FEDERAL Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has moved to minimise the affect injunctions could have on live sheep exports by bringing forward the time frame they can be lodged.
An injunction can be lodged with the independent regulator after it has approved an exporter’s intent to send an export ship.
Mr Littleproud signed the Export Control (Animals) Amendment (Approving Notices of Intention to Export) Order 2018 into regulation last Wednesday after discussions with WAFarmers president Tony York and others, who have been seeking to find solutions for a continuance of a viable trade.
Mr Littleproud said the threat of activist groups lodging a court injunction against the independent regulator after a ship was loaded had been reduced as the order required any challenge to a shipment be made prior to the animals travelling to the port.
Despite the move, activist groups wanting to see live exports stopped still have the opportunity to wait until the eleventh hour before seeking an injunction.
Mr Littleproud said while he didn’t believe the injunction issue was a serious barrier to an exporter genuine about sending a ship, the Australian Livestock Exporters Council (ALEC) had raised the issue and the government wanted to remove the “perceived barrier to the trade”.
Mr Littleproud said there had been “a co-ordinated campaign by some to try to force the government to roll back animal welfare requirements by blaming it for the fact that no ships have left since a big exporter was suspended and by attacking the McCarthy Review”.
“Some have suggested the stocking density reduction makes the trade unviable, despite the fact Emanuels was ready to export before having its licence suspended by the independent regulator,” Mr Littleproud said.
“Emanuels was the only company to take sheep through the Persian Gulf to the Middle East last northern summer.”
Pheonix Exports shipped 15,698 sheep on a 16-day voyage to Oman last August – which it wanted to repeat this year until the uncertainty around the trade made it too costly.
Livestock Shipping Services also sent 78,303 sheep to Turkey in August 2017, which was a 33-day voyage that experienced only a 0.45 per cent mortality rate.
It too has halted trade until the end of the northern summer due to the unviability of exporting under the new stocking rate requirements – despite being successful in the past.
WAFarmers president Tony York said the amendment by Mr Littleproud would minimise some of the risk of an injunction being lodged to disrupt a shipment at the port.
“The Export Control Amendment Order will require an injunction to be lodged earlier in the process when the regulator approves a permit to export, rather than when the sheep are already on board a shipment,” Mr York said.
“WAFarmers raised the threat of an injunction with Minister Littleproud and highlighted it was a critical trigger point in any exporter trialling a shipment under McCarthy recommendations.
“We commend the minister for having the foresight to address this issue and adding some certainty back into the live sheep trade.”
Mr York said WAFarmers was hopeful the progress would add some confidence to the exporters.
No sheep have left Fremantle for about 10 weeks and all exporters have said they were not willing to test their ability to export with the threat of an injunction looming over them – due to the costs and delays involved.
Emanuel Exports was expecting to have a ruling on its licence suspension by the independent regulator earlier this week, 60 days after it was issued.
A decision was not made at the time of Farm Weekly going to press.
A company spokesperson said that it had processed all of its 60,000 sheep that were left stranded in a Baldivis feedlot for weeks, although the processor was not named.
The company also said as soon as its licence was reinstated, it would start buying sheep for the next shipment which would take about two weeks to organise due to the length of time sheep need to be in quarantine prior to loading.
The Kuwaiti Livestock Trading and Transport (KLTT) vessels the Al Messilah and the Al Shuwaikh have been based off the coast of Fremantle waiting for Emanuel’s to have its licence reinstated.
While the Awassi Express has been active in transporting sheep from North Africa to Kuwait to meet consumer demand, its sister vessels have sat idle waiting for the ability to load Australian sheep.
The Awassi Express was the ship at the centre of the latest mortality rate scandal when in August 2017, 2400 sheep perished due to heat stress on the way to the Middle East, and footage of the incident appeared on the 60 Minutes program in April.
The financial costs to KLTT for having two ships sitting idle is mounting.