This paper looks at how Australian governments have responded to anti-microbial resistance (AMR) since the problem became evident in the 1980s. Of particular importance in Australia’s response was the 1999 establishment of the Joint Expert Technical Advisory Committee on Antibiotic Resistance (JETACAR), which was set up to provide independent expert scientific advice on the threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria to human health by the selective effect of agricultural use and medical overuse of antibiotics. JETACAR report provided a ‘five point plan’ covering regulation, monitoring and surveillance, infection prevention, education and research – the basics of which were equally applicable to human and veterinary medicine. The government generally accepted the recommendations of the report, stating that there was international concern about AMR and that Australia needed to respond with strategies that were “consistent with and complementary to global initiatives”. Initially there appeared to be strong commitment to implementing the recommendations of the 1999 JETACAR report, but many initiatives failed to result in any comprehensive systematic response to the issue. Committees, taskforces and groups were set up but disbanded, strategies were developed but not implemented, pilot programs failed to be anything other than pilot programs; undertakings were not carried out.

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