|Meeting Minutes 4 PDF||8||77 KB|
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Wednesday 21 October 2009
10:00am – 1:00pm
AQIS Victoria – Regional Office
|Ann McDonald||AQIS - Chair|
|Quentin Wallace||International Racehorse Transport|
|Chris Burke||International Racehorse Transport|
|Crispin Bennett||Crispin Bennett International Horse Transport|
|Josh Murphy||New Zealand Bloodstock|
|Roger Lavelle||Australian Horse Industry Council|
|Patricia Ellis||Australian Horse Industry Council|
|Franz Venhaus||Equestrian Australia|
|Paul O’Callaghan||Racing Victoria Limited|
|Peter McGauran||Thoroughbred Breeders Australia|
|John Peatfield||Thoroughbred Breeders Australia|
|Andrew Kelly||Harness Racing Australia|
|Kevin Doyle||Australian Veterinary Association|
|Jill Millan||Biosecurity Australia|
|Phillip Widders||AQIS – NSW|
|Greg Hankins||AQIS – NSW|
|Mandy Davis||AQIS – Victoria|
|Kate Tirchett||AQIS - Victoria|
|Murli Baker-Gabb||AQIS – Horse Imports|
|Scott Channing||AQIS – Horse Imports|
|Frank Mondello||Sydney Airport Limited|
|Sarah Renner||Melbourne Airport|
|Robyn Martin||Biosecurity Australia|
1. Welcome and Introductions
The chair welcomed members to the fourth meeting of the Horse Industry Consultative Committee and in particular welcomed Roger Lavelle from the Australian Horse Industry Council who was replacing Dr Barry Smyth who recently retired as President of the Australian Horse Industry Council. The Chair also introduced Greg Hankins, the Eastern Creek Quarantine Station Manager and Jill Millan, representing Biosecurity Australia.
The Chaired noted apologies from Robyn Martin, Sarah Renner and Frank Mondello.
2. Minutes and Action Items
The Chair called for any further comments on the minutes from the third HICC meeting. The minutes from the third HICC meeting were accepted. The Chair discussed each of the action items arising from the third meeting and advised that all but one of the items had been completed. The outstanding item related to AQIS following up with DEFRA regarding their health certificates. It was acknowledged that DEFRA were unlikely to amend their health certificates ahead of the IRA being finalised.
With respect to Action Item b. from the third meeting, members advised AQIS that they supported the provision of a horse crush at Eastern Creek Quarantine Station.
- AQIS will liaise with private veterinarians attending horses at Eastern Creek Quarantine Station, Andrew Argyle and Coolmore Stud veterinarian John Freestone, regarding the requirements for a horse crush and provide a paper out-of-session for HICC member’s consideration.
Members raised the issue of surgical facilities at Eastern Creek and noted that they did not agree with Expert Group’s findings that surgical facilities were not an essential requirement at quarantine stations. Members advised that such facilities are necessary to address animal welfare issues. IRT expressed concern that their veterinary equipment was used recently to treat another importer’s horse without their knowledge and permission. Members advised that AQIS should supply the necessary surgical and veterinary equipment and socialise the costs across all importers. IRT indicated that they would consider selling their equipment, currently used and maintained by the Randwick Equine Centre, to AQIS. The Chair agreed that AQIS would investigate options for surgical and veterinary equipment at Eastern Creek Quarantine Station, including the possible purchase of equipment from IRT. Further, the costs of any equipment will be paid by the Program and socialised across horse imports.
- AQIS will liaise with industry and investigate options for veterinary and surgical equipment at Eastern Creek Quarantine Station.
3. AQIS Horse Imports Program Budget and Fee Review
The chair provided an overview of the Horse Imports Program Budget and current financial position, outlining that the September year-to-date figures indicated that the Program had accrued a deficit of $304,000 compared to a budgeted figure of $353,000. The aim was for the Program to have a surplus at the end of this financial year in order to begin to address the Program’s accumulated deficit of $1.0 million. The Chair reminded members that the Minister had decided that the Program did not have to recover the full cumulative deficit of $2.5m from industry. HICC members advised that they were interested in receiving information on the Program’s budget and financial position on a regular basis.
- AQIS will provide regular Horse Imports Program finance reports to HICC members.
Horse Quarantine Fees
The Chair advised that AQIS had provided information on the proposed increase in horse import fees to the Department of Finance and Deregulation (DoFD) who will assess whether the proposal is consistent with the Government’s cost recovery policy. Once DoFD endorses the fee proposal it would provided to the Minister for his consideration.
The Chair advised that the fees will be introduced as soon as they are agreed by the Minister and AQIS will endeavour to advise importers as soon as possible after that. The Chair reiterated that the issue of ceasing horses into Spotswood Quarantine Station was associated with the horse fees and that this presented that lowest cost option for horse imports at $196 a day.
HICC members raised some concerns with the methodology used to calculate rent at Spotswood Quarantine Station and queried the potential impact of the new fees on horse imports. HICC members also queried the impact on Program revenue if the horse quarantine period is reduced from 21 to 14 days.
The Chair acknowledged that there were a range of factors and unknowns that were likely to impact on the HIP budget but it was necessary for the Program to act now in order to address the increasing Program deficit. In addition to the issues raised by members, the Chair noted that the future of quarantine stations and future rental costs at Eastern Creek Quarantine Stations were important considerations.
The Chair advised that AQIS would monitor the budget closely, especially changes in activity levels, and if necessary consider revenue and funding options.
Members expressed concern about the likely closure of Spotswood Quarantine Station from a biosecurity perspective and the potential risks faced by industry with only one quarantine station operating. The Chair pointed out that although Spotswood would cease to be used for horse imports, the facilities would be maintained and there would be suitable trained staff at the station so that AQIS could open the facility at short notice if it was required. The Chair also noted that the Minister was aware of industry concerns regarding Spotswood as several stakeholders had written to him. Ultimately, the decision on the future of Spotswood would be made by the Minister.
To address concerns about the cessation of horse imports into Spotswood Quarantine Station, it was proposed that horse imports into Spotswood would be temporarily suspended, with a review of the impact in six months. If the Minister agrees to this, AQIS in consultation with HICC, would review the decision in six months. HICC members supported this proposal.
- AQIS, in consultation with HICC, to review the suspension of horse imports into Spotswood Quarantine Station after six months, if this is decided by the Minister when he makes the new fees orders for horse quarantine.
4. Charging Arrangements for PEQ Facility Inspections
The Chair advised HICC members that AQIS will need to fully recover the costs of any audit inspection of pre-export quarantine (PEQ) facilities requiring approval or re-approval and that the costs must be met whether or not the facility is approved. The Chair mentioned that in the past, AQIS was able to rely on overseas councillors to assist with PEQ inspections however this option is no longer available as some councillors are being withdrawn and some are not necessarily veterinarians. Further, AQIS was not able to charge overseas organisations or businesses as fees can only be directed to organisations based in Australia.
The Chair advised that importers will need to consider carefully the number of PEQ facilities they use. A large number have already been approved and these will need to be re-approved at some point in the future if they continue to be used. Where possible, AQIS will arrange inspection audits of PEQ facilities to coincide with overseas visits for other matters to reduce costs to horse importers. The Chair clarified that the approval of PEQ facilities would involve an inspection audit of both the physical facilities as well as a desk audit of the standard operating procedures.
Members expressed a range of views in relation to AQIS recovering the costs of PEQ inspection audits. Importers expressed concerns about circumstances whereby one importer pays for a facility to be approved but at some point in the future another importer may use the facility without having to incur the costs of its approval. It was suggested that a licensing system be established to give importers exclusive rights to use approved PEQ facilities. However, concerns were raised about the cost-efficiencies of the same facility requiring separate approvals if different import agents were used and that this was an unfair cost burden in situations where the PEQ facility itself was seeking approval. Some members suggested that the approval of the facility should be given to the importer while others indicated approval should be granted to the facility.
HICC members agreed that the issue required further consideration to ensure an equitable arrangement was implemented.
Importers requested that AQIS provide guidance and certainty on when PEQ facilities were to be re-inspected for approval so arrangements and costs could be planned well in advance of the inspections.
- AQIS to liaise with importers and RVL to develop a PEQ inspection policy that includes cost recovery and the frequency with which re-approvals are to be undertaken.
5. Microchipping Horses Imported into Australia
HICC members noted the increasing use of microchips throughout the world and the recent policies implemented in Victoria governing the voluntary microchipping of horses. AHIC noted that it was important for Australia to adopt uniform standards for microchipping horses even if it was not compulsory. Members agreed that microchipping of horses did not necessarily strengthen biosecurity measures but acknowledged it would assist in identifying horses especially in circumstances where a horse is placed under life-time quarantine surveillance. The Chair advised that AQIS did not intend to mandate the use of microchips.
6. Entry and Exit at Eastern Creek Quarantine Station
The Chair briefly outlined the history behind the construction of the new shower facilities and emphasised that the keys given to grooms cannot be used to enter or exit through the shower block. They can only open the pedestrian gate en route to the shower block.
Importers indicated that some grooms had raised concerns about privacy when using the new shower facilities. AQIS reported that these issues have now been resolved and personnel movement is controlled by a quarantine officer in order to ensure privacy can be maintained.
The AVA enquired about access to the quarantine station and horse enclosure in the event of after-hours emergencies. AQIS explained that the facility is locked at all times when not attended by a quarantine officer and nobody can get in or out at these times. However, an officer is always on-call and can attend to supervise entry/exit whenever needed. In the case of after-hours emergencies, a quarantine officer can be present in under 45 minutes, which is sooner than local veterinarians have been able to attend the station. If necessary, the guard could be given approval to allow entry of an ambulance, for example.
The Chair outlined the increased level of biosecurity that is now in place at the quarantine station and sought the views of HICC members on the need for CCTV or other electronic surveillance, as recommended by the Expert Group on Horse Imports. HICC members advised that they did not see the need or benefit for CCTV or other electronic surveillance at Eastern Creek Quarantine Station, given the security arrangements now in place.
7. Process of Releasing Horses from Quarantine
Horse importers advised that they consider the current procedures for the release of horses from quarantine to be cumbersome and that revised procedures should be considered. The Chair informed HICC members that the procedures are not to address quarantine concerns but are in fact a requirement of the Quarantine Act that all personnel entering a quarantine station must be authorised by AQIS. The Chair noted that AQIS was meeting with horse importers immediately after the HICC meeting to review the procedures and forms. HICC members advised that it was important for the process to be streamlined.
8. Biosecurity Australia Update
Biosecurity Australia informed HICC members that their priority was the completion of the Import Risk Analysis (IRA) for horses. The draft IRA was going through final edits and was with the Expert Panel for their consideration. It was anticipated that the draft would be released for public comment by the end of November. The chair advised that once the IRA was complete, AQIS would aim to develop generic health certificates to ensure consistency across all countries that Australia accepts horses from, noting that there will be country specific conditions. Biosecurity Australia also advised that the main horse export markets they were working on included Thailand, Taiwan and Russia.
HICC members raised two issues of concern. The first related to difficulties trans-shipping horses through Hong Kong as the authorities do not consider Australia to be free of equine influenza. The second concern related to Hendra virus and the potential impact the disease could have on horse exports as most overseas countries had very little understanding of the disease. Exporters flagged that Hendra virus could become a major issue for horse exports, especially if an outbreak were to occur in New South Wales or Victoria.
- Biosecurity Australia to follow up with Hong Kong authorities regarding Australia’s equine influenza status.
- Horse importers to provide to AQIS the import protocols from countries concerned about hendra virus.
9. Update on Implementing the Government’s Response to the Equine influenza Inquiry.
The Chair advised HICC members that implementation of the Government’s response to the equine influenza inquiry was on track and that the key outstanding issues included the revised horse import fees, upgrades to the quarantine stations and the IRA for horses. The Chair also informed members that Professor Shergold had submitted his third assessment report to the Minister, and the Minister was considering its public release.
h. AQIS is to follow-up with the Department’s Corporate Services Division regarding the possible release of Professor Shergold’s assessment report and the Interim Inspector General’s report on quarantine facilities.
10. Future of Government Quarantine Stations
The Chair outlined the current process for considering the future of post-arrival quarantine facilities and advised HICC members that carriage of this issue was in another area of AQIS headed by Tim Chapman, Executive Manager Quarantine Operations Division.
HICC members expressed concern about the time required to identify and establish new post-arrival quarantine arrangements, the possible increase in rent at Eastern Creek at the end of 2010 and the expiration of the leases on the current Government quarantine stations. Members advised that it was critical that they were consulted on this matter and that the Government had accepted the recommendations of the Equine Influenza Inquiry including, that there continue to be a Government controlled and operated post-arrival quarantine station for horses.
In particular, New Zealand Bloodstock raised concerns, which had been raised previously, that horse importers may be left without post arrival quarantine facilities in Australia should horse imports into Spotswood be suspended and the owner at Eastern Creek were to sell the land unexpectedly. New Zealand Bloodstock noted that time was running out to secure a new location for post arrival quarantine facilities in New South Wales.
Racing Victoria Limited (RVL) advised that Werribee was on track to proceed and that the tender process for the building of the facilities had commenced. Further, whether RVL was to operate Werribee as a commercial operation was a matter for the Board and had not been considered at this stage.
The Chair agreed to convey the HICC members’ views on the future of post-arrival quarantine facilities to the AQIS Operations Division and to request a meeting as soon as possible.
- AQIS to discuss a meeting between interested HICC members and the AQIS team managing future post-arrival quarantine arrangements.
11. Next Meeting
It was agreed that the next HICC meeting would be on 21 April 2010 in Canberra at 10:00am at the AQIS Central Office.