The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) joins the National FarmersFederation (NFF) in calling upon the federal government to urgently establisha nationwide permit for the safe movement of agricultural workers, includinglivestock and equine veterinarians.
AVA President Dr Warwick Vale labelled the current situation ‘untenable’ andsaid that it was causing direct harm to farmers, vets, and rural communities.“Border restrictions vary between each state and territory government; for aworkforce that needs to cross borders to do their job, it is completelyuntenable”, said Dr Vale.
The AVA state that the majority of rural veterinarians do not live in thetight border areas as defined as part of the current restrictions. “Usingpostcodes to determine border permit eligibility does not recognise theessential requirements of veterinarians who need to react when required, andon many occasions on short notice”, said Dr Vale.
Recent widespread rainfall has meant that on-farm activity is increasing, sothe inability of agricultural workers and veterinarians to cross borders forwork was placing significant financial stress on farmers and compromising thewelfare of animals. Dr Vale said it was simply unacceptable to place unduehardship on rural communities who have only just recently weatheredcatastrophic bushfires, droughts and – in some areas – severe flooding.
“The ongoing survival of our agricultural industry and the welfare of ouranimals must be prioritised. We are calling upon government to act immediatelyto develop an agricultural worker permit similar to that developed for thefreight industry to enable the critical movement of agriculture workers,including veterinarians”, said Dr Vale.
The animal welfare implications due to veterinarians being blocked fromcertain farms are immense. South Australian-based veterinary clinic ownerRebekah Densley recently told ABC News that animals could suffer and die afterher clinic was cut-off from western Victorian clients. The next closest clinicwas about 160 kilometres away. “In case of an emergency that can mean theanimal dies on its way to veterinary help”, Dr Densley said.
Dr Vale said while the country’s biosecurity was critical, it is also criticalthat primary production activities be maintained. “Food production and animalwelfare are vital to our country’s economic security on the otherside of thiscrisis, vets must be able to cross state borders where necessary to serviceclients within the commonsense interpretation of quarantine regulations.”
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