The state opposition says Agriculture Minister Gayle Tierney has refused to make public its plans for ensuring Victoria is prepared for a foot and mouth Disease outbreak.
Nationals Eastern Victoria MP Melina Bath said Ms Tierney's empty words to state parliament were cold comfort for producers who were staring down the barrel of an outbreak, which could decimate the state's livestock industry.
"While the industry is searching for answers, the government reverts to type and hides behind spin, rather than delivering outcomes desperately needed by livestock producers," Ms Bath said.
"Ms Tierney did not answer whether she would table a plan, instead insisting the government has 'acted to significantly improve Victoria's preparedness in line with the recommendations' of Operation Odysseus.
"Even a small FMD outbreak would cost Victoria $5-6 billion, according to the CSIRO."
Mr Bath said she asked Ms Tierney whether she would release details Operation Odysseus, which comprehensively examined the threat of foot and mouth disease in Australia, in 2014-15.
Opposition Agriculture spokesman Peter Walsh said that the time for spin was well and truly over.
"With FMD on our doorstep, the government must implement the recommendations of Operation Odysseus and ensure that our industry is ready to fight any biosecurity incursion," Mr Walsh said.
"Victorian farmers need that information to be assured that Labor is doing everything possible to keep FMD out and to contain it if there is an outbreak."
Ms Tierney said the government had conducted a bipartisan briefing of all MPs on the disease, as it was a shared responsibility to ensure farmers were informed and able to implement best practice on-farm biosecurity.
A government emergency taskforce would take advice from Victoria's chief veterinary officer, Dr Graeme Cooke, who had extensive experience in biosecurity management, having had a leadership role in the UK during the foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks in 2001 and 2007.
Mr Tierney said she heard first-hand community concerns, whilst at Hamilton's Sheepvention, and assured those she spoke with authorities were working around the clock to protect Victoria.
Victoria was playing a big part by bolstering the biosecurity workforce to manage the potential social, economic and environmental impacts if the disease was to reach the state.
Ms Tierney said following the exercise, livestock standstill plans were created, including work on identifying the resources needed to implement the plans and developing training workshops for relevant staff.
The plans were continually being updated to meet changing industry conditions.
Ms Tierney said additional work to identify appropriate sites for holding and disposing of displaced livestock was well advanced, and significant training programs had been delivered in operations and incident management.
Meanwhile, Mr Walsh said the government was leaving farmers stranded, with its refusal to support the National Party in legislating common-sense changes to better protect licenced water frontage, and industry, from threats such as the current risk of FMD.
Mr Walsh said now was not the time to throw the gates open for public access to crown land bordering farms the length and breadth of the state's river systems.
He said his Private Member's Bill - the Land Amendment (Accessing Licensed Water Frontages) Bill 2022 - would put power over leased waterfront land back into the hands of farmers and allow them to maintain farm biosecurity.
But Labor used its numbers to knock the Bill on the head.
"We're currently facing one of the biggest threats to our livestock industry and these amendments are necessary to keep food on the table and our livestock industry functioning," he said.
The proposed amendments would authorise licenced holders to operate a biosecurity management plan on their entire property and require campers to obtain their permission to come onto the land.
They also allow the Minister - on the advice of the Chief Veterinary Officer or at the minister's discretion - to restrict or prohibit access to, and camping on, any licensed water frontage if they reasonably believe it is necessary to do so in the interests of Victoria's biosecurity, public safety, and/or animal welfare.
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