Australia

Anthony Albanese defends decision to leave borders open to Indonesia amid foot and mouth disease fears

Actions taken by the federal government in a bid to keep the devastating foot and mouth disease from infecting Australian livestock are the “strongest ever,” Anthony Albanese has declared. 
The prime minister defended the government’s position to keep the border with Indonesia open as the country battles an outbreak. 

Mr Albanese told Sky News “These are the strongest ever measures introduced by an Australian government ever in terms of biosecurity when it comes to foot and mouth disease.” 

“It’s important to note that Australia is foot and mouth disease free, that our products continue to be available to the world.” 
Earlier this week, Opposition MPs Barnaby Joyce and Karen Andrews called on the government to close the border to its northern neighbour.
Mr Albanese said the nation’s farming bodies backed his government on not banning flights, which would have a “severe” impact on the economy and trade.
“You don’t do that by just jumping to a position that the former government never, ever implemented,” he said. 
“No coalition government has implemented that strong measures that we have announced and put in place during this current current issue as it’s been rolled out.”
Travellers would be directed to comply with biosecurity measures, including removing their shoes or walking over sanitation mats, and be questioned by officers.

It’s the first time these Biosecurity Act powers have been used in Australia.

The Coalition has called for the border to close, and has criticised the speed the government has reacted with. 
Agriculture Minister Murray Watt on Friday authorised the establishment of biosecurity response zones across international airports where travellers arriving in Australia can be screened more thoroughly.
Senator Watt had also announced a $14 million package to help reduce the risk of disease spreading from Bali.

The disease is highly contagious and affects cattle, sheep, goats, camelids, deer and pigs.

A farmer leads his cows to be given vaccine against the highly infectious foot-and-mouth disease during a vaccination campaign in Denpasar, Bali. Source: AAP / Firdia Lisnawati/AP

The virus is carried by live animals and can present in meat and dairy products, soil, bones, untreated hides, vehicles and equipment used with farm animals.

Viral fragments of foot and mouth disease and African swine fever were detected in pork products at a Melbourne retailer last week.
The products were detected and seized in the Melbourne CBD as part of routine surveillance.

It’s understood to have been the first time viral fragments have been detected in a retail setting in Australia.

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