Local class action on EI: Gold Coast firm

ABOUT 25 people working in the Northern Rivers racing industry have joined a class action lawsuit aiming to re-coup economic losses suffered during the equine influenza lockdown, according to a Gold Coast solicitor.

Attwood Marshall legal practice director Jeff Garrett said the locals were among 300 industry workers and businesses from as far as Melbourne and Singapore, who had contacted the Coolangatta firm about possible legal action.

Garrett said anyone who had lost business or wages during the three-month lockdown could have a valid claim.

"We've got such a broad spectrum of claims with the people who are joining ... jockeys, breeders, strappers, owners," Garrett said.

"Anyone who suffered loss as a result of the shutdown due to EI are entitled to make a claim for compensation.

"Anyone. Not just from the thoroughbred industry, but also the pleasure horse industry ... saddleries, produce stores, places like Horseland, riding schools, riding instructors."

However it has not yet been determined who should pay the compensation claims.

Report not public

The Callinan Report on the system failures that led to the EI outbreak was last week handed to Agriculture Minister Tony Burke, who is yet to indicate when its findings would be released to the public.

"Whilst we can't pre-empt the findings, if the evidence given at the enquiry is accepted, I find it very difficult to believe that the report will be anything other than fairly critical of AQIS (Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service)," Garrett said.

"We're waiting for that (the Callinan Report) to be published so we can make decision on who the defendants should be."

If AQIS is found to be responsible, the case would be aimed at the Federal Government.

Garrett said the class action arose from his contacts in the thoroughbred industry.

"I am a breeder and owner myself so I have a number of clients in the thoroughbred industry as a result of that," he said.

"When the EI outbreak occurred, I had a number of thoroughbred clients ring me asking about compensation and it came from there."

Garrett said those affected by EI could still join the class action, but an outcome is not expected anytime soon.

"The report hasn't even been handed down yet," he said.

"There's plenty of time to join.

"I'm guessing it's going to be fairly drawn out and lengthy process.

"But we'd like to get people in and on the books as soon as we can to put on a united front from within the thoroughbred industry ... so we can maximise the hopes of compensation.

"There is strength in numbers."


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