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 of 29 March 2010 enclosing your fourth report on the implementation of the Australian Government’s response to the inquiry into the outbreak of equine influenza in August 2007—the Callinan Inquiry.
I am pleased to hear that the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has made continued good progress implementing the government’s response to the Callinan Inquiry.
I also welcome your commendation of the high level of professional support provided to you by the department.
Following the completion of the Import Risk Analysis (IRA) for Horses from Approved Countries, I am pleased that only two deliverables from the Equine Influenza Inquiry Response Project remain outstanding: namely, upgrades to the Eastern Creek Quarantine Station and the proposed improvements to the horse facilities at Spotswood Quarantine Station. I am advised by the department that these relate to animal welfare issues and that any delay in their completion will not jeopardise biosecurity.
The horse IRA was a significant component of the government’s response to the inquiry. It is based on the latest scientific information and includes measures designed to limit quarantine risk. Importation of horses into Australia can now be permitted subject to the Quarantine Act 1908 and the application of the sanitary measures specified in the IRA.
I am aware of the horse racing industry’s frustrations about the suspension on importing race horses from Japan following the outbreak of equine influenza there. The department is working with Japan to facilitate the import of horses for this year’s Melbourne Cup, subject to Japan meeting the import requirements. The advice in your report gives me confidence that everything necessary is being done to allow horse imports, particularly from Japan, in the near future.
Your impressions of the document Pre-export Quarantine Facility Model Standard Operating Procedures Manual for the Importation of Horses into Australia give me assurance that the new arrangements for pre-export quarantine are no more burdensome than is necessary. I note your advice that the document gives stakeholders a transparent and clear guide on how facilities can manage and control potential hazards.
Finally, I share your concerns about the potential impact of quarantine costs on the horse industry if the current decline in horse import numbers continues. The new fees of $196 per day, introduced in December 2009, take into account the government’s costs for regulating the importation and quarantining of horses. I agree that this decline needs to be monitored as further decreases in horse import numbers are likely to trigger additional fee increases, therefore further exacerbating the situation. The government will continue to work with horse importers to ensure the effective and efficient regulation of horse imports.
Once again, your report provides me with assurance that the government is making sound progress toward the effective implementation of the inquiry’s recommendations. I intend to make your report and this letter publicly available. I look forward to meeting with you in June to thank you personally for your report and to discuss your overall impression of the government’s response to the Callinan Inquiry in the lead up to your final report in June 2010.