The Queensland Ombudsman says there have been systematic failures in several Government departments, in dealing with the Hendra virus outbreaks between 2006 and 2009.
One of the key recommendations of the Ombudsman’s report – is for a review of state laws to see whether they are adequate to control future outbreaks of the virus.
Sonya Harris reports.
In the three years prior to 2009, 18 horses and two vets were identified with Hendra and died after contracting the virus.
The Ombudsman’s report identifies a range of outdated, inconsistent policies and procedures – as well as dated, overlapping legislation, all of which led to problems in quarantine practices during that period.
The report also says Queensland Primary Industries and Fisheries staff imposed quarantines contrary to law – and were unsure about the use of adequate protective equipment.
It says communication between vets and horse owners was inadaquate and that training and resources for agency staff, contractors and property owners, were insufficient.
The Ombudsman does acknowledges that progress has been made in recent years but says more work needs to be done.
The Government agrees.
Anna Bligh, Premier: “Much of the issues here were dated, they’re a couple of years old, and the government’s response has moved significantly in that time. Nevertheless, the Ombudsman is there to make sure that where we can learn, we learn.”
The Queensland Horse Council President backs up the Government’s claims.
Debbie Decker, Qld Horse Council President: “From about 2009 onwards, the education campaign with the vets, the EVA and the Horse Council and government certainly forged ahead and everbody became much more aware.”
But the Liberal National Party isn’t convinced.
Campbell Newman, Liberal National Party leader: “The government has failed to properly manage these issues. It hasn’t actually learnt the lessons of several years ago, nor has it communicated properly with the community the threats of this disease.”
Thirteen Hendra-infected horses and one dog have died or been put down in Queensland this year.
In NSW, 10 horses have died from the virus.
It is now up to the State Government to decide its response to the Ombudsman’s 74 recommendations for change.
Sonya Harris, QUT news.