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Indefinite ban on NSW horse movements

Posted August 27, 2007 16:01:00
Updated August 27, 2007 16:35:00

The New South Wales Government is extending indefinitely its ban on all horse movements and race meetings in the state, as it grapples with the outbreak of equine influenza.

Racing authorities are nervously awaiting the results of tests on three thoroughbreds at Randwick Racecourse - so far 415 horses are suspected of carrying the virus and 51 have tested positive.

The ban on horse movements has been in place since Saturday after animals in New South Wales and Queensland were found to have the highly contagious virus.

New South Wales Primary Industries Minister Ian MacDonald says the ban will be reviewed next Monday, and in the meantime, a task force has been formed to see what help can be offered to those affected.

"We have a lot more work to do to identify the scope of this problem in New South Wales," he said.

"It is absolutely vital that nobody moves a horse in this state and there are severe penalties for doing such."

But Victoria's Racing Minister Rob Hulls expects horse racing will resume across the state by the weekend.

Chief Veterinarian Officers from around Australia will decide this afternoon whether to extend the ban on horse movements.

Mr Hulls says it is possible the training of horses will resume before Saturday.

The New South Wales police force is warning those caught breaking the ban on horse movements in the state face heavy penalties.

Assistant Police Commissioner Dave Owens says around 100 people have so far been stopped and spoken to by patrols.

"The message we want to get out is: don't move the horses," he said.

"This is not about imposing $44,000 fines or 12 months imprisonment, this is about protecting an industry within New South Wales and within Australia.

"That's why we would ask people not to move and that's why the police are out patrolling at the moment."

Independent inquiry

Meanwhile, federal Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd wants an independent inquiry to see if flaws in Australia's quarantine system are responsible for an outbreak of the equine flu virus.

Mr Rudd says the industry needs to know if the quarantine system can be trusted.

"We need to establish that, because if there is a hole in the quarantine system it needs to be plugged straight away," he said.

"Secondly, in terms of the impact on the industry itself, we would always be attentive to any submission to any state and territory government about assistance to the industry at what we think will be a difficult time."

But the Federal Government says it is too early to blame quarantine authorities for the outbreak of equine influenza.

Federal Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran says there is still a good chance the virus can be contained with bans on the movement of horses.

He denies rumours that horses were released from quarantine before test results had cleared them of the virus.

"I don't believe there's any possibility of a horse being released from quarantine carrying influenza," he said.

"And what we've been doing is tracing the movements of persons between that quarantine facility and Centennial Park and have found nobody.

"There have been rumours about a vet, about a farrier, about a float driver and all have come to a dead end, there is no such link."

Betting impact

Analysts say the impact of the equine flu on the share price of betting organisations has been surprisingly minimal so far.

Tabcorp says the suspension of horse racing this weekend will see losses of about $150 million in wagering turnover.

The organisation's shares had fallen 2 per cent to $15.50 about 3:30pm AEST.

Wilson HTM's senior private client adviser Carl Daffy says he was expecting more of a reaction from the market.

"I must confess I've been a little bit surprised, I thought there might be a little more panic, bit more of a sell-off in both Tattersalls and Tabcorp," he said.

Tags: government-and-politics, federal-government, influenza, rural, quarantine, horse-racing, sydney-2000