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Equine influenza inquiry resumes today

November 12, 2007

The formal Commission of Inquiry into the equine influenza outbreak in Australia resumes today in Sydney.

Inqury head Justice Callinan has sat twice before. The first hearing, on October 3, primarily involved procedural matters and an outline of evidence given by counsel assisting the inquiry, Tony Meagher.

Further procedural matters were dealt with last Thursday.

Mr Meagher told the inquiry last week: "Since 3 October, inquiry staff have interviewed more than 150 persons with a view to taking statements or calling them to give oral evidence and have conducted in excess of a further 100 interviews for the purpose of collecting information."

He said more than 30,000 documents have so far been provided to the inquiry and more are sought.

Today's first witness will be Dr James Gilkerson, who is the director of the Equine Infectious Disease Laboratory at the University of Melbourne.

"Dr Gilkerson will deal with the nature of the disease, how it is spread, the role that vaccination plays and the ways in which it might be detected ...

"I then propose to call three witnesses from AQIS [quarantine services]. The first is Jenni Gordon, who is the executive manager, quarantine with AQIS. She is the principal operating officer responsible for the activities of AQIS.

"The next person I will call is David Ironside, who is the national manager, live animal imports and post-entry animal quarantine programs of AQIS. Each of those persons operates from Canberra.

"I then propose to call Julie Sims, who is the assistant regional manager of the AQIS New South Wales office, who is directly responsible for the quarantine activities in New South Wales and specifically the activities of the Eastern Creek Quarantine Station.

"I expect that each of those witnesses may be recalled towards the end of the inquiry after evidence as to the way in which matters unfolded has been given in order to put various matters which are the subject of evidence, so that the principal purpose for calling these witnesses at this point in time is to have them identify the structure of AQIS and explain what the procedures were, how they were implemented, how they were audited, etc."

The hearing begins at 10am Sydney time.



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