Nobody takes the threat posed by foot and mouth disease and lumpy skin disease more seriously than the livestock industries and the people whose livelihoods depend on maintaining our disease-free status.
It's the reason why industry and government work tirelessly to continually review the risks and the opportunities to strengthen our approach.
It's why Australia has some of the strictest biosecurity protocols in the world and industry has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to develop lifetime traceability systems in preparation for any exotic disease incursion.
And it's the reason why Australia has some of the most comprehensive and well-rehearsed plans in place to deal with an emergency disease outbreak, should we ever have to face that test.
While FMD has been a threat to our industry for over 100 years, its recent detection in Indonesia and Bali reinforces just how vigilant we must be.
Watching the news lately you'd be forgiven for thinking it was a 100pc certainty that FMD would be arriving on Australia's shores.
Let us be absolutely clear about one thing, it is not.
To help put the risk in context, last month the Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Risk Analysis undertook a structured expert judgment exercise for the Department of Agriculture which estimated an 11.6pc chance of an FMD outbreak within the next five years - that's up from 9pc a year earlier, before the virus was detected in Indonesia.
For good reason these figures remain deeply concerning to us all.
FMD is present in many countries worldwide, not just in Indonesia, but the changing biosecurity environment is driving us all to respond - industry and government.
That's why the red meat industry along with other impacted livestock sectors have formed an Industry Taskforce to ensure collaboration and coordination across all elements of prevention and planning. It's why we are in constant talks with federal and state governments and seeking reassurances that evidence-based science is being used underpin dialogue and decisions.
Industry and government must work with each other, not against each other.
Australia's biosecurity is too important to not get this right.
This is also the time to work collaboratively with our international neighbours, who need to manage this outbreak with our assistance, not our intervention.
That means the answer isn't to shut the borders. Nor does it mean fixating on measures in our airports that aren't being recommended by our best biosecurity experts. Nor does it mean spreading unnecessary fear and alarm in our community.
We are pleased to see the federal government has moved quickly to announce millions of new dollars to boost frontline biosecurity and industry preparedness.
Further funding will be used to provide technical expertise and support to Indonesia, Timor-Leste and PNG to assist their work in combatting livestock diseases. This also includes personnel and logistic support for the distribution of vaccines.
Importantly, border security measures are being ramped up to stop tourists bringing the disease in on their clothing or footwear. Maintaining FMD-free status is absolutely reliant on individuals doing the right thing and declaring where they have been, cleaning footwear and minimising contact with farm animals upon return.
Nobody is suggesting we stop there. Vigilance and preparedness are essential safeguards. We want to minimise the risk of incursion as much as possible, with effective systems in place to manage it if it does.
As we can never eliminate 100pc of the risk posed by FMD and LSD, arrangements are in place to allow for a rapid nationally coordinated response, including cost- sharing and compensation. Australia has advanced surveillance systems, agreements, and protocols in place to rapidly detect and respond to exotic disease incursions. These are detailed in the Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement and Ausvetplan, which are administered by Animal Health Australia.
Livestock producers also have a role to play. They are being asked to be prepared, vigilant and on the lookout.
A well-managed property with an up-to-date biosecurity plan is essential. Visit the Animal Health Australia website for resources and information to help you think about the practicalities on your farm and work out what you may need to put in place.
Talk to your staff and train them so they understand the farm biosecurity plan and can follow hygiene and disease recognition protocols.
Just as importantly, establish procedures for staff to report suspicions of disease through the emergency animal disease watch hotline.
Our industry is no stranger to challenges and meeting them head on. The Red Meat Advisory Council and members are united in our commitment to continue to work with the Australian government on the prevention of an incursion of emergency animal diseases in Australia.
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