An expert biosecurity task force will be set up by the federal government to prevent a devastating outbreak of foot and mouth disease from reaching Australia. 

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt announced on Thursday the exotic animal disease preparedness task force would be created with officials from the Australian Defence Force, Australian Border Force and Animal Health Australia.

It will provide a report to the minister by September 5.

“By bringing together the best expertise from across government, we can ensure that everyone understands their roles and responsibilities if there were to be an outbreak and that there are no gaps in our response,” Senator Watt told reporters in Canberra. 

“It will work closely with states, territories and industry to ensure that we are all fully prepared if an outbreak were to occur.” 

He said the task force would get to work immediately, conducting a series of scenario-based exercises within the next month.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the number of cases in Indonesia was falling, and he had discussed the government’s plans with his state and territory counterparts during a national cabinet on Thursday. 

The task force is in addition to sanitation foot mats rolled out at every international Australian airport and bolstered powers for biosecurity officers screening arriving travellers following the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Indonesia.

Australia is currently free of the disease, which affects livestock.

Senator Watt said the government didn’t want to make the same mistakes as those from its predecessor in its response times to national emergencies. 

“They were too slow on vaccines, too slow on RATs and Australians paid the price,” he said. 

“We can do better than that by being fully prepared. If there were to be a major biosecurity outbreak in Australia, there is simply no time for delay … good governments plan for the best and prepare for the worst.”

Senator Watt said vaccines pledged for Indonesia to help it contain its outbreak of the disease were expected to hit the ground “very soon”. 

He said defence force personnel would help with logistics and planning.