The former Australian agriculture minister, David Littleproud, received a May 9 briefing about the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in Indonesia from Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Mark Schipp.
According data from the World Organisation for Animal Health, the outbreak of FMD in Indonesia was first detected on April 12, 2022. It was confirmed on May 6, 2022 and reported on May 9, 2022.
Minister Littleproud received his briefing on the same day.
The notification didn’t generate a lot of news at the time. Minister Littleproud’s response was reported via the Australian Associated Press as:
“Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said the coalition had committed $66.6 million in 2019 in response to the global spread of African swine fever, with an additional $58.6 million to continue the work.
He said an extra $20 million has been committed for producers to boost farm biosecurity and traceability.
The coalition will invest more than $61 million on northern biosecurity if re-elected with a focus on lumpy skin disease.
“I will take my advice from the chief veterinary office as the foot and month disease situation evolves, we stand ready to assist Indonesia manage this outbreak and to work with state and territory governments and industry to prevent and prepare for this disease,” Mr Littleproud said.
“If the science and the advice says more funds are required, we will step up.”” Australia faces biggest biosecurity threat.
Dr Schipp also released a media statement about the disease on the same day.
Minister Littleproud appeared relaxed as he continued campaigning for the federal election.
Dr Schipp continued to post updates & information about the disease.
After the federal election of May 21 and subsequent change of government, Dr Schipp went to Indonesia with Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Beth Cookson to ascertain the situation.
Dr Schipp met with new Agriculture Minister Murray Watt on June 3.
Former Agriculture Minister was quiet on the subject until July 6.
Both Minister Watt and Dr Schipp traveled to Indonesia and demonstrated biosecurity procedures upon return.
The opposition attack on the government began to escalate in the media around mid-July with claims that the government wasn’t taking action.
Opposition Senator Bridget McKenzie also offered to organise rural people to attend Sydney and Melbourne airports to wash traveler’s shoes.
Media commentary has continued to ignore the outbreak notification occurred under the former government.
Dr Schipp continues to post updates on the outbreak.
Not a new disease
FMD is not a new disease, as some of the media reporting infers. Australia detected it in 1801, 1804, 1871 and 1872. Successive federal government have had to respond with biosecurity measures such as the UK outbreak of 2001. The disease continues to appear regularly throughout the world with the latest notification coming from Zimbabwe.
Including the Indonesian outbreak, David Littleproud was agriculture minister during 2022 notifications from South Africa and Israel.
Update – August 10, 2022
At a senate inquiry into Australia’s biosecurity measures today, Labor Senator for Victoria, Raff Ciccone, asked questions of officials. Former Agriculture Minister Littleproud didn’t take any extraordinary or emergency actions. Current Minister Watt was confirmed to have ordered additional measures at airports.