Legislative Council: Thursday, March 09, 2023



The Hon. S.L. GAME (14:43): I seek leave to make a brief explanation prior to addressing a question to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development on footrot.

Leave granted.

The Hon. S.L. GAME: Producers and stock agents have reported that South Australia's approach to managing footrot is resulting in sheep bypassing South-East saleyards to go to Victoria. In that state, footrot is not considered a notifiable disease and takes a buyer beware approach when purchasing sheep. Mount Gambier Combined Agents Chairman, Ben Jones, is reported in the Stock Journal as saying that PIRSA's intense monitoring is crippling their yardings and is actually a reactive rather than proactive approach.

It is resulting in dishonesty or avoidance by producers who are cautious of flagging potential cases of benign footrot due to onerous management plans that follow. For producers who are singled out and have their pens placarded, it can also result in mental anguish for the flocks' owners. Questions over the effectiveness of the current program have been raised, particularly as close to $1 million is being directed at the disease; however, detection numbers continue to increase.

Accessing a vaccine for the different strains of footrot can only be done in South Australia through the Chief Inspector of Stock and not through private veterinarians. It is also reported that PIRSA are discussing alternative biosecurity options with South Australian agents to alleviate the redirection of sheep sales from the state to Victoria. My questions to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development are:

1. What alternative biosecurity options are being considered to alleviate concerns over the bypassing of sheep from South-East saleyards to Victoria?

2. Has the government considered making footrot vaccines more widely accessible to producers, for example, through private veterinarians?

3. Has the minister considered whether a less strict regulatory regime enabling individual producers to manage the disease is a better approach?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (14:45): I thank the honourable member for her question and her interest in this matter. As members are no doubt aware, the member was formerly a veterinarian so no doubt has a particular interest in this.

I have met with agents in the South-East as well as other stakeholders about this matter. It is certainly well recognised that there is a concern that there is export, if you like—I do not mean to use that term wrongly—of animals into Victoria because of the changes in the way footrot is addressed between the two states. I have discussed this also informally with Livestock SA as well as raised it with my department.

There are contrary views. There are differing views around how footrot should be addressed. Certainly, in the South-East of the state, due to the usual weather conditions, it is more prevalent than it is in more dry parts of the state. Currently, to my knowledge, there are different views from producers as to whether the existing regime is appropriate because it is very much tailored to trying to arrest the spread of footrot or, as some producers are reporting in the South-East, whether they find it too onerous.

However, the issue of whether PIRSA were reactive was raised, and PIRSA have advised me that they certainly do not consider themselves to be reactive: they consider themselves to be undertaking the roles that they are required to undertake under the sheep industry funding scheme and the actions that that requires them to do. Also, they are involved in education around footrot: how to prevent it, how to recognise it and how to treat it and stop it spreading in the best ways that are available.

I think it is an important discussion. I have certainly raised the possibility of a review of it, which potentially would be led by industry, to see whether there are any different approaches that would address some of the issues that have been raised by the member and by stakeholders I have spoken to. I will be happy to update the house further as that information comes to hand.