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Full judicial powers for horse flu probe

12/09/2007 07:09:00 PM Comments (0)

The retired High Court judge who will try to get to the bottom of the disastrous outbreak of equine influenza (EI) in Australia will have the sweeping powers of a royal commissioner.

Agriculture Minister Peter McGauran introduced a bill in parliament which he said would allow a comprehensive, independent inquiry into the outbreak and spread of the disease.

"The serious effects of this outbreak are being felt across horse-related industries," Mr McGauran said.

"In addition to providing assistance to those people and businesses directly affected by the outbreak, the Australian government is committed to determine how it occurred."

The government has already asked Ian Callinan, whom Mr McGauran said was a distinguished jurist with a good working knowledge of the horse industry, to start the inquiry as soon as the necessary legislation has been passed.

Mr McGauran said Mr Callinan and his assistants would have access to the necessary quarantine specific powers and all relevant powers and protections of a royal commission.

The commission could summon witnesses and act against anyone for providing false or misleading information, destroying documents, or contempt.

Quarantine officers could be assigned to the commission and investigators would have search powers.

Mr McGauran said the inquiry would start as soon as possible.

Debate on the Quarantine Amendment (Commission of Inquiry Bill) was adjourned.

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