The task force would be co-chaired by Agriculture Victoria chief executive officer Matt Lowe and the Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp, taking advice from Victoria’s Chief Veterinarian Graeme Cooke.
The Australian government has ramped up biosecurity measures to prevent foot-and-mouth and lumpy skin disease entering the country, since it was discovered in Bali, Indonesia a month ago.
Experts fear the exotic livestock diseases could cost the economy billions if it made it into Australia.
“We want to get a focus and targeted government response to a whole range of things we need to put in place in terms of being prepared and to prevent an outbreak,” Victorian Agriculture Minister Gayle Tierney said.
“[The task force] will be looking at things like developing an EAD response plan and will also be looking at access to sufficient personal protective equipment and the supply chain issues that we have in respect to testing, tracing, destruction, disposal and vaccination.”
‘No delay’ in task force formation
Ms Tierney said there had been a “lot of work already underway” that would help mitigate any EAD threats, including coordinating with the national process for service and infrastructure continuity.
“It’s clear that there is anxiety within the farming community, people are wanting to know more and we’ve been able to give very practical advice through webinars,” she said.
“This is a good time [to] have those conversations at a grassroots level that give farmers the opportunity to turn that anxiety into very positive practical measures.
“We have a very clear understanding of what the risks are and what we need to do to ramp things up to ensure our preparedness is the best it could possibly be.”
Three hundred biosecurity staff were being trained through Agriculture Victoria to prepare for a FMD outbreak in the state, learning about scenario planning and emergency exercises.
Ms Tierney said despite Indonesia having FMD present in the country for months, the taskforce was a “rapid response”.
“This is a whole of government response, not just Agriculture Victoria, and that’s a fairly quick landing in terms of getting this task force off the ground,” she said.
“Of course there has been lots of work that has been done all the way through, Victoria’s biosecurity measures lead the pack in terms of other jurisdictions.
“It’s been business as usual but then with this extra change that is required because of FMD being on the island of Bali.”
Agriculture Victoria was experienced and well equipped to handle biosecurity threats, Ms Tierney said.
“They did it recently in terms of the avian flu and Japanese encephalitis — there are so many biosecurity threats with us all the time,” she said.
“I think they have a proven track record of doing a pretty good job and the way they have ramped up preparedness for FMD — they should be congratulated for it.”