The former Liberal-National Government slashed funding for livestock biosecurity activities by half, limiting Victoria’s capacity to prepare and respond to an emergency livestock disease outbreak, a new Victorian Auditor-General’s report has revealed.
Funding for core livestock biosecurity activities was cut by 49 per cent between 2009-10 and 2014-15, while the number of key animal health officers and veterinary officers decreased by 42 per cent since 2010.
The Biosecurity: Livestock report, tabled in Parliament today, found that these cuts to core funding and staffing have weakened Victoria’s capacity to prevent, prepare for and respond to a major livestock disease outbreak such as Foot and Mouth disease.
There was also a significant decline in livestock surveillance activities of 39 per cent between 2011-12 and 2014-15, in line with the cuts to core front-line staff.
Today’s report has confirmed the former Minister for Agriculture and current National Party Leader, Peter Walsh, did nothing while his Liberal Party mates gutted Victoria’s biosecurity protections, putting at risk our $11 billion agriculture sector and many of our farming families livelihoods.
The Andrews Labor Government is working hard to repair the damage inflicted on our biosecurity activities by the former Liberal-National Government.
We provided an additional $9.4 million in the 2015-16 Victorian Budget to stop a further decline in these crucial services, and will ensure further funding is prioritised as part of next year’s budget considerations.
The Auditor-General’s report makes five recommendations. The Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources has accepted all of the recommendations in the report, with work already underway to implement each recommendation.
Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford has also requested the Department provide urgent advice regarding the implementation of a mandatory Electronic Identification Scheme for sheep and goats.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Agriculture Jaala Pulford
“Peter Walsh stood by while his Liberal mates decimated his Department’s biosecurity functions.”
“By slashing biosecurity funding by half, and cutting vital front-line staff by 42 per cent, the former Liberal-National Government put our farmers’ livelihoods at risk.”
“We’re fast-tracking advice on a mandatory Electronic Identification Scheme to improve the traceability of sheep and goats and protect our agriculture sector.”
Reviewed 19 August 2020