Legislative Council: Tuesday, February 06, 2024


Emergency Animal Diseases

The Hon. M. EL DANNAWI (14:59): My question is to the Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development. Will the minister update the council about the rollout of South Australia's first rapid response units to combat animal disease and protect supply chains?

The Hon. C.M. SCRIVEN (Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development, Minister for Forest Industries) (15:00): I thank the honourable member for her question and her interest in this area. Members might recall that in late 2022 the Malinauskas Labor government, with the support of Livestock SA and the South Australian dairy industry, announced $6.8 million over four years to help South Australia combat the increased risk of emergency animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease, African swine fever and lumpy skin disease, amongst others.

In recent years, there have been notable detections of emergency animal diseases in neighbouring countries to Australia which demonstrates the heightened risk that our country faces and the need for additional investment. It was clear upon coming to office that there had been an underinvestment by the previous Marshall Liberal government into biosecurity in our state. Part of the $6.8 million allocation includes the purchase of emergency response units, including equipment for quarantine, sampling and decontamination.

I had the opportunity last week to join Livestock SA and the Acting Chief Veterinary Officer in South Australia in announcing that the Department of Primary Industries and Regions had taken ownership of three rapid response units that will now be deployed to various locations across the state, and which can be utilised in the event of an emergency animal disease outbreak. We know that an outbreak of an emergency animal disease, such as foot-and-mouth disease, would have a significant impact on our state economy, more so in regional communities where it is estimated that job losses of over 8,000 workers in the primary production sector could be expected.

Having a large-scale outbreak of a disease such as foot-and-mouth disease in Australia could have a direct economic impact of up to $80 billion over 10 years for the nation, and would see disruptions to our export markets, undermine domestic livelihoods and have broader economic and social impacts. In the event of an outbreak, a rapid response is absolutely critical to stop the spread and enable animal health workers to begin treatment, which is why the rapid response trailers will be based across South Australia to assist in an urgent and well-coordinated response.

The rapid response units will be based at Clare, Murray Bridge and Struan, and will be ready for immediate deployment to where they are needed. They can be used to investigate disease, protect and decontaminate staff, and are designed and equipped to support a team of up to 10 officers. It is also worth noting that they can be used as a mobile office, a forward command post or a staging area, and provide the necessary equipment to respond to other disease incidents across the state in a range of livestock species.

Of course, the rapid response units are just one component of the $6.8 million package to protect South Australia from emergency animal diseases. Other elements of the funding include the purchasing of mobile laboratory facilities in rural areas, training in response activities, and additional veterinarians and animal health staff for risk assessment and diagnostic coordination capacity for the regional veterinary workforce.

It is also important to note that these units will be used for training, so if people in the community in our regional areas do see the units it does not mean there has been an outbreak. It does not mean that there has been outbreak; it is part of the training and preparedness. I look forward to having the opportunity to update this place soon on the continued rollout of the emergency animal disease package that both livestock producers and regional South Australian communities will continue to benefit from.