spring racing carnival, a report suggests.
Direct imports from Japan have been banned since the Australian equine flu outbreak of 2007.
The disease entered Australia through a shipment of thoroughbreds from Japan.
Direct imports of horses from Japan remain blocked, despite Japan self-declaring its freedom from the disease, under World Organisation of Animal Health (OIE) guidelines, in July.
Professor Peter Shergold, in his latest report on his monitoring of the implementation of tougher biosecurity measures in Australia, says it is understandable that Biosecurity Australia has felt the need to "make haste slowly" in re-admitting horses from Japan.
"There has been a need to get a much better understanding of Japan's equine health status," Shergold said, "including details of the regime of vaccination, surveillance, epidemiological investigation and administrative compliance."
Shergold said it was not surprising that representatives of the Victorian racing industry have advocated strongly for the re-introduction of direct imports of horses from Japan as quickly as possible.
"Japanese horses have in the past added international status and quality to the Melbourne Spring Carnival, including the Melbourne Cup," Shergold said.
In 2006 Japanese horses finished first and second in the race.
Shergold said he understood an import risk analysis for horses from Japan is on schedule for completion by February, 2010.
"This being the case, I believe that it is now most sensible to ensure that consideration of access of horses from Japan be incorporated into this broader process.
"I am optimistic that, subject to agreement on appropriate procedures and documentation, the direct importation of horses from Japan should be possible to allow entry of horses direct from Japan for the 2010 southern hemisphere breeding season and Spring Racing Carnival."