Calls to ban flights from Bali amid fears 'cruel' disease will spread

·3-min read

Due to mounting fears of foot and mouth disease decimating Australia's livestock, there have been calls for flights to and from Bali to be suspended.

Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is highly contagious and affects pigs, cattle, sheep and goats. It was detected in Indonesia in May, with cases in Bali confirmed last week.

There are fears Australian tourists returning from the popular holiday island will inadvertently bring back the disease on their shoes or luggage and pass it on to Australian animals.

While humans are not impacted by FMD, if the disease were to reach Australia it would hit the Australian economy hard.

A veterinarian checks the mouth of a cow before injecting a dose of the foot-and-mouth vaccine at a farm in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, 29 June 2022.
Foot and mouth disease was detected in Indonesia this year, Australian authorities have ramped up biosecurity measures. Source: EPA

To ensure that doesn't happen, measures have been put in place to make sure travellers return from Indonesia.

However, some politicians are called for more drastic measures to be taken.

NSW Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders said with 103 flights each week from Australia to Bali "foot and mouth disease is the closest it has ever been to our country".

LNP Senator Susan McDonald in a Facebook post on Wednesday called for flights from Bali to be suspended or for returning travellers to undergo seven days of quarantine.

"Some people will say this is an over-reaction and will adversely affect the Indonesian economy, but the devastation of a foot-and-mouth outbreak in Australia would be widespread to not just producers but consumers and taxpayers as well," she said on Thursday.

 A nearly empty beach in a tourist area of Sanur in Bali, Indonesia, 05 August 2021
Foot and mouth disease has been detected in Bali. Source: EPA

Addressing her proposal on Sunrise on Thursday morning, Senator McDonald said the impact of the disease on the country cannot be overstated.

"It's not just the animal health issues, it's a cruel disease," she said.

"It's the impact of Australian farmers and graziers if they had to destroy healthy animals in a quarantine zone, but consumers would pay more."

Food prices will surge if FMD arrives in Australia

She added that getting this "wrong" and allowing for the disease to enter Australia would be catastrophic and of "biblical proportions".

Australians will end up paying more for meat and milk if FMD makes its way into the country, she said, adding that the price people pay now will look "cheap" in comparison to what could happen.

Some are calling for flights from Bali to be suspended. Source: Getty Images
Some are calling for flights from Bali to be suspended. Source: Getty Images

Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt is visiting Indonesia this week to gather more information about how it's containing the contagious disease as Australian travellers return from the holiday destination in droves.

Nationals Leader David Littleproud said Mr Watt's first priority should be to introduce comprehensive screening at Australian airports.

"Disinfectant footbaths must be introduced immediately at airports to properly treat potentially exposed passengers," he argued.

However, Mr Watt is not too keen on giving returning passengers footbaths, saying advice from biosecurity experts say they are not effective.

“If biosecurity experts reckon something will work, then I’m up for it," he said according to 2GB.

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