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Estimates: Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee (Animal Health Australia)

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 26 May 2015

Senator RHIANNON: With regard to Animal Health Australia's newly launched National Farm Biosecurity Technical Manual for Egg Production, in the document in section 23 on free-range production operations, page 26, it states: 'Some AI'-avian influenza-'of the H5 ... subtypes ... have in the past caused EAD outbreaks in the Australian egg industry'. I was just interested in whether you can supply details of the number of recorded cases of AI in the Australian egg industry.

Mr Glyde : Not off the top of my head. I do not know whether Ms Plowman can help out here or whether we should take that one on notice.

CHAIR: This is on avian influenza.

Ms Plowman : There have been some outbreaks around avian influenza. In my time in the company I know of two-and there might have been some additional ones-where the emergency disease response agreement was undertaken, but we would have to get back to you with the precise amounts.

Senator RHIANNON: I was after how many outbreaks that you have heard. You have said that you understand there have been two, but I gather that could be-

Ms Plowman : I do not think there have been more than maybe one or two more, but I would have to go back and check. I just know of two in my time in Animal Health Australia.

Senator RHIANNON: Where did those ones occur-the ones that you know of?

Ms Plowman : As I recall there was one out in Young in New South Wales, but I cannot quite recall where the other one was.

Mr Thompson : Young was the most recent one.

Senator RHIANNON: And when was that, please?

Mr Thompson : I think it was last year.

Ms Plowman : Young was I think the year before.

Senator RHIANNON: The year before-so in 2013?

Ms Plowman : Yes, over 2013.

Senator RHIANNON: How many birds did it impact on?

Ms Plowman : We would have to come back to you with those numbers. That would be as part of the cost-sharing agreement that all of those details would be made available.

Senator RHIANNON: I need to know how many outbreaks have occurred, where they occurred, when, the number of birds involved and how you handled it. Also, can I have details and copies of the research and evidence that informs the statement that there have been avian influenza outbreaks in the Australian egg industry. What I am after here is what you are basing the evidence on that AI has occurred in the Australian egg industry. I understand that at times it is controversial, so I am interested in understanding and seeing research that you have to make that judgment.

Ms Plowman : That judgment is actually made by the Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Diseases, which comprises all of the state chief veterinary officers and the Australian chief veterinary officer. It is technical expertise and it is based on diagnosis from particular certified laboratories. Before a disease response can be initiated, it has to come from a recommendation of CCEAD.

Senator RHIANNON: Is that publicly available-what the tests are and what the tests show?

Ms Plowman : Certainly they would be a matter of record, I imagine. There would be a matter of record about what type they actually diagnosed in order for there to be a response. Behind that would be all of the diagnostic requirements et cetera in order to lead to that conclusion.

Senator RHIANNON: Is that publicly available?

Ms Plowman : I am not sure about whether it is publicly available, but there has certainly never been anything that is hidden, when such a disease response has been going on, from the public. It actually talks about what type of H5, where it is and who is involved.

Senator RHIANNON: Is there anybody here now who can advise if this information is publicly available?

Mr Thompson : I think we would have to take that on notice. We might be able to get an answer later this afternoon or this evening. We would have to go to our people in biosecurity animal. The chief vet or someone would have that information.

CHAIR: With great respect, I hope it is not too late this evening or you might miss the boat.

Senator RHIANNON: I was interested in understanding what the tests are and then what the evidence has been with regard to demonstrating that AI has occurred. With regard to the biosecurity consultative group, can you explain who the members are and how they were chosen?

Ms Plowman : I am sorry, Senator, you are referencing a particular source of information. You are talking about the Biosecurity Consultative Committee. I am not clear about what that might be.

Senator RHIANNON: I have it down as the 'biosecurity consultative group'. You do not have such a group? It is made up of some industry representatives.

Ms Plowman : Are you talking about a particular program?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, it is to do with eggs and chickens.

Ms Plowman : That would be a matter, actually, for the Australian Egg Corporation and also the poultry industry. That is something that their particular industry would fund, and it is particular to-

Senator RHIANNON: So it does not come under any aspect of animal health?

Ms Plowman : No.

Mr Thompson : There is a committee with a name sort of like that. For each incursion that occurs, whether it be plant or animal, a consultative committee is formed to address the problem and look at a response plan or whether it is eradicable and those sorts of things. In the case of animals, there is a committee that is formed that usually comprises the chief vets from each state and the affected industries. So if it were a disease of ducks, we would have some people from the duck industry. If it were eggs, it would be from the egg industry.

Ms Plowman : But that is actually the national management group.

Mr Thompson : No, the national management group is the government industry one. There is a consultative committee-the technical one that sits underneath.

Ms Plowman : I referred to it earlier. It is called the CCEAD-the Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Diseases. I referred to it earlier in that it comprises the Australian CVO, the state CVOs, various technical representatives and also industry representatives. I do know that various industry members also have their own biosecurity consultative committees, but that might be to do with just general animal health issues.

Senator RHIANNON: Mr Thompson, I think that was what you were referring to?

Mr Thompson : I was referring to the one that Ms Plowman called, which is its name-the Consultative Committee on Emergency Animal Diseases. The membership that stays the same is the chief vets in the Commonwealth, states and territories. The industry membership and technical membership may vary depending on the nature of the emergency.

Senator RHIANNON: This is what I am trying to understand. How are those people appointed to what I have called the 'biosecurity consultative group'? I gather that the name may vary, so let us call it this 'body'. We have an emergency-let us say it is AI. How do you determine who will be on that? You have said the chief vet will be on it and some people from the industry. Is that correct?

Mr Thompson : The chief vets from the Commonwealth and the states would automatically be on it and then the industry that has been affected. So, if it were cattle, it would be the cattle industry. The chair of that committee, usually in consultation with the members, would determine which other industries are likely to be affected. Quite often, I would expect, if you went to avian influenza in the chicken meat industry then you may pick up members from the egg industry, because response measures may involve them as well or they are concerned at how well the disease is being contained.

Senator RHIANNON: Coming to the specifics around the eggs: I understand that there was a representative from Free Range Egg & Poultry Australia on this body. But considering that their standards failed to include a maximum outdoor stocking density for free-range layer hens-and you would obviously be well aware of the different tendencies with regard to rearing free-range hens-why was it not more representative?

Ms Plowman : I think we are at cross-purposes here. We have just described to you the process that is set out in the emergency animal disease response group regarding a consultative committee at a very technical end. I think you are referring perhaps to a biosecurity animal health and welfare committee that maybe comprises all of those poultry industries. I think I heard you say there was a representative from the Australian free range-

Senator RHIANNON: Free Range Egg & Poultry Australia. However, that is the body that is actually limited in its definition of 'free range'.

Ms Plowman : From my memory, I do not believe that such a body was involved in the consultative committee that we have been referring to. I just want to make sure that I understand. That is my view at this stage, but if you could provide me with the sources of information I could come back to you around how they might be appointed. I think we will need to go back to the relevant industry members in the poultry industry and ask them what this committee is and how is it comprised.

Mr Thompson : In the emergency space that we have been talking about today, that is all set out in the emergency animal response deed. The normal process there is that signatories to the deed-that is, people who have actually signed onto the deed and taken on the responsibilities, which include biosecurity responsibilities but also responsibilities for raising levies to pay for responses-are the ones who participate in the decisions.

Senator RHIANNON: Okay, I will wait to see your questions on notice. Our concern was how people are appointed to it. If you can explain the process, then I can see if I-

Mr Thompson : The process of joining the emergency animal response deed is-and Ms Plowman can go through it-that any industry is able to join. There is a process by which they seek membership. It costs money to join. Once you are a member, you participate in decisions about it and you are also then eligible for assistance in responding to emergencies. So, in a sense, you choose to be a member.

Senator RHIANNON: So you are saying that there is no exclusion?

Mr Thompson : There is no exclusion, but not all industries choose to participate in national emergency response arrangements.


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