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Throw away your thongs: Pluggers the new enemy in biosecurity battle

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Farmers are urging travellers from Bali to throw out their thongs before arriving in Australia, to help stop the highly contagious foot and mouth disease.

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President of the National Farmers Federation Fiona Simson said travellers who buy themselves a new pair of shoes after their holiday will be performing an act of national service.

Simson said those people throwing away their old footwear will be given a voucher towards a new pair of shoes.

“Foot and mouth disease loves to hitchhike on shoes,” Simson told AAP.

“That means your dirty old holiday pluggers could be the thing that brings this disaster to our shores.”

The NSW farmer said it is a lighthearted response to a very serious problem.

“The threat of foot and mouth disease which is now in Bali does pose a huge issue for Australia,” Simson said.

“We need travellers to be aware that they could inadvertently bring this virus in on their shoes, or on their clothing, or on goods they might bring into Australia.”

It is estimated it would cost the agricultural industry $80 billion if foot and mouth disease (FMD) arrived in Australia.

Last week biosecurity measures were strengthened at Australian airports after the livestock disease was discovered in the popular holiday destination of Bali.

Detector dogs are operating at Darwin and Cairns airports and biosecurity officers are boarding flights from Indonesia to do checks of travellers arriving from Indonesia.

Authorities on Tuesday confirmed FMD had spread to Bali.

“Travellers need to clean off their footwear to wash their clothes, to perhaps avoid going near any animals whilst they’re away and to avoid animal contact when they come back,” Ms Simson said.

“We’re urging travellers in Bali to throw their thongs, ditch their footwear, bin their boots, and Ringers Western will give them a 30 per cent voucher on their return.

“I never thought we’d be helping people buy new shoes to keep my cattle safe, but here we are.”

The chief vet last week told AAP consideration was being given to the introduction of footbaths for travellers arriving in the country from Indonesia.

Simson welcomed any measures that can help stop the transfer of the disease.

“Let’s make sure we do everything we can to stop the disease, to make sure people’s footwear is not infected, is not carrying soil, and other matter that could be harbouring the virus.”

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