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National leaves biosecurity unprotected

8 August 2005

National leaves biosecurity unprotected

Biosecurity Minister Jim Sutton today challenged the National Party to ring-fence biosecurity funding from proposed state sector funding cuts.

Mr Sutton said it was ironic that the National Party was calling for a "standing army" to combat any potential foot and mouth outbreaks, while at the same time, talking about cutting state sector funding that would reduce biosecurity funding.

"These things just can't happen in a funding vacuum.

"The Labour-Progressive Government has increased baseline biosecurity funding by about 60 per cent since we became Government in December 1999. We've made screening of air passengers and crew 100 per cent, we've put soft-tissue x-ray machines at all international airports, and we've increased staffing at airports and in head office to ensure that vulnerabilities can be plugged."

Mr Sutton said the select committee report failed to take into account that a foot and mouth disease outbreak was a crisis event.

"We may not have enough veterinarians to deal with an outbreak on the mainland ? that's why we have agreements with trading partners such as Australia and Britain to send vets here to help, as ours did in Britain four years ago.

"In any event, this Government is concentrating on boosting border control measures to ensure that risk material doesn't enter the country in the first place."

Mr Sutton said the Government was not complacent on biosecurity, and was continually working to improve its systems, as its actions over the past five years showed.

"I challenge opposition parties to do the same, and to confirm they will ringfence biosecurity from any state sector funding cuts."

ENDS

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