Border closure calls amid biosecurity risk

There are calls to close the border with one of Australia’s biggest trade partners amid warnings a single case of foot and mouth disease could halt the export industry overnight.

Opposition MPs Barnaby Joyce and Karen Andrews called on the government to consider shutting the border to Indonesia.

The government must do whatever it takes to guarantee foot and mouth disease does not enter the nation, Ms Andrews said.


“Let’s not run the risk of foot and mouth disease coming into Australia,” she told Sky News on Thursday.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt on Wednesday announced further biosecurity measures after viral fragments of the disease and African swine fever were detected in pork products at a Melbourne retailer.

A beef product being carried by a traveller was also recently seized at an Australian airport and later tested positive for viral fragments of foot and mouth disease.

While Australia remains free of the livestock disease, it has recently been detected in popular tourist destination Bali.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the country needs to hear from the prime minister on the issue.

“Australians need to hear that the prime minister is in charge of what is a very significant threat to our livestock industry into the broader economy,” he told Sydney radio 2GB.

“We really need to hear from the prime minister today about what extra steps have been put in place, what additional support they’re putting in our borders.”

Senator Watt is urging travellers to take responsibility, clean their shoes and declare all meat products when arriving in Australia.

As an extra precaution travellers from Indonesia should throw their shoes away before boarding a plane, Mr Joyce said.

“You might say that’s outrageous,” he told Melbourne radio 3AW.

“I tell you what will be outrageous is when you go to pay for your shopping bill and instead of the big shop being $300 or $400, its six, seven or eight hundred dollars.”

Mr Joyce also called for the Australian government to send agriculture students to Bali to carry out a mass vaccination campaign or buy its 2000-head cattle herd with public money and destroy them.

An immediate three-day standstill on livestock movements would be implemented if the disease were to reach Australia, Senator Watt said.

“There is a comprehensive plan that’s been developed over a number of years between federal and state governments about how we manage outbreaks … (including) movement controls.”

A compensation scheme for farmers would also be put in place.

But the minister said his focus was making sure an outbreak never reached Australian shores.

“I feel very confident that Australia’s world-leading biosecurity system stands us in very good stead to resist this outbreak arriving,” he said.

Sanitation mats are being deployed at international airports for travellers from Indonesia to walk over in an effort to stop the disease entering Australia on their shoes.

Senator Watt met with his state and territory counterparts on Wednesday to discuss further biosecurity measures.

A proposal by the NSW government to develop a national, industry-led mandatory sheep and goat electronic identification system was discussed.

It would allow livestock to be individually traced in the event of an outbreak.

© AAP 2022