QUARANTINE: by Patrick J. ByrneNews Weekly
Pork industry wins major court victory
, June 18, 2005
A Federal Judge has warned that allowing pork meat imports into Australia would virtually guarantee, within 10 years, the outbreak among Australian pig herds of the devastating Post-Weaning Multisystemic Wasting Syndrome (PMWS).Imported pork, which has been flooding the Australian market, looks set to be banned on quarantine grounds after a landmark ruling in the Federal Court.
Imports have been coming from countries where a relatively new disease, Post-Weaning Multisystemic Wasting Syndrome (PMWS), has been devastating young pig popula-tions. In Europe, major epidemics of PMWS have occurred since 2000 and are estimated to have killed eight million pigs and cost $A1.5 billion.
Australia is free of this disease. Three inquiries in recent years have admitted that there have been trade and quarantine threats to the pork industry, but neither the Commonwealth Government nor our quarantine agencies have acted to stop imports. Hence, the pork-farmers' organisation, Australian Pork Ltd (APL), took the issue to court on quarantine grounds.
Mr Justice Wilcox found there was undisputed evidence that permitting imports would mean there was a 70 per cent chance of PMWS spreading to Australian pig herds within five years. An outbreak within 10 years was a "virtual certainty".
Consequently, he found the decision made by the Director of Animal and Plant Quarantine on May 10, 2004 to adopt Biosecurity Australia's Import Risk Analysis (IRA) to allow imported pig meat into Australia as "bizarre, especially having regard to concerns expressed by successive Australian governments about maintenance of high quarantine standards. Intuitively, one feels, there must be something wrong with the Panel's assessment of risk."
Justice Wilcox said that "the necessary scientific research had not been done. The Panel had no material whatever upon which it could base a judgment ... because of the absence of information, and logic, in the Panel's final step ... This is not merely a case of an opinion that is unsound. The ultimate opinion formed by the Panel was unjustifiable ...".
Justice Wilcox ordered both parties to negotiate a settlement of the issue, and will make a final ruling soon.
Australian Pork Ltd is seeking to have the Director of Quarantine immediately stop the importation of pig meat from PMWS-affected countries; and immediately prevent any further processing of imported pig meat from PMWS-affected countries already in Australia.