August 1, 2022


Mr TEHAN (Wannon) (17:13): I rise to speak in support of this motion because communities right across regional and rural Australia are deeply, deeply concerned about the possibility of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak and the devastating impact that it would have in communities right across regional and rural Australia. More than anything, I implore the government, and I implore the Prime Minister not to play politics with this issue. It is too important to have the government playing politics. So, when you're asked questions about this—and we saw this, sadly, from the Prime Minister in question time—don't go back to misquoting part of a tweet. Actually, engage with everyone in the parliament who is asking questions about this because our communities need those questions answered so they can get the surety that they are looking for.

Last Wednesday, over 120 farmers and people involved in the agricultural industry right across the board gathered in Colac in my electorate because they fundamentally wanted questions answered. They want to know how quickly the government is going to move to address this issue. The Prime Minister announced in early June that they were going to be providing vaccines to Indonesia. When will the vaccines arrive? How quickly will they be distributed? When will all food—all food—coming from Indonesia be banned? We know the risk is there when it comes through packages. But there is also the risk that it can come through luggage. So why isn't all luggage being screened? Why aren't we addressing that? Why aren't we offering to provide the 3-D screening technology to Indonesia, and why aren't we saying to them, 'We want to work with you to make sure that that's being put in place'?

It's very simple stuff that would make a world of difference. That would then enable us to say to regional and rural communities that everything is being done to make sure we are being protected from foot-and-mouth disease. The ag industry, and the farmers in my communities, are so concerned by this that they have called for a temporary closure of the border while all these measures are put in place. They are so concerned that they want a temporary closure of the border so that they know that these measures are being put in place. To reassure them, we've got to make sure we are talking to them and informing them of what is taking place.

Previous members, who have spoken in this debate have referred to the question that was asked by the member for O'Connor of officials: what would be the impact of foot-and-mouth disease on our ability to trade? Well, it would shut down our ability to trade for 72 hours. But our ability to get back to normal trading, on a best-case scenario, would be two years. That is how serious this issue is. And that's why regional and rural Australia in particular is so concerned about it, and that's why this motion is so important. I say to the government: these measures are being put in place. We need to be informed of how quickly they're being put in place, and we're not, and we're crying out for that information to be provided.

But the most important thing that we need answered: we have seen the likelihood of the threat of FMD go from nine per cent to 11 per cent. These measures are being put in place. When can you inform regional and rural Australia that these measures are seeing that risk profile come down? When can we go to them and say that these measures that are being put in place are reducing the risk of an FMD outbreak? We've seen it go from nine per cent to 11 per cent. When will it start trending down? At this stage, we have no idea because there is no communication on this fundamental question. Are the measures that are being put in place actually doing anything to lower the risk of an FMD outbreak in Australia? That needs to be answered.

Media contact | Cate Mercer-Grant 0408 564 232