Professor Peter Shergold AC
Centre for Social Impact
Australian School of Business Building
University of New South Wales
KENSINGTON NSW 2033
Dear Professor Shergold
Thank you for your letter received on 13 August 2010 enclosing your fifth and final report on the implementation of the Australian Government’s response to the Equine Influenza Inquiry.
I am pleased you consider that the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has met the challenge of implementing new and improved quarantine procedures to a high standard, and I welcome your commendation on the level of support you have received from the department. I also note the level of support provided by other stakeholders, including the companies that bear the responsibility of importing and exporting horses.
Your report also recognises the rigour of the administrative response to the Callinan inquiry and the strong commitment to applying better controls at the pre-export and post-entry stages.
I agree with your assessment that two challenges remain: ensuring that complacency does not creep in over time and maintaining a balance of horse activities and other biosecurity activities. I believe that these two challenges are being addressed.
The following mechanisms are in place to guard against complacency:
- ongoing verification of operational processes
- continued training of AQIS and non-AQIS personnel
- biennial reviews of the horse IRA to incorporate developments in scientific knowledge—specifically, testing methods, vaccines and vaccine procedures—and including recommendations for any changes to import conditions as required
- annual monitoring by Biosecurity Australia for equine influenza vaccines and strains that are currently circulating then specifying in the import conditions the strains of equine influenza virus to be contained in vaccines.
On the challlenge of maintaining a balance of activities, the department is tackling the broader spectrum of biosecurity issues with a program to implement risk-based biosecurity reforms.
I note your comments on the continued difficulties of funding an effective national response to a new outbreak of equine influenza in the absence of an emergency response agreement with the horse industry and use of pre-emptive vaccination. I further note that matters related to this issue are to be brought back to the Primary Industries Ministerial Council in December 2010.
I am grateful for this report and intend to make it and this letter publicly available. I also wish to thank you for all your work on this matter over the past two years. You have provided me with assurance that the government's response to the Callinan inquiry has contributed to improving Australia's quarantine and biosecurity arrangements.