FEDERAL Agriculture and Water Resources Minister David Littleproud has announced three new measures in response to last night’s 60 Minutes program that exposed issues with sheep welfare on board live export shipments to the Middle East.
Mr Littleproud said he was concerned that a mortality report he received recently from the independent regulator - the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources - did not accurately reflect the conditions seen in the vision shown on the current affairs program, regarding the Emanuel Exports shipment from 2017 where 2400 sheep died.
- Mr Littleproud announced:
- * A review into investigative capability, powers and culture of the independent regulator
- * A number to allow whistle-blowers to anonymously call and provide information
- * An intention to work with the Labor Party to increase penalties for those doing the wrong thing, through a Bill currently before parliament.
Mr Littleproud said he’d personally like to see company directors be held more personally accountable for doing the wrong thing, like “facing big fines and possible jail time”.
“They shouldn't be able to hide behind companies and shelf companies,” he said.
“I want to let the light shine in.
“No-one who is doing the right thing should be scared of transparency.”
Mr Littleproud said he thanked the whistle-blower for coming forward – who supplied the video footage to Animals Australia which was used for last night’s joint-investigation with 60 Minutes.
“We need more of it,” he said.
“A hotline for whistle-blowers to call anonymously is a logical step to increase transparency and encourage that behaviour.
“I said I'd aim to create an environment where whistle-blowers are comfortable and confident stepping forward and a hotline is a start.
“I'll consult further with Animals Australia and the RSPCA, both of whom I've been in contact with, to help strengthen this.
“A review into the independent regulator is a good thing.
“We need to make sure the regulator has the right tools, training and culture to make sure exporters do the right thing.
“This requires prosecutions and heavy penalties where breaches occur.
“Regarding the ship scheduled to leave Fremantle for the Middle East in the next couple of days, conditions required of the exporter are a matter for the independent regulator, although personally I'm pleased with the idea an independent observer paid for by the regulator will be on board sending back daily reports and photographs.”
The new controversy has re-ignited calls to have the live exports industry shut down but Mr Littleproud has rejected those calls, choosing instead to take affirmative action to enhance industry standards.
A statement from the Department said the Animals Australia footage of sheep aboard a live export vessel showed conditions that were “deplorable and unacceptable”.
It said the law that regulated the export of livestock included strict requirements to ensure the health and welfare of animals but it was the responsibility of each exporter to ensure it meets those obligations.
“While the Department is assessing this information, it is taking immediate action to add an independent department veterinarian to an upcoming voyage to the Middle East,” it said of the Emanuel Exports shipment of about 60,000 head of sheep that’s due to leave Fremantle this week for the Middle East.
“This vet will monitor and record the health and welfare of all animals on board, send back daily reports and images and will also be able to issue directions on the vessel to ensure the welfare of the sheep.”
The Department said in addition to this measure, it was moving to settle additional specific conditions on a forthcoming voyage to the Middle East to ensure that the health and welfare outcomes required under law are met, including:
- Adding an additional accredited stockman on top of the exporter’s normal practice of two accredited stockmen
- Improved ventilation equipment on the vessel
- Ensuring that decks are maintained to deliver animal health and welfare
- Animal welfare, feed, water and bedding inspected and recorded four times each day, including by the independent department vet, and a daily report with images of conditions provided to the department
- Reduced stocking density by 17.5 per cent
- Requiring the first port of discharge to be Kuwait when traveling to multiple ports in the Middle East, providing greater space for the remaining livestock as they head towards higher humidity ports.
“Conditions will be designed to ensure the health and welfare of sheep on this voyage while longer term measures are developed for the industry,” it said.
- Does this article interest you? Scroll down to the comments section and start the conversation. You only need to sign up once and create a profile in the Disqus comment management system for permanent access to all discussions.