A visit to Indonesia this month gave me an opportunity to reconnect with importers, as well as to meet feedlot operators and visit their facilities - and before anyone asks, my boots are still there!
Seeing the measures in place to slow the spread of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) brought home the many common challenges between our two countries from a risk perspective, and how vital a swift response will be in the event of an incursion.
In Indonesia, cattle represent enormous wealth to smallholders, who may have just a couple of head, often kept close to their homes. The animals are effectively their life savings and losing one to FMD could have generational impacts.
Feedlots have significantly ramped up entry controls and other biosecurity measures - but still rely on many people and a range of inputs, making it difficult to operate as completely closed systems.
For both, vaccination will be the key to bringing FMD under control and creating a "new normal", as many Asian countries have done successfully.
Pleasingly, I understand a small shipment of vaccine has arrived in Indonesia, and there's a considerable effort under way to source the many millions of doses needed, including with help from Australia given the importance of the relationship.
While we don't have as many small holdings of cattle, we do have a dispersed agricultural system like Indonesia - and that brings similar challenges in detecting and controlling something like FMD.
There are rangelands and pastoral systems, especially in northern Australia, where signs and symptoms may go undetected for some time. We have feral animals, hobby farmers, and a reliance on a relatively small number of biosecurity officers.
Hopefully we never have to face the test, but the risk of an incursion is only increasing as FMD spreads across the world.
The answer isn't to shut the borders or offend our regional partners, but to double down on supporting them and our biosecurity professionals, and being ready for rapid, unified action from everyone in the supply chain.
That means knowing what to look for, being vigilant, and getting your neighbours and communities to understand the importance of doing the same.
It means immediately reporting any concern rather than worrying about the impact on your own business, and supporting a hard and fast standstill so we're not trucking the disease thousands of kilometres.
It means funding our biosecurity professionals at the federal, state and institutional level, and listening to their advice.
Prevention is always better than a cure; we need effective monitoring across northern Australia and continued vigilance at ports, airports and mail centres.
An export-reliant country like Australia can't afford to let the cat out of the bag. It would be a long road to control via vaccination, and even longer to regain our freedom status.
Many of our premium markets would disappear, and there would be impacts even with trading partners who already have FMD.
We have a world class biosecurity agency, and some of the best experts in the world.
They know how to protect our borders, but we all need to play our part.
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