3 August 2022 The Weekly Times

THE way the National Party has played politics with the foot and mouth disease outbreak in Indonesia has been disappointing.

Without talking to industry or experts, the Nationals seized on news of foot and mouth disease infections in Indonesia with delight and immediately called for the closure of the border between our two countries.

This is an extraordinary call from the Nats that has received no support from experts or industry. Industry groups have rightly called for the Government to take all reasonable measures to prevent the disease entering Australia, but they have also stated the border should remain open.

Indonesia is a key trading partner and nurturing that relationship is important, particularly for agriculture.

But for weeks now members of the National Party have been dramatically calling for the border to be shut – again, with no support from experts or industry.

Unlike the Nationals, Labor actually listens to farmers, and I have been contacted by many people in the industry who are deeply concerned about the impact of the media storm the Nationals have been drumming up about the insecurity of our borders.

The debate has undermined confidence in Australian consumers and retailers who feel they should stay away from beef, despite the controls we have in place working and there being no human health concern.

I have heard concerning reports that international customers are already asking which other countries they can source their beef from because the media debate is undermining confidence in Australia’s ability to keep FMD out, despite our controls working.

The National Farmers’ Federation has been clear it does not think the border should be shut, and it has also been critical of the previous government’s ad-hoc approach to biosecurity.

For almost a decade biosecurity funding has been inconsistent and patchy.

So it is hypocritical for the Nationals to be talking down the Albanese Government’s ability to manage biosecurity when they have been criticised for years for their inadequate, inconsistent management.

This is why I introduced a motion to the Senate for an inquiry into biosecurity. After years of the Coalition ignoring calls for consistent funding, this inquiry will be an opportunity to closely examine our biosecurity arrangements and determine what is needed to protect Australia from biological threats.

What did Nationals leader David Littleproud say in response to criticism of his party’s approach to biosecurity and the foot and mouth disease outbreak? He doubled down and claimed the NFF does not represent everyday farmers.

We will continue to collaborate with the Indonesian Government on its response and assist them to get on top of this outbreak.

And we will continue to act in the best interests of Australian farmers, rather than playing politics.