THE EMERGENCY ANIMAL DISEASE RESPONSE AGREEMENT (EADRA)
A reminder of what EADRA is all about
The Australian Horse Industry Council Inc. (AHIC) has been communicating about EADRA for many years. There has been extensive consultation and distribution of explanatory materials to industry since about 1998 when moves were first put in place to have a formal agreement between the various animal industries and governments about responses to exotic disease incursions. This communication reiterates what benefits EADRA provides to the animal industries and explains features and obligations of the agreement for both government and industry.
Emergency response to exotic diseases
When there is an outbreak of an exotic disease in any of the animal industries, there needs to be an emergency response to minimise damage to the affected animals and the industry involved. The preferable outcome is eradication of the disease incursion and return of the affected industry to the pre-emergency state.
What resources will be needed to respond?
To mount such a response, the livestock industries need access to various skills and resources.
These might include:
- people with the skills to recognise there is an unusual problem
- people with the skills to diagnose what the problem might be
- laboratory capacity and expertise to isolate and define the causative organism or toxin
- access to any necessary treatments for the problem
- ability to access (on an emergency basis) sufficient quantities of any necessary treatments
- sufficient personnel to service needs of the affected industry to mount a response to the problem
- ability to implement necessary statutory powers to assist the emergency response
- ability to mobilise emergency services if needed (for example SES, armed forces, police)
- emergency access to financial resources to enable any exotic disease response to be financed on an ongoing basis
- access to adequate communication channels across the affected industry
- ready communication with international partners and experts who can assist the emergency response
- communication with recognised agencies and organisations throughout Australia and overseas to manage information exchange.
None of the animal industries can readily access any of these skills and resources on their own. No animal industry can afford to accumulate such skills and resources over time and maintain them in a state of readiness for an emergency.
Exotic diseases are unpredictable!
Exotic disease incursions might happen, or they might not. If they do happen, it is likely to involve an unpredictable time and place. These factors make it difficult or impossible for animal industries to plan adequately and to resource any necessary emergency response on their own.
Many exotic disease agents can be transmitted with great speed across large distances if no steps are taken rapidly to prevent this spread. No animal industry has the capacity to seek out and engage the necessary skills and expertise for an emergency response in a timely manner.
This leaves all animal industries vulnerable to the aftermath of an exotic disease incursion. Consequences of such a situation would be catastrophic for individuals and businesses – no matter what their motivation for being involved in the affected industry.
The question for the animal industries is how to ensure that effects of any exotic disease can be minimised and an emergency response mounted as rapidly as possible. In an emergency the affected industry needs to access help from some external source and the only viable source for the necessary skills and resources needed for an exotic disease response is the government.
What are the government’s obligations?
In the normal course of events there is no obligation on governments and their various departments to mount an emergency response to assist animal industries to counter the effects of an exotic disease incursion. There is no philanthropic or altruistic necessity for governments to become involved. While there might be statutory powers for governments to intervene and regulate various related matters, there is no obligation that these statutory powers must be enacted to assist an affected industry.
In such cases, the affected industry can be left to its own inadequate and meagre resources to attempt to mount an emergency response. Obviously any animal industry would need to impose voluntary mechanisms in such a situation, which would be largely unenforceable and unlikely to be very effective in the case of a rapidly spreading disease.
A contractual agreement between animal industries and governments is the only way that “at risk” industries can be certain of a timely response to their needs from government. Like any contract, there are obligations on all parties to such a contract, including financial matters.
EADRA is a contract
The Emergency Animal Disease Response Agreement (EADRA) is just such a contract between various animal industries and governments.
EADRA provides a mechanism for an affected animal industry to call for assistance from governments to provide vital skills and resources to identify, contain, control and eradicate an exotic disease incursion. Under EADRA, governments are obliged to provide and maintain sufficient resources to assist animal industries in their time of need. Without EADRA, no such legally binding obligation exists.
When an animal industry signs up to EADRA, it is assured of government assistance in its time of need. Relevant government officials can enact emergency legislation, mobilise emergency services, access necessary skills, resources and support personnel, and provide vital emergency financial resources to fund the response. Thus, the Australian taxpayer (i.e. the government) ensures the provision of resources and financial backup for an emergency response to take place.
It is reasonable that the usual services provided by government departments are not made part of any financial commitments to an emergency response. These are provided as a normal part of what governments do on a day-to-day basis. Therefore these “normal commitments” are deliberately excluded from any accounting when an emergency response is being costed.
Another important factor to consider is that the provisions of EADRA are not available outside the “livestock” industries. So any exotic disease that enters Australia’s companion animal populations (for example dogs, cats, pet birds, ornamental fish) has to be funded fully by the owners of those animals. There is no provision for government assistance unless there is an issue of human health.
Reimbursement when the disease control is over
It seems reasonable that the Australian taxpayer will expect to be reimbursed for at least part of the costs of the emergency response. The vast majority of the Australian population will not be directly affected by eradication of an emergency disease. So the EADRA contract provides for the beneficiaries of the eradication efforts to reimburse their fellow taxpayers for a share of the costs. This is where the cost sharing part of EADRA comes into play.
Disease categorisation and repayments
There is some public good or benefit in eradication of an exotic disease incursion and its associated emergency response, and so the Australian taxpayer will pick up part of the bill. This ensures that the affected industry gets the emergency response at a discount – and this is where the various categories of disease come into play. Depending on the perceived public benefit of the eradication efforts, the affected animal industry obtains a discount ranging from 100% (in the case of category 1 diseases which cause significant effects on human health), to 80% for category 2 diseases, 50% for category 3 diseases, and a discount of 20% for category 4 diseases.
The Australian horse industry provides only a small proportion of the annual Australian Gross Domestic Product of about $1000 billion. For this reason there is a minor public benefit for eradication of most horse diseases and they fall into category 4. This means that the Australian horse industry gets only a 20% discount on the costs of eradicating most of the exotic diseases that might affect the industry.
Another important part of EADRA is that the affected animal industry does not have to start repaying any financial obligations until after the emergency response has been declared over. Once the emergency response has been completed, there is a six month period during which all accounts are collated and audited. It is only at that time that the total amount of any financial obligations of an industry can be calculated with any degree of accuracy. This has been described as like having an insurance policy in place, but not needing to pay any premium until after the terms of the policy and its payout have been completed. Animal industries pay after the fact, and not upfront as in a normal insurance situation.
A further advantage is that repayments are made over many years, not all at once. The usual term for repayments is about ten years. The residual amount has an annual interest payment applied to it to preserve the value of the taxpayer contributions. This means that the sooner any financial obligations under EADRA are repaid, the cheaper it will be for the affected animal industry.
The levy mechanism
This repayment by an animal industry of financial obligations after an emergency disease response is done via a levy mechanism. The convention is that a levy is imposed on an industry, but is set at zero. The levy amount is increased above zero only after any financial obligations under EARDA have been audited and calculated after an emergency response has been completed.
An important thing for the animal industries to realise is that governments can impose on an industry a levy that the government considers in the best interests of the industry. Thus it is vital that animal industries engage fully and meaningfully with government during any EADRA negotiations to ensure that the form and application of the levy is something that is agreed by industry, and it is a fair and equitable system.
EADRA is a way of “future proofing” the Australian horse industry against the potentially devastating effects of an exotic disease incursion.
EADRA assures the horse industry of access to the necessary resources and finances to mount an emergency response to an exotic disease incursion.
Australia is the only country where there is an enforceable agreement between governments and animal industries to work together to eradicate exotic disease incursions.
Negotiations between government and the horse industry about a levy mechanism to allow the horse industry to become a party to EADRA have been going on for many years. All other livestock industries signed up to EADRA in 2002.