Reduced quarantine dogs will put WA at risk: union

The decision by the Department of Agriculture and Food Western Australia (DAFWA) to reduce biosecurity measures at Perth Airport has been slammed by a state union.

The Community and Public Sector Union/Civil Service Association branch secretary said the proposed changes would put the state at risk.

The changes include dog handlers performing quarantine duties at the Perth domestic airport, and the eight handlers will be reduced by half.

The change is due to be implemented on 1 July, and will leave the airport without any quarantine inspections after 8pm on weekends.

Walkington believes the changes will increase the risks of prohibited insects, animal pests, plants, animal diseases and weeds entering the state.

"The decision will leave WA susceptible to diseases it has fought hard to be quarantined from," she said.

"This is a clear-cut example of front-line services being affected as department heads are forced to administer the State Government cutbacks.

"With Perth's domestic airport now processing record flight numbers every day, it doesn't make sense to reduce quarantine services."

Walkington has accused WA Premier Colin Barnett of being hypocritical with the decision, after he said he was concerned about federal government plans to cut jobs at customs' district offices and the potential impact on agriculture and public health.

"At the same time Mr Barnett is letting his government compromise border security with quarantine cut backs," she said.

According to DAFWA agricultural risk management executive director John Ruprecht, the job cuts are the result of increased staff at the Eucla's 24-hour quarantine service.

"This is necessary to meet the demands for managing pests and diseases, rather than budget cuts," he said.

"The department is looking at a more targeted risk-based response in regards to quarantine, due to cost pressures and trying to be more effective.

"We are facing pressures such as extra staff, wages, and operating costs."

Ruprecht said the plan involved looking at how long quarantine dogs were on the floor at the domestic airport and if that was the best way to oversee the area.

"Having the dogs on the floor for a longer duration of time didn't necessarily equate to greater effectiveness," he said.

While there will be less dog handlers at Perth domestic airport, the number of quarantine dogs will remain the same, he explained.

"The risk-based approach we will now take will target passengers from those States with the greatest risk and be more effective," he said.

"We are still going to continue with random after hours and weekend inspections."

Image: Perth Airport

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