I rise to speak in support of the Livestock Disease Control Amendment Bill 2016.
This bill represents a further amendment to the Livestock Disease Control Act 1994 and provides for a number of consequential amendments across a range of various areas, including to the provisions relating to vendors declarations.
It is worth looking at the purpose of the principal act in considering the amendments here today.
The main purpose of the primary act was to provide for the prevention, monitoring and control of livestock diseases and to provide compensation for losses due to certain livestock diseases.
On researching this bill, it appears that the original act was introduced in 1994 following a national review of Australian legislation back in 1989 relating to the incursions into this country of exotic diseases. One of the main purposes was to achieve uniformity throughout Australia, across all the states and territories. That was seen as a very desirable thing, and of course it is.
I note from a reading of the original second-reading speech that the 1994 legislation was also designed to consolidate five other pieces of legislation that existed in this area. The issue of disease control in our agricultural industries is of major importance and was one of the drivers for the passage of the original consolidating legislation. There have been numerous amendments over the following years to ensure that the legislation is up to date. Back in 1994, it is to be noted that the first account of the Hendra virus in horses was when it was identified in Queensland, which has continued to be a major source of concern.
The original bill was also designed to strengthen the identification process for livestock so as to enable tracing of animals across the country. This leads me to the new section 8A(1), which requires an owner of livestock to make a vendor declaration as to the movement of the livestock before it is moved from one property to another. Penalties are applied for failure to do so.
Section 8A(2) sets out the requirements in relation to the information that must be contained in a vendor statement. The requirement for a vendor declaration appears to have been inserted by amendment over the years, and we now have a new definition of what is required. The vendor statement provides for the provision of a range of required information, including the property identification code that identifies the property from which the livestock are to be removed and the date on which the livestock are to be moved, the number of livestock being moved, the name and signature of the person making the declaration and the intended destination of livestock and any other prescribed particular. So we can see that this is regarded as a very important factor in tracing, monitoring and seeing where our livestock are throughout the country.
Here in Australia we have a number of diseases to be very concerned about. Firstly, let me talk about anthrax. It has been recognised as a disease in Australia for over 150 years, and it causes sudden death in animals, particularly sheep and cattle. A dairy cow in my electorate died from it just last year, in the region of Tatura. It is a disease that is also transmissible to humans, and in our local health service we have an isolation room which indeed had to be used to isolate a farm worker who was thought to be infected at the time with the disease.
Another major disease that arises in agricultural areas is bovine Johne’s disease. It is a fatal wasting disease of cattle, goats, alpaca and deer — I hope my friend over there’s alpaca does not have that disease. Bovine Johne’s disease is far more common in dairy herds then in beef herds. It is a disease that can have severe economic impacts if it is left uncontrolled. In Victoria around 25 per cent of dairy herds are known to be infected but fewer than 2 per cent of beef herds.
The Hendra virus, as I have said, is a real worry. While it has been confined to Queensland at the moment, steps are always being taken to ensure that it does not travel throughout our country. It is legislation like this that will trace and track where animals are going.
Foot-and-mouth disease is something that has been in other countries and has had devastating effects. The Leader of The Nationals talked about that in his speech on this matter. We desperately try to keep it out of our country. It would have devastating impacts on the economy of our region if an outbreak occurred here. The feeding of swill to pigs is referred to in this legislation. We have 23 million feral pigs in this country — almost the same as our population. That is something that causes our quarantine and biosecurity people a lot of angst, because there is concern that if certain products are put into the food chain of these wild pigs, it could create a circumstance where foot-and-mouth disease is introduced into this country.
There are also provisions that relate to the publication of notices in full; they are all provisions that protect our agricultural industries in Australia. Again I will repeat what others have said: biosecurity generally in this country is of utmost importance to protect not only our agricultural industries but horticulture as well. We have seen concerns about fire blight, with big rallies in my electorate over recent years to protect our apple and pear industry. For these reasons, this sort of legislation is very important, and I support the bill.