The Abbott Government still hasn’t clarified how it is handling the hepatitis A outbreak that has now afflicted 14 people across four states.
Yesterday it was reported that the Prime Minister had contradicted government officials and his own colleagues by claiming that the Government had moved to 100 per cent screening of all produce imports.
The Government was then forced to clarify that the screening only applied to Patties frozen berry products.
All of this was fresh news to Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce’s office who indicated that Patties were responsible for the screening. When Mr. Abbott’s office were asked to respond they could not say who was conducting the screening.
Assistant Health Minister, Senator Fiona Nash – the Minister with responsibility for Food Safety Australian New Zealand (FSANZ), has been putting our media releases – but none of them have added any clarity to the contradictory messages being sent out by her colleagues.
There has been no explanation today on:
- Whether all produce imports or just Patties frozen berries are being screened?
- Whether the Government is considering a temporary expansion of screening processes?
- Who is conducting the screening operation and what role, if any, government agencies are playing or will play in this process?
Thousands of schoolchildren and infants in child care are at risk of infection with hundreds currently being monitored for symptoms. Many more people across the nation could be infected by the virus in coming weeks.
Meanwhile those in charge are clearly not talking to each other, not listening to departmental advice and not demonstrating any leadership.
The hepatitis A contamination crisis will almost certainly get worse before it gets better. Australian consumers deserve better than a Government which is paralysed by indecision and confusion.