The government will establish an expert biosafety task force to bolster the country’s defenses against a devastating outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.
Agriculture Minister Murray Watt announced on Thursday that the exotic animal preparedness task force will be established with officials from the Australian Defense Force, Australian Border Force and Animal Health Australia.
“By bringing together the best expertise from across government, we can ensure that everyone understands their role and responsibilities should there be an outbreak and that there are no gaps in our response,” Senator Watt told reporters in Canberra.
“It will work closely with states, territories and industry to ensure we are all fully prepared should an outbreak occur.”
He said the task force would get to work immediately and conduct a series of scenario-based exercises within a month.
The new measure complements the rolled out sanitation floor mats at every international Australian airport and strengthened powers for biosecurity officers screening arriving travelers following a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in Indonesia.
Australia is currently free of the disease that affects livestock.
Senator Watt said the government didn’t want to make the same mistakes its predecessor made in its response times to national emergencies.
“They were too slow with vaccines, too slow with RATs and Australians paid the price,” he said.
“We can do better than that by being fully prepared. If there were to be a major biosecurity outbreak in Australia, there would simply be no time for delay…good governments plan for the best and prepare for the worst.”
Senator Watt said vaccines pledged to Indonesia to help contain the disease outbreak are expected to get off the ground “very soon”.
He said defense personnel would help with logistics and planning.