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Australia’s defences against a potentially devastating African swine fever (ASF) incursion have been tested during simulation exercise “Razorback” which assessed national, jurisdictional and industry decision-making processes in the event of an ASF incursion.

Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said exercising national decision-making arrangements and the pre-established response tools was critical to effectively responding should the need arise.

“Our government’s focus is firmly on keeping ASF out of Australia which is why we have zero tolerance for those who do the wrong thing and try to bring pork products through our airports—we’ll send them home,” Minister McKenzie said.

“But with ASF now on our doorstep in Timor Leste it is timely to conduct an exercise to make sure our preparations are as robust as they can be if the unthinkable happens and ASF arrives here. We’d need to shut it down and eradicate it quickly and having strong response arrangements in place is our best insurance.

“Razorback showed my department, industry and state and territory jurisdictions just what a colossal task responding quickly and effectively to an onshore threat is—and that response arrangements need to be routinely practiced and understood by everyone.
“African swine fever is not present in Australia and our government is determined to keep it that way, to protect our agriculture industries, our environment and our reputation as one of the world’s most sought after suppliers of safe, clean and green food and fibre.

“Exercise Razorback tested our requirements for declaring and implementing an emergency response to ASF through two simulated meetings which would take place if an incursion of ASF was to occur and included Australia’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Chief Veterinary Officers from each state/territory jurisdiction as well as other government and industry representatives.

“The first meeting discussed and agreed on a response plan and response activities such as movement restrictions on pigs and exports of pork products. The second considered the response plan and cost sharing to manage the incursion.

“An effective, well-resourced biosecurity system is all that stands between Australia and the deadly pests and diseases that could obliterate our agricultural exports and standard of living. It would devastate Australia’s $5.2 billion pork industry and the 34,000 jobs that depend on it in rural and regional communities.

“There’s no vaccine and no cure and it kills about 80 per cent of the pigs it infects.

“Whilst some people will go to considerable lengths to conceal items of contraband, our world leading detection technologies, including detector dogs and 3D X-ray, give us the best chance of catching concealed or undeclared items carried by travellers or mail.

“There is always the risk that despite the best intervention measures, a small amount of biosecurity risk material may avoid detection during border clearance, that is why activities like Exercise Razorback are so important, to ensure we are ready if ASF was ever to hit our shores.”

Media release from Minister McKenzie, Australian Government Department of Agriculture. View the full media release here.