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Foot and mouth Australia: Minister slams HYSTERIA amid war over Coalition push to close border

War of words breaks out over foot-and-mouth disease ‘hysteria’ amid pressure to close border with Indonesia

  • Agriculture Secretary Murray Watt said calls to close borders were damaging
  • He said the coalition had caused hysteria over the threat of foot-and-mouth disease
  • “We have absolutely no evidence that the virus is in Australia,” he said.
  • Peter Dutton said the government needs to explain why the borders remain open

Agriculture Secretary Murray Watt is determined to keep Australia’s international border open in the wake of foot-and-mouth disease cases, despite mounting opposition pressure to close it.

Senator Watt said calls to close the border were damaging as he lashed out at the coalition for causing hysteria and damaging Australia’s agricultural reputation.

“We have absolutely no evidence that the virus is in Australia … it affects our international trade if people think Australia has this disease,” he told ABC radio on Monday.

However, opposition leader Peter Dutton said the government should cut travel from Indonesia to prevent cases.

Australians returning home from Bali will be forced to clean their shoes or step over sanitary mats in designated airport response zones to help keep foot and mouth disease at bay (photo, Sydney Airport passengers)

Australians returning home from Bali will be forced to clean their shoes or step over sanitary mats in designated airport response zones to help keep foot and mouth disease at bay (photo, Sydney Airport passengers)

Disinfectant is sprayed on a foot-and-mouth disease-infected livestock farm in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Disinfectant is sprayed on a foot-and-mouth disease-infected livestock farm in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

“We should close the border, but I think the Prime Minister should explain why that hasn’t happened,” he told Sydney radio station 2GB.

“But if the Prime Minister has a reason, if he has an important piece of information that says this is under control, and the coalition doesn’t know it… then I respect that.”

Mr Dutton called on the Government to properly explain the situation regarding its decision-making on the prevention of foot-and-mouth disease.

“(The Prime Minister) is honestly playing with a loaded gun here,” Dutton said.

“It’s not just an impact on people … who would lose their entire herd, but it would have a huge impact, worth $80 billion, on the economy.”

Agriculture Secretary Murray Watt has criticized the coalition for creating 'hysteria' over calls to close Australia's borders over the threat of foot-and-mouth disease.

Agriculture Secretary Murray Watt has criticized the coalition for creating ‘hysteria’ over calls to close Australia’s borders over the threat of foot-and-mouth disease.

Industry leaders have reported being questioned by export partners about whether or not livestock disease was spreading in Australia, Senator Watt said.

“It puts an extra workload on the industry to ensure correct information about the situation here is disseminated to the world,” he said.

“It diverts attention from being free of the disease and we have the strongest response Australia has ever imposed to a biosecurity threat.”

The prime minister on Sunday defended the government’s position to keep the border with Indonesia open while the country fights an outbreak.

A number of biosecurity measures have been put in place to manage travelers from Indonesia, including shoe hygiene mats, information campaigns and increased passenger screening.

The Agriculture Secretary has also implemented powers under the Biosecurity Act in Australia for the first time.

Senator Watt marked that further measures would be announced this week.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton wants the government to explain its decision-making on the prevention of foot-and-mouth disease

Opposition leader Peter Dutton wants the government to explain its decision-making on the prevention of foot-and-mouth disease

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