Desperate $80b plea to Aussie tourists returning from Bali: 'Scary'

·Environment Editor
·4-min read

A foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in Bali will see travellers returning to Australia face increased scrutiny.

Border security officers will be working with “increased vigilance” in their search for high-risk materials, the Department of Agriculture confirmed.

Returning tourists are being urged to take personal responsibility to ensure they do not spread FMD into Australia's regional areas.

Travellers returning from Bali have been urged to stay away from Australia's regional areas. Source: Getty (File)
Travellers returning from Bali have been urged to stay away from Australia's regional areas. Source: Getty (File)

Should the disease breach our borders, it could result in mass culls of livestock with cloven hooves including cattle, sheep, goats and pigs.

Exports to major trading partners like China, Japan, North America and South Korea would also likely be halted, and could cost the nation $80 billion.

When you come back, do not leave the city for months, please. Do not come to the country.Simon Quilty

While a travel ban has been ruled out by Agriculture Minister Murray Watt, the Albanese government has announced new measures to combat the disease including:

  • Biosecurity detector dogs at Darwin and Cairns airports

  • Additional signage and flyers about FMD at major airports

  • Social media campaigns

  • Additional training of biosecurity staff

  • Enhanced mail checks

On top of those five measures, the minister made one more major announcement that will affect travellers.

"Every single flight coming back into the country from Indonesia will be boarded by a biosecurity officer and a message will be played that is dedicated to the issues around FMD in Indonesia," Minister Watt said on Wednesday.

Bali tourists urged to stay away from the country

Confirmation of 63 FMD cases by Indonesian authorities comes weeks after Australia’s government was urged to place a moratorium on travel to the popular holiday destination.

With tourism continuing between Bali and Australia despite his plea, Global AgriTrends analyst Simon Quilty is calling on Australians to follow one key piece of advice when they arrive home.

“When you come back, do not leave the city for months, please. Do not come to the country,” he said.

“Bali is cheap, and it's warm, and it's kind of fun. But it's just unfortunate that it comes with all these issues at the moment.”

An outbreak of foot and mouth disease could cost Australia $80 billion. Source: Getty (File)
An outbreak of foot and mouth disease could cost Australia $80 billion. Source: Getty (File)

Mr Quilty said while Australian authorities have been on the front-foot, Indonesia has been slow to act.

Australia's biggest weakness to FMD outbreak

Indonesia’s pig industry is of particular concern with Mr Quilty warning intensive farming operations potentially acting as “super spreaders”.

Victorian pig farmer Caleb Smith told Yahoo News Australia confirmation FMD is spreading across nearby Indonesia makes things “more real and a bit more scary”.

He is “fairly concerned” about the disease entering Australia, where it could halt the industry’s ability to operate.

The cost of meat could increase if foot and mouth disease reaches Australia's shores. Source: Getty (File)
The cost of meat could increase if foot and mouth disease reaches Australia's shores. Source: Getty (File)

The most immediate financial threat to the industry would not be FMD entering farms, but rather its potential to shut down slaughterhouses which are scarce in Australia.

FMD outbreak would increase food prices in Australia

The closest abattoir to Mr Smith is three hours drive. Should the disease result in the facility being shut, the next closest one is six hours away.

This would increase both fuel costs and stress on the pigs, and consumers could expect to pay more for pork in the long term.

“(Lack of abattoirs) is one of our biggest weaknesses as far as if a disease comes in,” Mr Smith said.

“That’s where the financial impact would be and things would start to get hard.”

Australian Pork Limited's CEO Margo Andrae said the industry peak body is "alert but not alarmed" by the FMD situation.

"Whilst Australia remains free from FMD, our priority is to continue working with State and Federal governments to ensure the biosecurity risks posed by FMD and other emerging animal diseases are approached strategically and remain nationally agreed upon," she said.

"Emergency plans and preparations are already in place or underway should Australia have an FMD outbreak.”

Concern second disease being overlooked by authorities

Lumpy skin disease is also continuing to spread across Indonesia, and Mr Quilty is concerned it’s not getting the same attention as FMD, despite its potential to severely impact the nation’s livestock industries.

Should either disease breach Australia’s biosecurity restrictions, like the varroa mite recently did, a global supply of vaccines could make it difficult for authorities to combat them.

“Lumpy skin disease in Australia would see market closures no different to FMD,” Mr Quilty said.

“Whether it would be the same number of closures is yet to be determined as there simply is no precedent.

“We know that during recent outbreaks in Pakistan, they too really struggled to get vaccines for lumpy skin disease.”

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