Push for live-ex inspector slammed

16 Jun, 2015 07:18 AM
Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon.
The motion is about transparency and accountability
Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon.

LABOR’S move to reintroduce an independent inspector-general of animal welfare and live animal exports (IGAW) has been slammed by Abbott government MPs as unnecessary red tape duplication.

Ahead of the 2013 federal election, Labor announced plans for a similar independent agency that would have reported directly to the Agriculture Minister.

At the time, then Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said it was a “sensible extension to a world-leading system that adheres to international animal welfare standards, while not overloading industry with unnecessary regulation”.

The original proposal was pushed by Labor members, primarily Fremantle MP Melissa Parke, amid concerns the Department of Agriculture had a conflict of interest by serving industry’s needs on animal welfare.

Ms Parke and Victorian Labor MP Kelvin Thomson backed the independent animal welfare agency, saying the Department's primary purpose was to promote agriculture, not animal welfare.

But shortly after the 2013 federal election, the newly appointed Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce axed the plan saying Labor’s election proposal was a “classic example of layer upon layer of bureaucracy without any practical outcome”.

“The livestock export regulator was already, and remains, subject to appropriate oversight and review mechanisms,” he said.

“This is one bit of red tape we can do without.”

Fitzgibbon's private member's motion

The now Shadow Agriculture Minister Mr Fitzgibbon revitalised the plan when he moved a private member's motion in the House of Representatives on Monday.

His motion noted recent alleged breaches of Australian's animal welfare standards in the live export sector; the Abbott government's abolition of the IGAW’s position; and “failure to increase regulatory and supervisory resources to keep pace with growth in trade”.

The motion called on the Abbott government to build public confidence and to protect the sustainability of the live export sector by appointing the independent IGAW.

He also demanded quarterly ministerial reports be provided to parliament on any new markets, the number of head exported, any allegations of breaches of animal welfare standards and investigations undertaken, and any sanctions or other action taken against those who have breached or should have prevented breaches of Australia's animal welfare standards.

But during debate on Mr Fitzgibbon’s motion, WA Liberal and Durack MP Melissa Price said she wasn’t convinced that appointing an independent IGAW would help farmers or the industries.

Ms Price said the move could “simply be adding another layer of bureaucracy” when the government’s report in January into operations of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) found the system is already “costly to administer for both industry and the Department of Agriculture”.

“It is worth noting that the live export industry is currently working on an alternative or an amendment to ESCAS, which would dispense with the need to have every single link in the supply chain audited on every single occasion,” she said.

NSW Nationals MP Mark Coulton also participated in the debate and said current legislation of livestock exports was designed to minimise risk.

“I am confident that we do not need to establish another level of bureaucracy such as an inspector-general of welfare,” he said.

“The inspector-general was a classic example of another layer of bureaucracy, without any real practical outcome.

“I will reinforce what happens when governments do not understand the full complexities of this: the removal of the live cattle trade back in 2011 caused not only untold economic hardship to the cattle industry but also a lot of pain to animals that were left stranded on drought-affected properties.”

Ms Parke and Mr Thompson were leading critics in calling for an end to the live export trade during the crisis which sparked the suspension of cattle trade to Indonesia in June 2011.

But ESCAS was initiated after Labor’s snap suspension to improve animal welfare standards and transparency in all live export markets.

However, recent complaints have been made to the Department alleging breaches of ESCAS standards in the Vietnam and Israel markets.

Public confidence rebuilding

Mr Fitzgibbon said the live export trade needed to maintain public confidence and continue improving animal welfare standards.

He said Australia had the world's best animal welfare standards and the positive outcome of the “regrettable 2011 live export pause” was ESCAS’s introduction.

“Despite the robustness of our regulatory system, reports of animal mistreatment continue to emerge,” he said.

“These events undermine public support for the trade and this motion puts forward some initiatives designed to maintain and build upon that support.

“I have learned that one of the things which undermines the sector's image is a lack of publicly available information about alleged breaches, action taken and sanctions imposed.

“That is why I want the minister to, in the future, regularly report to the parliament and it is why Labor wants the Abbott government to revive our plans to establish an independent inspector-general for animal welfare and live animal exports.

“No system can ever guarantee an incident-free industry, nor can we expect it to.

“But we have a responsibility in this place to ensure the system is the best it possible can be and that people can have confidence in it.

“The motion is about transparency and accountability and in the interest of the community and the sector alike.”

ESCAS reporting

Mr Coulton said the Department intends to publish its ESCAS report at least twice a year in addition to a report by Minister Joyce to the parliament every six months on livestock mortalities on every sea voyage.

He said the livestock exports industry employed around 10,000 people and “contributes significantly to the country's economy, supports many rural and regional communities, and underpins the economic returns to farmgate”.

“In the first full year of this government, the value of live animal exports has exceeded $1.4 billion and continues to grow,” he said.

“Our international market share and reputation has been built on our ability to supply international markets with a high-quality, reliable and safe source of protein.

“The livestock trade contributes to the food security of millions of people in importing countries across the world.”

Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


John Carpenter
16/06/2015 8:48:53 AM

The Shadow Minister has again confirmed that Labor's policies towards agriculture,farmers and rural communities are absolutely toxic.The silent agenda is to close down live exports if not by fiat then by stealth.This announcement is meant for the internal consumption of their own left wing and the detached inner city voters.
chick olsson
16/06/2015 9:44:50 AM

labor is clearly showing its desire to make reality for Aussie farmers as draconian and harsh as possible... Joel, you are so out of touch with reality mate.
Katrina Love
16/06/2015 10:51:19 AM

Bring on the change of government! Whilst far from perfect, they at least have some sort of moral compass, and Members/Ministers willing to take an ethical stance when it comes to the non-human inhabitants of this country. An independent inspector-general of animal welfare and live animal exports is a step in the right direction. No one wants to see farmers leaving the land, but live animal exports is a risky business (for animals and those who produce them), which is not going to be their saving grace - need to think smarter than that.
16/06/2015 12:31:20 PM

Moral compass Katrina, surely you are joking. You really think the ALP have any sort of animal welfare concerns in mind. They would sell their grandmother for a vote.
16/06/2015 1:38:44 PM

Katrina, do you seriously think that any gov is going to bankrupt our country to placate a rabble of misguided misfits such as yourself? Remember app 95% of Aus is only suitable for various levels of livestock production. The extreme level of devastation caused to farmers and their livestock by that livex ban was plain to see for anyone with a soul, and a heart.
16/06/2015 3:48:14 PM

If Katrina Love is a real person, which I doubt, she is part of those loosely banded together under "put Agriculture and Mining" out of business team. Borrow money on the country bankcard and end up the next Greece, all the while living off the tax payer in shielded government or unproductive employment. Certainly not their money to waste. Watch the Killing Season tonight to see how really toxic the ALP still is.
Farmers' daughter
16/06/2015 5:26:21 PM

1) Here we go again. Just what’s needed - another impediment to trade & more red tape! I believe that it’s nothing to do with animal welfare, but just another way of making life so difficult for the sector that they, (the ALP / Greens) hope that the exporters will throw their hands up in the air & say ‘it’s too difficult’ & give up. That way, they can feel as if they can safely say ‘we didn’t force them to stop / ban the trade’ & feel that they’ve maintained the ‘moral’ ground. And appease a noisy minority.
Farmers' daughter
16/06/2015 5:27:13 PM

2) I bet that there won’t be just the Inspector General. There will have to be a whole department of bureaucrats to check what has already been checked by not only the DofAg, but also the independent, third party, internationally accredited auditors, which or whom also, ultimately, report directly to the Ag Minister. Will the charter of the IGAW also require the IG to ‘oversee’ all operational matters of the RSPCA & AA (who purport themselves as an animal welfare organisation)?
Farmers' daughter
16/06/2015 5:29:10 PM

3) The proposal & implementation of ESCAS was lauded as an appropriate oversight mechanism, to ensure that AU standards of animal welfare had a legislative standing to cover all animals in the destination markets, by making the exporters accountable for the welfare of all animals right up to the point of slaughter, as, according to the ASEL, ‘the Australian Government’s jurisdiction over the animals ceases when disembarkation is complete’. Oh & by the way, yes, I was born & raised on a farm, but now have no involvement with farming.
17/06/2015 6:51:20 AM

It makes no sense for the public to be supporting a broken system/ a corrupt self-regulation systems and a dying trade, and they have had SOO many attempts at trying to 'fix' it. None of which has worked, because it can not be fixed. The fact is there are alternative industries and live exports is an inherently cruel and despicable trade. If you are making money off it, you are complicit in the torture, suffering and illegal acts, and you need to stop at some point. I'm sorry if it causes hardship in the meantime, but then you shouldn't have animals.
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