Bali travellers breeze through Melbourne Airport despite promised crackdown

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“We just left all our shoes over there that were dirty,” Allen said.

A pamphlet handed out to travellers on arrival in Australia urged them not to bring meat or dairy products into Australia and to clean any shoes and clothing used in rural areas. The flyer warned of $2664 fines for breaching biosecurity laws and the potential for tourists to be denied entry into Australia.

The detection of foot and mouth disease in Bali has triggered fears of a catastrophic local outbreak, with more than 120,000 people travelling to the island from Australia in June alone, according to local tourism authorities.

Watt told The Age on Saturday that sanitised foot mats had arrived at airports and were being “rolled out as quickly as possible”.

He said as part of the ramped-up customs measures, there would be “100 per cent risk assessment” of passengers returning from Indonesia.

“It’s excellent to see travellers following the advice and throwing away or thoroughly cleaning their shoes before returning to Australia,” he said.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt at a press conference on Friday. Credit:Getty

“The Albanese government is taking the Indonesian [foot and mouth disease] outbreak seriously, and those who choose to travel need to do the same.”

Just one positive case of the disease – which causes lesions and lameness in livestock – on an Australian farm could shut the $27 billion livestock export trade down for months or even years. The federal government has estimated the total cost of a major outbreak to be $80 billion.

At the airport on Saturday, Melbourne woman Julie Comopolous said she spotted some customs officers in Melbourne’s international terminal wearing “the full garb” of personal protective equipment.

Comopolous said she’d kept abreast of the increasing vigilance around foot and mouth disease at home, washing all her shoes before getting on the Bali flight.

Julie and Tony Comopoulos at Melbourne Airport after arriving back from Bali on Saturday morning.Credit:Scott Barbour

“I think they [border security officers] are doing all the right things,” she said.

“We were asked on the plane to make sure we filled out the forms correctly. We just ticked all the boxes to make sure we were in the right place if they wanted to speak to us.”

Melbourne woman Bella Curtis, returning home after 10 days in the Bali sun as part of a girls’ trip, said she was “surprised” by the low-key biosecurity response on arrival in Australia.

She said they threw out a number of pairs of shoes before returning.

Bella Curtis (left) and Charlotte Powell returned to Australia from a girls’ trip to Bali on Saturday.Credit:Scott Barbour

“It wasn’t crazy … there was just an announcement and we filled out a form,” she said.

Innovation Minister Jaala Pulford said while she was in her previous role as agriculture minister, there had been mandatory tagging of sheep and goats across the state which would make tracking livestock easier in case of an outbreak.

“People need to know and understand that this has the possibility of being very serious, but we’re very well prepared for it,” she said.

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“Our Agriculture Victoria team are working with our farming communities, and they know what they have to do. Animal biosecurity is their bread and butter.

“Victorian farmers know that in Victoria we are better prepared for serious livestock disease situations than the rest of the country.”

Australian Border Force – which handles customs and biosecurity within Australian airports – declined to answer questions on Saturday about why biosecurity measures for foot and mouth disease were not yet in practice.

While unions warned on Friday that the new biosecurity demands would put extra pressure on agriculture biosecurity officers and could extend already long international customs delays, no travellers The Age spoke to reported excessive wait times.

With Ben Preiss

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