Public sector leaders have appeared before a senate committee on the adequacy of Australia’s biosecurity measures. 

The first session of the senate probe focused on the recent outbreak of foot and mouth (FMD) disease in Indonesia.

Department of Agriculture secretary Andrew Metcalf said the department is committed to ensuring the integrity of Australia’s biosecurity. 

“We are not complacent. We are never complacent,” Mr Metcalf said. 

“We fully understand the consequences of these pests and diseases. We have mobilised all of our resources, our networks across industry and government and international partners to keep Australia FMD and [Lumpy Skin Disease] free.

“We are, of course, open to new ideas and very much welcome any suggestions or views from the committee,” the secretary said in his opening statement. 

The session came after the announcement that federal, state and territory ministers had agreed to Australia’s first national biosecurity plan. 

Mr Metcalf said the plan would allow governments to address “biosecurity threats that are “closer and more threatening than ever before”.  

DFAT Indonesia Branch assistant secretary Robert Fergusson said the department is responding providing “welcomed” assistance to the Indonesian government about the threats. 

“We have high-level engagement,” Mr Fergusson said, 

“And the ambassador in Indonesia has been particularly active in engaging across the Indonesian system because, of course, any assistance we give must be working very, very closely with the Indonesian government for things like vaccines or permits are required.”

Agriculture Exports & Veterinary Services first assistant secretary Nicola Hinder said FMD is the “big bad” of animal diseases, and could have an immediate effect on Australia’s exports and reputation as an “excellent exporter”. 

“The reason why we are able to enjoy such wide and varied market access into a huge amount of markets for dairy products for our meat and animal products and our live animal exports is that we are free of emergency animal diseases such as Foot and Mouth Disease,” Ms Hinder said. 

Mr Metcalf also noted that just the public discussion about the potential introduction of FMD and LSD has already led to some trading partners questioning whether an outbreak would inevitably occur.