12 March 1991 - Current
LIVESTOCK DISEASE CONTROL BILL Second reading Mr W. D. McGRATH (Minister for Agriculture) -- I move: That this bill be now read a second time. The introduction of this bill consolidates five acts about animal disease control into one piece of legislation; provides for the cattle and apicultural industries to contribute funding to industry-initiated regulatory activities; implements mutual recognition agreements by deregistering the partially regulated occupation of artificial inseminators; implements the national uniform recommendations of 1989 on complementary legislation for the control of exotic animal diseases; provides for very significant reform of the provisions for cattle and bee compensation and the regulation of the artificial breeding industry; and provides for specified animal identification procedures and disease reporting requirements. The need to modernise the legislation covering the control of livestock diseases is driven by the very significant importance of Australia's position in the world trade in livestock and livestock products and the successful conclusion of the Uruguay round of GATT negotiations in December 1993.
The Uruguay round of GATT will remove tariffs and restrictive import barriers placed on the international trade in livestock and livestock products. Any future import barriers will need to be based on significant risk of disease entry and on sound scientific quarantine grounds. The relevance of these developments to Victoria is that the industry needs to have greater knowledge of the diseases which occur in our flocks and herds and to have definitive information about the absence of endemic and exotic diseases which are important to world trade and from which Australia's valuable livestock industries need protection. The major pandemic livestock diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease, rinderpest, Newcastle disease and classical swine fever are now under better control than at any time during the past 100 years. Who would have thought 10 years ago that continental Europe would be free of foot-and-mouth disease? This was achieved in 1992, and only sporadic outbreaks have been recorded in recent years -- and eradicated. Adequate flexible legislation is essential for Australia to deal with any future animal health requirements. Many of the provisions of the legislation are measures that are contained in the five acts being consolidated, because this legislation has served Victoria very well over the past 25 years. It needs to be remembered that this century Victoria has eradicated exotic disease incursions of Newcastle disease, scrapie and avian influenza, in the same period has eradicated contagious bovine pleuropneumonia and bovine brucellosis, and in the past 25 years has achieved the near eradication of bovine tuberculosis. In the context of these general comments, I wish to make the following comments on specific provisions of the bill. NOTIFICATION OF DISEASES The need to be able to accurately report on the health of our flocks and herds highlights the need for animal disease notification to be strengthened and streamlined. Owners, meat inspectors, veterinarians and laboratory personnel have very different levels of knowledge about disease. The provisions in the bill will only require those who could know about or suspect a disease to report that knowledge or suspicion. There are also provisions to prescribe the time in which the different diseases will have to be reported. This is to take account of the need to immediately report the suspicion of an exotic disease whereas next-day or weekly reporting would be more appropriate for other diseases. It is imperative that available information is drawn to the attention of appropriate authorities if prompt action is to be taken to control or eradicate animal disease outbreaks. The proposals for disease reporting will be based on the principles underlying the reporting of certain human diseases as contained in the Health (Infectious Diseases) Regulations 1992. Agriculture Victoria is developing cooperative arrangements with Centaur International Veterinary Laboratories and selected private veterinary practitioners about the two-way transfer of disease information and investigation of disease occurrence. ANIMAL IDENTIFICATION The provision of disease traceback procedures has become an integral part of disease and residue control programs. To support these traceback procedures, the requirement to apply identification to prescribed livestock, currently cattle and pigs has been strengthened by incorporating the provisions in the act. TESTING FOR DISEASE The bill contains new provisions which will ensure that testing for diseases declared under the act are carried out using Australian standards test methods. Laboratories which are registered for testing for declared diseases will have these tests evaluated regularly under quality assurance programs for performance. The registration process will also facilitate the timely delivery of information. Laboratories carrying out blood counts or analysing general serum parameters on livestock or examining specimens for diseases of dogs, cats or livestock that are not declared as diseases under the bill will not have to be registered. AGREEMENTS WITH OWNERS The bill contains provisions for owners of livestock to enter into agreements about how diseased livestock will be handled until disease is eradicated from a flock or herd while ensuring against the disease spreading from that property. The agreements will provide greater flexibility to owners in operating their flocks and herds during disease control or eradication phases than that which applies with the current use of quarantine orders. EXOTIC DISEASE PROVISIONS A national review of Australia's legislation to deal with incursions of exotic disease concluded in 1989 that there was a need to have uniform strengthened legislation in each of the states and territories. Most states and territories -- except Victoria -- have legislated for the recommendations arising out of the review.
The occurrence of an exotic disease, such as foot-and-mouth disease, in Victoria will have a very significant financial impact on our national grazing industries, and very flexible legislation is required to combat such outbreaks to ensure the rapid elimination of disease. The powers and penalties outlined for the control of exotic diseases have been carefully developed and modelled on legislation in countries where foot-and-mouth disease has been efficiently eradicated. Similarly, the impact of rabies occurring in dogs in urban areas will require very strict controls on the movement of animals to prevent further disease spread and human exposure. The recent outbreak of a previously unknown horse disease in an area in Brisbane that was densely populated with horses required the powers and provisions of exotic disease legislation to deal with it. The provisions in this bill address significant inadequacies in the current legislation. ARTIFICIAL BREEDING OF LIVESTOCK The bill reflects the agreements under mutual recognition to not require licensing of artificial inseminators and for requirements on the artificial breeding industry to be based only on measures needed to control the spread of disease. The new provision makes a very significant deregulation initiative and reflects the level of control placed on hatching eggs and bees. COMPENSATION ARRANGEMENTS There are currently compensation schemes for exotic diseases, cattle, bees and pigs. The pig scheme is held in abeyance. The cattle and apicultural industries have sought an extension to their schemes so that finances for regulatory and health services can be secured from industry. The bill provides that the industries will make recommendations to the minister about the schemes which should be supported, how they will be financed and how and under what circumstances compensation should be paid. The arrangements for the payment of compensation for exotic disease reflect the national agreements recently agreed to by governments and the livestock industries. POWERS OF INSPECTORS The powers of inspectors contained in the bill reflect those currently available to inspectors of stock although the powers in respect of exotic diseases are more ordered and extensive than currently applies. Although some of the powers may be seen by some people as excessive, it must be remembered that it is only in unusual circumstances that most of these powers are exercised. On average this turns out to be once in every 10 to 20 years. INDUSTRY CONTRIBUTIONS TO ANIMAL HEALTH PROGRAMS The bill contains mechanisms for the apicultural and cattle industries to make contributions to the activities needing to be carried out under the act. Unfortunately similar arrangements could not be negotiated with the other industries. However, consultations are continuing at the national level with the livestock industries generally to provide financial support for state animal health services. The framework made available to the bee and cattle industries will be made available for the other industries on request. STATEMENT UNDER SECTION 85(5) OF THE CONSTITUTION ACT I wish to make a statement under section 85(5) of the Constitution Act 1975 of the reasons for altering or varying that section by this bill. Clause 138 of the bill is intended to alter or vary section 85 of the Constitution Act 1975 to the extent necessary to prevent the Supreme Court from entertaining proceedings of a kind referred to in clauses 105(2) and 106. Clause 105(2) prevents the institution or continuation of certain proceedings to prevent or restrain the minister, the secretary, an inspector or any other person from undertaking disease control activities where an outbreak of an exotic disease has been certified to exist. The reason for preventing the entertaining of these proceedings is to ensure there is no interruption or delay to activities necessarily associated with controlling and eradicating exotic animal diseases.
Interruptions to disease control programs will lead to further spread of disease and more hardship to the livestock industries in general. It will be noted that a person is not prevented from taking out supreme or other court action to redress grievances against negligent activities undertaken in control programs. Clause 106 provides that a person is not personally liable for anything done in good faith when assisting an inspector in exercising powers under the bill. Without the protection provided in this clause persons may not be willing to assist inspectors in undertaking control activities which are necessary to prevent the introduction or spread of livestock diseases in Victoria. The government will ensure that it is in a position to meet claims in respect of losses incurred or damage suffered as a result of acts done in good faith by persons assisting inspectors. I believe the bill meets all the requirements of modern animal disease control legislation. It provides a framework for animal disease control into the next century. I commend the bill to the house. Debate adjourned on motion of Ms MARPLE (Altona). Debate adjourned until Tuesday, 29 November.