THE Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) is deeply concerned about the level of animal activist input into political policy making, but it has been told it’s picking the wrong fight.
The PGA has submitted a Freedom of Information (FoI) application for all diary records and correspondence, including emails and text messages, between Federal Agriculture and Water Resources Minister David Littleproud, his chief of staff Alison Penfold and any ministerial advisers, and any third party relating to the live export of sheep from March 12 to August 20, 2018.
The FoI was submitted in order to understand the level of influence, if any, animal activist organisations have had on the ministerial decision making process.
It follows revelations in the media alleging that animal activist organisations were regularly sending emails to live export workers, enticing them with lucrative payments to provide emotive footage of animal cruelty aboard live export ships.
Animals Australia has been accused by former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce of paying the alleged whistleblower on the Awassi Express in 2017 – Faisal Ullah of Pakistan – to provide the footage as part of its anti-live export campaign.
A trail of emails allegedly shows Animals Australia staff encouraging vessel employees to undertake measures to provide damaging footage of the trade.
PGA president Tony Seabrook said, “the Western Australian sheep industry, and the Australian public deserve to know the level of influence animal activist lobby groups are having on our political policy framework, especially when it comes to the development of the latest Heat Stress Regulatory Assessment regulations, due to be implemented in the next few months”.
“The PGA believes that there should be fair and open transparency into how many times animal activist groups have met with the minister’s office,” Mr Seabrook said.
Mr Littleproud responded to the request by saying the PGA “would be best to focus their efforts and their members’ money on trying to convince Labor not to ban the live export trade”.
“I’ve had far more meetings and interactions with farm groups than with animal welfare groups as the facts show,” Mr Littleproud said.
The minister’s diary reveals that 25 meetings with industry representatives, and three meetings with Animals Australia and two meetings with the RSPCA between March 12 and August 20, 2018.
Mr Seabrook said the minister has not met with Emanuel Exports, the country’s biggest exporter of sheep - which has had its licence cancelled and is awaiting a court hearing to appeal the decision - or any other exporter directly.
“The minister has only been to WA twice since the live export issues emerged in April last year and even then we only had a 30 minute meeting which included a not so senior member of the live export community,” he said.