THE Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development's (DPIRD) investigation into potential breaches of the Animal Welfare Act on two pastoral stations is expected to be completed before June 2020.
State Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the investigations at Nookanbah and Yandeyarra stations began immediately at Christmas 2018 and then January 2019 and were continuing.
"Animal welfare investigations are complex - particularly when they span hundreds of thousands of hectares of remote pastoral lease," Ms MacTiernan said.
"Just as was the case in its Emanuel Exports investigation, DPIRD will conduct a thorough investigation before deciding whether to pursue legal action."
Ms MacTiernan said the DPIRD investigations were likely to be completed in a shorter time frame than the Emanuel Exports investigation, which took 18 months.
"In the meantime, our government is taking steps to support pastoralists managing ongoing dry conditions in the northern rangelands," she said.
"A number of pastoral stations have been identified as potentially requiring further support and departmental officers have made contact with these stations to discuss what steps may need to be taken and offer support in stock and infrastructure management as well as business planning.
"We're also working closely with the Aboriginal pastoral sector to improve governance structures, bolster local capability and drive partnership opportunities that benefit both local Aboriginal people and the broader pastoral industry."
Ms MacTiernan responded to comments made by Federal member for O'Connor Rick Wilson at the Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA (PGA) 2019 convention recently where he said DPIRD's animal welfare compliance group's announcement that it had launched an action against Emanuel Exports was disappointing and the State government needed to be more transparent about its investigation on the stations.
"What disappoints me about this is, in 2008 in a similar case, it was found that (the State) had no jurisdiction, therefore the 18 months of resources they put into this investigation (against Emanuel Exports) - the upcoming court battles which will be fought I assume to the high court - means that money will be taken out of DPIRD from research and development and other good things to pursue a legal case that (according to) my legal advice has very little chance of succeeding," Mr Wilson said.
"The second thing I'm disappointed about is the lack of information that we have seen about the cattle deaths in the Kimberley.
"One cow is the equivalent of 10 dry sheep so if there's been 3000-5000 - we don't know because DPIRD won't tell us- that's between 30,000-50,000 sheep that died in that event - verses 2400 sheep that died on the Awassi Express."
Mr Wilson said after the Awassi Express incident the Federal government "immediately had an investigation that was handed down in March 2018, Mortality Report 69".
"It outlined all the events and issues that happened on that voyage and the government responded in May by bringing in a new range of regulations for the industry that has made a massive difference," he said.
"With this particular event which happened in December/January I'm still in the dark on the detail, I don't know what happened.
"I don't know how many animals actually died, how many had to be euthanised - all of those sorts of details.
"While DPIRD has been putting a lot of resources into chasing Emanuel's we haven't seen a lot of information made public on that particular event."
Ms MacTiernan was not at the meeting to respond to Mr Wilson's comments.
She said she suspects "Rick's 'legal advice' is coming from interested parties".
"The State Solicitor has advised DPIRD that both the State and Federal laws can co-exist on this issue - the Federal Export Control Act, Export Control (Animals) Order and Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock make it explicit that operation of State or Territory laws is not affected by Federal laws," Ms MacTiernan said.
She also said he "needs to stop conflating two very different issues".
"The Federal government suspended Emanuel Exports' license in late June 2018 and cancelled the license in late August 2018 - a full year after the voyage (in August 2017)," she said.
"We understand the Federal government is continuing to investigate the voyage and the exporter, but is yet to lay charges.
"Subsequent to media interest in the voyage, the Federal government belatedly began taking steps to ensure the welfare of sheep in the live trade - beginning with reductions in stocking densities from April 2018."
Ms MacTiernan said the State government, which has responsibility for animal welfare, began investigating in February 2018 after learning of the high mortality voyage.
Charges were laid on Emanuel Exports in late July 2019, following an 18-month investigation.
"No 'report' on the incident has been released by the State government - details of DPIRD's investigation will form the basis of the court proceedings," she said.