It has been an interesting couple of weeks. I have been alternating between being out on the road around the electorate and making trips to Sydney.

Over the last two weeks, my travels have taken me to Narrabri, Wee Waa, Goodooga, Lightning Ridge, Bourke, one week, then Walgett, The Marra, back to Bourke again, Cobar, Louth and Tilpa. This week I will be in Canberra for meetings with some members of the new federal government, which will have its first sitting week. It should be an interesting and hopefully productive trip before I head back into state parliament.

NSW Farmers

Last week I was given the honour of addressing the Western Division Council NSW Farmers at their AGM. As part of my pretty informal talk, I gave them a bit of an insight into my career path and what brought me into politics, then gave an overview of what things I’ve been working on – including issues such as a structured approach to drought, the problems with Inland Rail, Category D firearms and the review of the firearms registry.

I also talked about some of the things happening in the electorate, like the current bumper season for producers and tourism in Barwon, before taking a few questions. The topics discussed ranged across the current state of agriculture, land use conflicts, drought support, pest management, water, health, roads, FMD, tourism and kangaroos.

All big issues in the bush. It was an interesting chat, and I felt very much at home among people I knew. The Western Division encompasses a large area, so it was great to have the representatives from this vast expanse of NSW all in one place, for once, and to be able to talk to people face to face rather than over the internet.

Foot and mouth disease

The outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in Indonesia continues to be a concern to Australian farmers. Since the borders reopened after the restriction of international travel during the pandemic, thousands of people have been flying to places like Bali for their first overseas holiday in a while.

Although many tourists to Bali might not think they have been near cattle, marking on their declaration form that they haven’t been on a farm, in Bali, the cattle roam free, even in tourist hubs like Seminyak. Walking on a road, tourists might not realise they could be picking up infected mud or faeces on their shoes.

There have been calls for the borders to be closed between Australia and Indonesia to prevent the spread of the disease, but hopefully it won’t have to come to that, particularly since that could damage relations between our two countries, which could also have an impact on our agricultural industry.

Restricting travel is perhaps one option while the disease remains a threat.

I am aware that there has also been a suggestion that sheep should be electronically tagged, but I fail to see how that will have an impact on the spread of FMD.

If the disease reaches Australia, the most likely vector for the spread of the disease will be feral pigs, not sheep contained behind fences on farms.

On July 11, I wrote to the federal Minister for Agriculture, urging him to take all possible measures to stop the disease from making it to our shores.

Fortunately, the federal government has heard the numerous calls for something to be done and implemented tougher biosecurity measures at airports, giving staff new powers to deal with the threat. People returning from overseas will now have to clean their shoes and walk across special sanitation mats on entering the country.

But the government should also be offering assistance and experts to Indonesia to help contain the outbreak there so that we don’t have to deal with one here.

Hopefully, it never makes it in, but the government also needs to plan in case the disease does break out here. One thing that could be done is to start a sperm and egg bank, a fertility safety deposit scheme, to protect the bloodlines of animals that Australians have spent generations breeding.

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