The Government’s recent closure of a Victorian quarantine centre is causing unacceptable disruption and an unfair blowout in costs to owners importing horses in to Australia.
In controversial circumstances, the Rudd government closed Victoria’s Spotswood Quarantine Station as part of its cost cutting measures.
Sydney’s Eastern Creek is the only operating quarantine station managing the bio-security issues associated with the importation of horses.
However, a consignment of 31 horses currently in a UK quarantine facility, including pregnant broodmares, has been delayed due to the unspecified illness of a horse in the Eastern Creek quarantine facility outside Sydney.
It is not known when these horses can travel as there is no alternative quarantine facility available.
Western Australian Liberal senator Dr Chris Back said during Senate Estimates in October, he challenged AQIS officials arguing it was bad policy to close the only other quarantine facility available for horses entering Australia.
“If it were still operating, these horses could have entered Australian quarantine there,” he said.
“As with humans, there is a time after which pregnant mares cannot travel and owners are keen to have their mares safely at home well before their pregnancy is put at risk,” he said.
“The commercial horse industry is a multi -billion dollar contributor to the Australian economy and governments around
Australia enjoy $1 billion of revenue annually from the industry, without any investment or risk to themselves.
Dr Back, a veterinarian, managed the equine infectious disease quarantine facility at the University of California in the 1980’s.
He said if this event at Eastern Creek had occurred prior to the spring breeding season, overseas stallions which shuttle to Australia each year would not have arrived and the impact on the industry would have been catastrophic.
“It is only a matter of time before this does occur unless we have a second quarantine facility operating,” Dr Back said.
“Biosecurity is critical for our food supply, agriculture and the economy generally. “We can ill-afford further cuts to this sector, when the cost to recover from failed policy is enormous,” he said.
Dr Back said he had written to the Minister for Agriculture, requesting urgent action be taken to re-open the Spotswood
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