The equine influenza outbreak is becoming an increasingly awkward issue for the Coalition with the natural reaction of people affected by it being to blame someone for their economic and social hardship. The Federal Government is the logical candidate for the venting of spleen.

I wrote in Crikey almost a month ago that with horse racing unlikely in NSW before next year the damages are bound to be enormous “and so is the potential backlash from voters. The maladministration at the government quarantine centre affects not just the thoroughbred racing industry but tens of thousands of recreational horse riders. Hell hath no fury like a pony club mum deprived of the weekend’s activity.”

So it is proving. The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Peter McGauran, is struggling to divert the anger and prevent EI from being a major vote loser. Mr McGauran was slow to accept the inevitability of removing the ban on vaccinations and a more astute politician would have predicted the serve that would come from Victorians from the decision to promise most of the first batch of imported vaccine to New South Wales and Queensland.

Victorian horse trainer Lee Freedman is not the kind of critic that governments welcome and his comments today were quite vitriolic. Mr Freedman expressed his anger that Victoria will not be receiving the lion’s share of the 20,000 doses of the vaccine expected to arrive on Thursday. Just because containment had not worked in New South Wales and Queensland, did not mean that other states should be given preference at the expense of one of Victoria’s biggest events.

“People who don’t have a vested interest in racing surviving should not be making decisions as to the vaccination process,” Mr Freedman said on ABC radio. “The best people to make a judgment on what’s best for racing are racing people and not people who don’t earn their living out of it.”

Mr McGauran has followed the normal Federal Government line of trying to blame a State Government for the decision about allocating vaccine but the horse industries are unlikely to be influenced by that. They know that the reason for the flu epidemic is the failure of the Federal quarantine service and will punish accordingly.