Queenland Agriculture Minister John McVeigh has defended the third-party provider system for tick inspection and treatment facilities across the state, claiming the effectiveness of an entire system should not be judged on the actions of one individual in one location.
As reported last week by Queensland Country Life, concerns have been raised about the integrity of the tick line following the conviction earlier this month of a stock inspector previously in charge of the Helidon Livestock Inspection Service, an employee of Livestock Link, on a single charge of failing to provide a clean inspection and supervised treatment at the Lockyer Valley facility following several formal complaints by truck drivers.
Mr McVeigh revealed this week that Biosecurity Queensland had placed movement restrictions on one property following investigation of livestock that have moved through the Helidon centre.
He said these animals had since been treated and continue to be monitored.
It is not known whether the stock movement, which prompted the movement restriction, took place before or after Livestock Link took over the Helidon facility operations in April 2011.
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry had not replied to a request for clarification at time of print.
Biosecurity Queensland is also currently managing unrelated tick outbreaks in the cattle tick-free zone across Aramac/ Pentland, Injune, Auburn, South Burnett and Northern Darling Downs.
Mr McVeigh said given current seasonal conditions, it is likely there will be more cattle tick detections in the free and control zones in the coming months.
Biosecurity Queensland is currently conducting an audit of all livestock dips managed by third-party providers.
The audit will look at all elements of the agreement between providers and the department to ensure obligations are being met, and will see all providers audited by the end of the year.
Mr McVeigh said the outcome of the audit program will be used to review the most appropriate way to deliver tick inspection, dipping and clearance processes.
He said the Helidon facility had already been audited and is due for another inspection shortly.
He said the status of the agreement with Livestock Link for the Helidon facility would be revisited once the outcome of the audit is available.
Livestock Link director Garry Edwards said while the company had conducted an internal audit to 'verify and validate', there was only one occasion where the inspection and treatment process was not completed properly at the Helidon facility.
A similar audit was also carried out by Biosecurity Queensland.
"The actions of that individual are totally inexcusable and he has been demoted and removed from having access to that process," Mr Edwards said.
"The fact that the stock had no ticks is irrelevant the actions were still inexcusable.
"But we remain confident about the service we provide across Queensland."
He said transporters illegally moving cattle outside inspection centre operating hours remained an ongoing concern.
Livestock Link operates seven facilities in Queensland, including the Helidon Livestock Inspection Centre and the Helidon Clearing Dip.
Third party providers operate a total of 27 clearing dips and two livestock inspection centres across the state, where they clear about 97 per cent of cattle and 98pc of horses that require inspection and treatment.
Queensland cattle tick management committee chair and AgForce cattle president Grant Maudsley said it was essential the government and beef industry remained vigilant to ensure the integrity of the tick line following the Helidon charge.
Mr Maudsley said with the announced closure of Biosecurity Queensland's frontline training facility, the emergency management unit, AgForce would use its upcoming conference to call on Mr McVeigh to explain how a high standard of biosecurity preparedness would be maintained.
"We will ask the hard questions about what happens if we get an outbreak of XYZ disease in the next month, what training is currently in place?
What are the processes in place? I don't think we can take anything at face value," he said.
Mr McVeigh said the third party provider system was critical to the ongoing delivery of the cattle tick program.
"The effectiveness of all elements of cattle tick management will always be subject to review," he said.
"The current situation is being assessed to ensure that Queensland has the best and most cost effective service in place."
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