Media Release

Australia renews commitment to international reserve to combat animal disease threats

4 June 2014

Australia has joined with Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States to renew formal arrangements as an international reserve of knowledgeable and experienced specialists to help combat animal health disease threats.

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, said many biosecurity risks potentially have huge financial consequences for Australian agriculture and our environment.

“Australia’s commitment to collaboration on animal health threats in such a broad partnership group is a huge boost to the effectiveness of a disease response,” Minister Joyce said.

“Foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) is by far the biggest exotic disease threat to Australia’s agricultural and livestock industries and all those producers and communities who rely on farming.

“A recent ABARES report found that an FMD outbreak could cost more than $50 billion to the Australian economy over a decade. Our effectiveness in responding to a major disease threat depends heavily on having the right resources in place.

“We have strong biosecurity controls in place to reduce the risk of FMD reaching our borders and good preparation to stamp it out in the unlikely event it makes it here, but we’re always looking for ways to strengthen our defences.

“A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to ensure international collaboration in the event of an exotic animal disease was first signed by the six countries in 2004, forming the International Animal Health Emergency Reserve.

“The existing MoU expires this year and the arrangements signed last week formalise collaboration and sharing of resources if a signatory country is affected by an animal health emergency.”

Australia’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Mark Schipp, joined other animal health representatives at the World Organisation for Animal Health meeting in Paris to sign the arrangement.

“We have a long history of co-operation in animal disease preparedness, particularly in FMD, with New Zealand and the other countries signing the arrangements. The signing in Paris affirms the importance of formal collaboration to manage biosecurity threats and is a big step forward,” Dr Schipp said.

“The new arrangements demonstrate a great willingness across many nations to ensure the prosperity of primary sectors over the world against the threat of exotic animal disease.”