Livecorp drops policing role

22 Oct, 2003 10:00 PM

LIVECORP will be stripped of its accreditation powers amid concerns it had been unable to police industry standards.

The problems for Livecorp began in the second half of last year when cattle and sheep mortalities above 2pc were reported on six ships out of Portland.

Since then animal welfare groups, with help from a 60 Minutes program, had stepped up their campaign against the trade.

The Cormo Express fiasco has made matters worse for the industry.

It is hoped that by taking the standards accreditation role from Livecorp there will be less pressure for full industry re-regulation.

The changes would see Livecorp's industry standards accreditation role passed to a new industry standards body, likely to be called the Live Export Standards and Compliance Organisation.

It would include a nine-member committee including two livestock exporters, one livestock ship operator, a sheep and cattle producer organisation representative, an independent chairman, one animal welfare representative and an independent chairman.

The states and commonwealth would also be represented on the new standards group, expected to be operating by the end of the month.

The Livecorp board has seven directors, which includes five livestock exporters and two skills-based directors.

Livecorp chief executive officer Kevin Shiell said the changes, which had been planned since early this year, would ensure the operation of live export industry standards were managed independently.

His role was to provide a service for livestock shippers and also rule on live shipping quality assurance accreditation standards.

While Livecorp could not cancel a livestock exporter¹s licence - the role of the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service - it could downgrade livestock exporters' accreditation.

This would lead to increased auditing by Ausmeat.

The audit results go to an accreditation standards committee, which makes recommendations to Mr Shiell, who has the final say.

Mr Shiell said some people saw a potential conflict of interest because there were five live exporters on the Livecorp board.

He said that while the exporters never had a say in the accreditation process there was a perception he could have been influenced by the exporters.

"In my view that was never the reality," he said.

Livecorp is an independent corporation funded by voluntary donations of $1.80 a head for cattle and 21c/head for each sheep exported by Livecorp members.

Wellard Rural Exports general manager and Livecorp director Steve Meerwald said it was known when the Livecorp structure was formed in 1998 that there would be some challenges.

But no other models were put forward.

Mr Meewarld, who has been on the Livecorp board since its inception, said he had never seen accreditation issues discussed by the board.

"We acknowledged that the initial process was somewhat flawed because the standards sat entirely with Livecorp under the CEO," he said.

He said the perception was that Livecorp was regulating the industry, but AQIS was involved in industry standards more than Livecorp.

"They are involved in every shipment at a physical level," he said.

Next year, Livecorp will be merged with the Australian Livestock Exporters Council, the policy arm of the industry. This is expected to cut overheads.



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