There is no doubt of the increasing risk from new and emerging diseases and that such diseases have the potential for profound implications for all sectors of society. The emergence of entirely new diseases such as SARS is usually the result of changes in the way that we do things and is often difficult to predict. The increasing emergence and spread of more traditional diseases may be due not only to evolution of the causative agent but also to the impact that we, as humans, have on our environment. Whatever the cause, the risk is increasing and threatens as much those striving to emerge from poverty as the more developed groups in our society. Understanding better the conditions that drive these changes, recognising emerging diseases earlier than we currently do and having in place more effective mechanisms for responding to each threat will be critical. Increasingly though, such diseases are emerging from complex interactions between humans, animals and environment and an effective national animal disease surveillance program is an essential component of enhanced preparedness. Unfortunately for many developing countries resources are not available for such systems, the risks remain unmanaged and the opportunities brought by the livestock revolution could abruptly disappear. Importantly many of the new diagnostic and surveillance tools being developed for use in Australia will be applicable to poorer regions of the world and could assist in the better management of risk due to new and emerging infectious diseases.