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Horse Flu in Australia Draws Inquiry

World attention on the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation event in Sydney has shined a light on an interesting problem - horse flu. Now the government wants answers.

Retired High Court judge Ian Callinan will conduct an inquiry into how equine influenza entered Australia, Prime Minister John Howard announced this week. Howard said the Callinan inquiry had been granted wide powers to investigate the source of the outbreak, which has devastated the racing industry in New South Wales and Queensland.

While the racing industry has been hit hard, so has the use of horses for law enforcement, which were to be an important part of the security measures for this week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation - APEC - event in Syndey.

"We are determined to find out what happened, how this disease was introduced, whether there's been a breach of quarantine procedures and protocols," Howard says. "[Callinan] will be able to investigate every aspect of it. He'll be able to require people to give evidence, produce documents and he will conduct public hearings if he regards that as being necessary."

Many in the industry have pointed an accusing finger at Sydney's Eastern Creek quarantine center, and an internal quarantine investigation is under way. Howard has also flagged possible wage subsidies for those in the racing industry affected by EI.

He says the government would be in a position in a few days to announce further assistance to the racing industry, including possible wage subsidies.

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