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PostAustralian Customs and Quarantine (Martin Storey, Australia, 01/22/13 5:16 am)
Belated Season's Greetings to WAISdom!
Apologies for the delayed response to JE's question of 12 January. It's busy for me right now after returning from a month in Europe.
About Australian "quarantine" (that's what it is called, even though the word is generally not accurate in this context):
The quarantine rules are still in place, not just between Australia and overseas, but also between states. When flying into Australia, every passenger has to fill in a form which is quite clear about what must be declared, and if anything seems to be in a grey area, it's "declare or beware." Once you know the rules, it's normally easy to stay within them and not have anything confiscated, but that certainly means that I cannot bring in cheese, fruit, etc. I also want to say that the customs and quarantine people are almost invariably remarkably courteous and even friendly. Quarantine rules change, and one needs to be proactive to be kept aware of these changes. For instance, it used to be that until recently (September 2012), one could not bring in tins of French pâté because pâté usually contains unspecific quantities of egg, something that was forbidden. For the past few months, products containing egg are allowed even if the quantity is not specified, as long as the product does not need to be kept refrigerated...not something I would have guessed. Of course there is a reason for quarantine, and it is a good one: the agriculture and the ecology of Australia are fragile and vulnerable to the introduction of foreign life forms. Cane toads are a well-known example, but there are many, many other plants and animals that have been introduced one way or another and have become pests or worse.
Spraying: I have never been sprayed individually, but I am frequently in airplanes which are sprayed before landing, meaning that stewards walk through the alleys with one or two spray bombs and empty them. Passengers are warned, and the mist is neither strong nor unpleasant, in fact it's barely detectable. Having lived in Los Angeles, in Borneo during the great fires of 1997-98, and having traveled to cities like Beijing (an a propos example), I am not concerned about exposure to the airplane spray, although like JE, I have my doubts about its efficacy. It doesn't happen in every flight coming into Australia, and it happens in other flights elsewhere too.
As a "frequent flyer" internationally, I have lots of stories about flying, some of which are quite hairy. Don't get me started.
At the time of the bird flu, just a few years ago, I flew into Beijing and every passenger had to stay in their seat while custom officer went around and shone a laser pointer-like tool to their forehead, presumably to detect fever. It felt like a "Big Brother" moment.
JE comments: Best New Year's greetings to Martin Storey. I'm about ready to board an international flight myself, but apart from the shock of the 60-degree temperature difference, I trust it will be painless.