LIVE trade, predictably, dominated questions following the unveiling of the Coalition’s agricultural election policy package in the NSW beef capital of Casino today.
Two clear points made by Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on the issue resonated with producers, frustrated with the ongoing stream of cruelty revelations and accusations linked to the industry.
The first was that an independent review found 99.9 per cent of the eight million head of livestock exported from Australia between 2012 and 2014 were handled appropriately through approved supply chains.
The second was that Mr Joyce ‘reserved his right’ to ‘bring one of these live exporters in’ and take future action.
Part of the Coalition’s policy was a pledge for $8.3m to see through the Livestock Global Assurance Program (LGAP), which takes Australia’s world-leading Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Scheme a step further by using tracking and traceability measures to improve animal welfare outcomes.
Live trade only accounts for a small percentage of Australia’s beef production but it was important for keeping buoyancy in the cattle market, according to Mr Joyce.
“We are taking the live export industry ahead in leaps and bounds,” he said.
“There are 100 nations on earth that export live animals and Australia is the only one with ESCAS.”
The Coalition’s LGAP promise came hot on the heels of yet another media scandal - this time revelations of the dismissal of a government veterinarian who had provided evidence, including photographs, of appalling conditions on live export ships.
Dr Lynn Simpson has accused the live trade industry of effectively having her thrown out of her job - something the industry’s peak group, the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council, denies.
Mr Joyce did not dip into the affair in any depth, simply saying: “Without creating any assertions, it did happen under a previous Labour Government.”
However, he did not hesitate to espouse the value of the industry and the fact that anyone proven to be responsible for not upholding Australia’s high animal welfare standards would be held accountable.
“If you want an assurance nothing will ever go wrong again I can’t give that, nobody can,” he said.
“It’s like saying can you assure me no one will ever have another accident on the road.
“But if you ask can you assure me you will do your very best to keep things in a humane form then yes, I can make that assurance.”
Banning of live cattle exports would be disastrous, he said.
“We live in South East Asia. Whether you like it or not, we are South East Asians living in Australia,” Mr Joyce said.
“That’s our market, that’s our future. They are the people we deal with.
“I go to Indonesia all the time they are a great market and decent people.
“I like doing business with them, and with the Vietnamese, the Chinese, the Malaysians, and we bring a lot of money back.”
The veterinarian incident follows the airing of footage earlier this month showing animals in a Vietnam abattoir being killed with a sledgehammer.
“We are working on the suspicion - but we can not prove - these are Australian cattle,” Mr Joyce said.
“People might say that’s being cute but in the past we’ve done this and then found out it wasn’t even Australian cattle involved.
“It goes to show there should be concern about cattle across the world.
“Australia is leading the way in bringing about a more humane outcomes worldwide.”
Supply of cattle to three abattoirs in Vietnam was immediately suspended, Mr Joyce said, while indicating more action may be yet to come.
“If I have to bring one of these live exporters and say mate, I gave you fair warning, come into my office and don’t collect a cup of tea on the way . . ,” he said.
Industry welcomes LGAP
THE Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council has welcomed the election announcement by Federal Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce, confirming $8.3 million over four years from a re-elected Coalition Government for the implementation of the Livestock Global Assurance Program (LGAP).
ALEC chief executive officer Alison Penfold said the funding would help progress the implementation process.
“ALEC is committed to strengthening our ability to deliver and demonstrate compliance with ESCAS and driving animal welfare improvements on a global scale. Today’s announcement confirms Minister Joyce and the Coalition share that vision and commitment,” Ms Penfold said.
“LGAP is part of an animal welfare conformity and certification program which has been developed as part of Meat and Livestock Australia/LiveCorp’s Live Export Program research, development and extension activity portfolio over the past 18 months.
“LGAP is an improved and strengthened system which has been designed to provide assurances that animals are treated in accordance with the ESCAS Animal Welfare Standards for Australian livestock from discharge to the point of slaughter.
“LGAP aims to do more for improving the welfare of all animals in foreign markets because it is not limited in its scope to Australian livestock only. “Importantly, it will also be able to place requirements and consequences on in-market importers, auditors, feedlots and abattoirs – not just exporters. This will go a long way to addressing the concerns raised by our industry’s critics.
“It will be a regulatory enabler at arms-length from industry, run by a program owner under a mixed-membership model. The Australian Government will still remain the regulator of the Australian livestock export industry. The trade has never self-regulated and that won’t change under LGAP.”