THE shift to having independent observers (IOs) only on higher-risk animal voyages was a positive move that would reward good performers, the peak body for live exporters said.
Logistical challenges have made it difficult for IOs to accompany every voyage as the Federal Government intended when the announcement was made last year following a review into the trade.
At the same time, the IO reports filed to date have provided a clearer picture of where the risks are and staff from the Department of Agriculture's live animal export division believe resources can now be directed where they are most needed.
Australian Live Exporters' Council chief executive Mark Harvey-Sutton said the industry was very pleased with the evidence-based approach to understand and determine the risk and management of livestock export voyages.
"Live exporters have always been accepting of IOs but we believed a risk-based system was more appropriate," he said.
"There were clearly questions around whether one was needed for some voyages - a four-day trip to Indonesia for example."
Exporters have incurred bills of up to $20,000 for IOs on some voyages and conservative estimates put the cost of the measure to industry from voyages out of northern ports at between $1m and $1.5m annually.
The government's live export program is run on a cost recovery basis.
Mr Harvey-Sutton said it was a great sign for the industry that what was coming through in IO reports was overwhelmingly positive.
The topic was discussed this week in an estimates hearing of the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee at Parliament House in Canberra.
Following questions from senators, staff also said they were working on determining a process for the public release of footage from observers.
Mr Harvey-Sutton said live exporters supported transparency but acknowledged there was a layer of complexity involved in the public release of footage filmed by IOs.
Another line of questioning at the hearing involving the live export trade focused on confidential information received by the Department of Agriculture.
Senator for Western Australia Slade Brockman asked if Animals Australia had been afforded any special status with the Department.
Peta Lane, from the Department's compliance division, said there was no formal agreement in place but it was not unusual to receive information confidentially and all efforts were made during the course of investigations to protect that confidentiality.
"In the context of whether offenses have occurred, this does not necessarily have an affect on our ability to investigate," she said.
Ms Lane also confirmed the compliance team was currently assessing statements from a deckhand in relation to whistleblowers receiving payments for footage.
The story Independent observer shift rewards good performers: live exporters first appeared on Farm Online.