The report by retired Hugh Court judge Ian Callinan into the equine influenza crisis (which shut-down much of the racing & breeding industry in NSW & Queensland) was released by the Federal Government yesterday. It slams Australian Quarantine & Inspection Service officers for "failing over a number of years to implement adequate bio-security measures" & emphasises that "if the correct bio-security measures had been in place, then it would have been most unlikely that EI would have escaped from the Sydney Eastern Creek quarantine facility". Callinan reports: "Fundamental biosecurity measures were not being implemented in the largest government-operated animal quarantine station in Australia. This constituted a serious failure by those within the Department Of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry and AQIS, who were & had been responsible for the management of post-entry quarantine arrangements. The best explanation for the simultaneous presence of infected horses at Eastern Creek & (Melbourne's) Spotswood Quarantine stations is that there was a common source of infection & that it came with the horses from Japan rather than the US." Callinan notes: "The most likely explanation remains that the virus escaped from Eastern Creek on the person, clothing or equipment of a groom, a veterinarian, farrier or other person who had contact with an infected horse & who then left the quarantine station without cleaning or disinfecting adequately or at all." (Jun 13)
Callinan Report 2: Govt Accepts 38 Recommendations
Agriculture Minister Tony Burke (who earlier this week announced the Federal Government will cover the $108 million cost of EI eradication) said the government will also accept all 38 recommendations of the Callinan report, noting: "We have to drive cultural change in our quarantine & biosecurity systems so that Australians can have public confidence in them. The report found clear inadequacies in Australia's quarantine system." The report recommends:
- a position primarily responsible for horse importation be established without delay & that an inspector-general of horse importation also be appointed.
- the import conditions for horses provide for a blood sample to be taken while a horse is in pre-export quarantine.
- facilities for unloading & transferring of horses at Sydney Airport should be upgraded without delay & that facilities at Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne be constructed urgently.
Callinan Report 3: AQIS Boss Stands Aside
Agriculture Minister Tony Burke also announced AQIS deputy secretary & executive director Stephen Hunter has "stood aside as the director of quarantine" over the horse flu breakout. (Jun 13)
Callinan Report 4: Minister Predicts Court Action
Agriculture Minister Tony Burke also expects major legal claims for compensation, confirming: "I have no doubt this issue will be tested in the courts. The determination about liability & quantum will be appropriately resolved there." (Jun 13)
Callinan Report 5: ARB Welcomes New Quarantine Plan
The Australian Racing Board welcomed the public release of the Callinan Report & the Rudd Government's response. ARB chairman Bob Pearson commented: "It was entirely expected that a person of Mr Callinan's calibre would deliver an outstanding report. He has been scathing in his criticisms, but I know the many thousands of industry participants whose lives where thrown into turmoil by this outbreak will be grateful to him for calling those responsible to account. Just as importantly, he has provided a blueprint for a quarantine system that ensures, so far as practicable, that an outbreak of this kind never occurs again." (Jun 13)
Callinan Report 6: TBA Call For Ongoing Vaccination
Thoroughbred Breeders Australia chairman John Messara described the Callinan Report's 38 recommendations as "comprehensive" & "far reaching." Messara commented: "We totally endorse the recommendations as necessary to repair a dangerously inadequate quarantine system & strongly support the Federal Government's decisive & resolute response to the report. Nobody knows better than the thoroughbred industry the economic & social costs of EI. Barely any breeder in NSW or Queensland escaped harsh losses & a great many in Victoria & other States suffered as a consequence. The sudden halt to the movement of horses & then severely restricted movement for over 3 months led to many cancellations of broodmares to stallions. The industry is resilient & survived EI intact, but there have been numerous examples of severe hardship. Now we want to get on with reforming the quarantine system & the Government can be assured of our support." At the same time, Messara noted, the thoroughbred industry "is calling for on-going vaccination against EI to complement a strengthened & reformed quarantine system. We believe quarantine goes hand-in-hand with vaccination to safeguard Australia from the economic loss which another incursion of EI would cause." (Jun 13)