Australia’s response to foot-and-mouth disease currently lies with the Federal Government.
Screening arrivals from Indonesia at airports, rummaging through meat products in mailing centres and making decisions on whether to close our international border.
This is the responsibility of Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt.
But somehow Alannah MacTiernan has turned the escalating FMD threat into a mess for the WA Government with her divisive comments.
To say an outbreak in the State would not be a “catastrophe” and would result in cheaper meat and milk prices for domestic households shows how out of touch the WA Agriculture and Food Minister is with farmers and her portfolio.
Her commentary grabbed national scrutiny for being “abhorrent” and “dangerous”.
For days there have been calls for Premier Mark McGowan to sack her.
But each and every time he has stood by his “very hardworking minister” but has admitted she “went a bit far and made a mistake”.
MacTiernan herself has said how “very sorry” she is but her apology is not enough to undo what she said.
Perhaps it is time for her to take some action and stand down from the role to focus entirely on her other portfolio — hydrogen industry.
She told me if the highly contagious disease — that affects cattle, sheep, goats and pigs — got into WA, at which point it would become a State issue, a team of 700 people would be called upon to trigger a COVID-like response.
There would be contact tracing, lockdowns, interstate border closures for livestock, and sick animals culled.
All livestock transport would come to an immediate stop for at least 72 hours, and if the outbreak is not able to be brought under control quickly, the damage could cost the Australian industry up to $80 billion.
This is a huge job and MacTiernan will be at the centre of the management in the State.
Will she be able to give it her full attention while juggling hydrogen industry issues as well?
The answer is no.
McGowan says he has full faith in her but the livestock industry and Opposition don’t.
I do believe work is happening behind the scenes on the State’s preparedness plan for FMD by the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.
And there needs to be.
There is an 11.6 per cent chance of the disease entering Australia over the next five years.
If it unfortunately becomes a reality and makes its way onto our shores, we need to be ready.
WA’s Gina Rinehart is the latest person to call on the Albanese Government to spend more money to protect our livestock from infection.
“The impact of an FMD incursion in Australia would devastate the beef and other stock industries for years to come with over 65 per cent of our export markets at risk,” she said.
“Money needs to be spent now, where it will actually reduce the problem, not in telling farmers not to worry.”
Farmers are definitely worried and I can assure them this FMD issue is not going away from the political agenda any time soon.
More pressure and more voices will be the weapon for more action.