Agriculture Minister David Littleproud says Labor should put animal welfare above politics and support his bill to increase fines for breaches of live animal export laws.
Labor’s agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon says he’s not playing politics.
But in effect he’s amping up the pressure on the Government to engage in a Lower House debate over an industry ban.
In May Mr Littleproud introduced a bill to double the penalties for exporters who breach the export laws.
Mr Fitzgibbon attached an amendment to the bill which would ban the trade outright (mirroring a private members Bill from Farrer MP Sussan Ley) and the bill has sat on the shelf ever since.
“Labor’s live export games must end,” Minister Littleproud said today.
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He said his new penalties were supported by the RSPCA and National Farmers’ Federation and Mr Fitzgibbon should support the tougher penalties for animal welfare.
“With companies aiming to take shipments of live sheep across to the Middle East in the near future, any wrongdoing will be on Labor’s head.
“If Labor do not support my bill to increase penalties for those live exporters who do wrong, then Labor does not care about animal welfare – it’s just using animal welfare as a smokescreen for a media stunt.”
Mr Fitzgibbon said there was no export consignments ready to roll, and that Labor would support Mr Littleproud’s tougher penalties – after a debate on his amendment to ban the live sheep trade.
“Under David Littleproud we’ve had no live sheep exports for 12 weeks so his call for urgency is phoney,” he said.
“Labor has made it clear we will support the bill if our amendments fail. We can get it done this week if the Minister brings the Bill back. Let’s do it.”
Australia’s two major live sheep exporters are out of action at present.
Meanwhile, the other major exporter, Livestock Shipping Services, suspended exports to the Middle East while it reviews its business following new regulations.
Mr Littleproud’s new penalties would take effect under the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act.
Exporters would face up to 10 years in jail.
Companies who look to profit from dodgy practices will be slapped with a fine of $4.2 million, three times the benefit gained by the company or 10 per cent of the company’s turnover – whichever is greater.
And a director of a guilty company could face 10 years in prison or a fine of $2.1 million.