What is the Animal Health Committee (AHC)?
The Animal Health Committee (formerly VetCom) is a committee that sits under the National Biosecurity Committee (NBC).
The committee members include the chief veterinary officers (CVOs) of the Commonwealth, states and territories, along with representatives from the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (CSIRO), the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and the Department of the Environment. There are also observers from Animal Health Australia, Wildlife Health Australia, and the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries.
What does the AHC do?
The main purpose of AHC is to develop science-based and nationally consistent policy on animal health issues, and to provide advice as necessary on animal health to NBC. In doing so, AHC provides leadership in developing and implementing policy, programs, operational strategies and standards for government in the areas of animal health, domestic quarantine, animal welfare and veterinary public health.
The committee meets face-to-face twice a year, and the meetings are held in a different state each time. The position of the chair of the committee is rotated annually between the CVOs. AHC members also meet regularly by teleconference to discuss issues of national importance. A considerable amount of business is considered out of session where committee discussion of the issue is not necessary.
AHC publishes a newsletter,
Vetcommunique, that provides information on current topics that they have considered in their face-to-face meetings.
AHC is supported by the Sub-committee on Aquatic Animal Health and the National Laboratory Task Group. The latter is a key outcome of the 2015 reform of national animal health laboratory coordination after the Sub-committee on Animal Health Laboratory Standards was dissolved.
Reform of National Animal Health Laboratory Coordination
Publication date: August 2016
In early 2015, AHC reviewed the coordination of national animal health laboratory functions after the Subcommittee on Animal Health Laboratory Standards and its working groups were dissolved in December 2014. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is a member of AHC and has summarised the key outcomes of the AHC review in the report, including new arrangements for national laboratory functions.
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Why is it important?
Australia enjoys a high level of food quality and an enviable reputation amongst our agricultural trading partners for disease freedom. Surveillance monitoring and reporting systems focus on the fact that Australia can be called upon to substantiate our claims of freedom from major diseases, including foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). As part of such assurances, we must be able to demonstrate that an adequate level of service exists to detect, diagnose and control animal diseases.