EI Inquiry: Five Horses Not Checked

Horses coming from Japan weren't checked because they passed through Melbourne first.

An investigation into how equine influenza entered Australia and who is responsible for allowing it is in full swing.

Retired High Court judge Ian Callinan, who is conducting the inquiry into how EI escaped quarantine in early August, heard that a plane carrying five stallions from Japan to Australia did not get checked by quarantine officers in Sydney "because it had come via Melbourne" even though customs officers were still required to clear the passengers.

The August 8 flight also arrived in Sydney without one of the horses expected at the livestock transfer area because it had been off-loaded in Melbourne. Customs officer Gianna Bucciarelli said that when she proceeded toward the plane to process the passengers, she asked an officer from the Australian Quarantine & Inspection Service if they were both heading to the same plane. Bucciarelli recalled: "I explained to [the officer] that there were five grooms on board who had not been cleared for customs and immigration. The AQIS officer responded that they weren’t required to board that flight because it was a domestic flight from Melbourne."

And a veterinary officer in charge of the AQIS livestock transfer facility, Dr. Yan Hee Song, revealed there were health certificates for five horses at the airport, but only four arrived. He explained: "I was told the plane had landed in Melbourne and told the head office [in Sydney] there were only four horses." The four horses that arrived in Sydney were Coolmore stallions Rock of Gibraltar and Stravinsky, Arrowfield Stud stallion Snitzel and Darley shuttler Grandera. Black Hawk (who stands at Eliza Park in Victoria) remained in Melbourne.

Meanwhile, Coolmore officials stated at the inquiry that they were forced to build their own quarantine area in Sydney as the current one was not up to professional standards. Darley did the same thing.

The inquiry continues as does the lockdown of many areas in New South Wales and Queensland.