Destinations

Senator urges Bali flight suspensions to stop crisis of “biblical proportions”

A North Queensland senator is calling for a COVID-like border closure between Bali and Australia to stop the spread of foot and mouth disease.

Queensland senator Susan McDonald has urged the government to suspend flights from Bali to avoid an agricultural crisis of “biblical proportions”.

McDonald joins the growing number of politicians and representatives for the farming community voicing concerns over an outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) on the Indonesian island, which would have dire consequences on Australian livestock.

Last week the federal government increased biosecurity measures for flights from Indonesia to make sure travellers did not unwittingly bring the disease into Australia.

While FMD does not pose a risk to human health, it can be passed onto livestock from clothing or footwear and cause painful blisters in cattle, sheep, pigs and goats.

An outbreak could lead to a mass slaughter of livestock to eradicate the highly infectious disease, potentially costing Australia $80 billion.

“We saw a swift closing of borders with Covid, and I believe similar measures should be discussed for foot-and-mouth, and if not flight suspensions, then quarantine for returning passengers,” McDonald said.

“Some people will say this is an overreaction and will adversely affect the Indonesian economy, but the devastation of a foot-and-mouth outbreak in Australia would be widespread to not just producers but consumers and taxpayers as well.

“It is truly difficult to comprehend how bad this would be which is why it is critical that we do not allow FMD into Australia.”

As of last Wednesday, all passengers on flights from Indonesia are being assessed on arrival with high-risk passengers– those who have come into contact with livestock– facing additional screening.

Minister for Agriculture, Senator Murray Watt will meet with his Indonesian counterpart in Jakarta this week to support the country’s efforts to contain the spread of foot and mouth disease.

According to Watt, the visit was part of the Albanese Government’s two-pronged approach to combat the disease, strengthening biosecurity defences at home and supporting Indonesia to manage and contain the outbreak.

Watt has ruled out a travel ban between Bali and Australia, but told ABC Radio Brisbane that starting from Thursday every single plane that returns to Australia will have biosecurity officers board.

The minister said that extra measures such as foot baths would not be necessary, considering many travellers would be wearing thongs.

The National Farmers’ Federation has come up with a novel solution offering travellers discounts if they bin their shoes.

President of the National Farmers’ Federation, Fiona Simson said there has never been a “greater act of national service” than throwing your thongs in the bin.

“Foot and Mouth Disease loves to hitchhike on shoes. That means your dirty old holiday pluggers could be the thing that brings this disaster to our shores. Don’t risk it!” she said.

“Throw out those tired old thongs. Bin them at the airport or your hotel and post proof on social media, and we’ll help you buy a shiny new pair. It’s that simple.

Simson said this unprecedented step demonstrates how serious the situation is.

“I never thought we’d be helping people buy new shoes to keep my cattle safe, but here we are,” she said.

For those who aren’t ready to part with their shoes, Simson said a thorough clean is the next best thing.

“Before you pack your bag to come home, take the time to give your shoes a good clean – paying particular attention to any mud that might be caught in the tread.

“Taking that minute to clean your shoes could prevent a serious disaster back in Australia. Clean shoes are just a bonus.”


Image: iStock/Pande Putu Hadi Wiguna



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