THE Australian Government’s continued support for the live sheep export trade has been highlighted by a comprehensive ’fact check’ statement by Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud today.
The statement was released as Labor’s federal shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon announced he would introduce a Private Member’s Bill to establish an Inspector-General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports.
In a three-page statement to media outlets, Mr Littleproud hit back at criticism that he withheld information from the WA government, confirming that details on the Awassi Express shipment in which about 2400 sheep died, were regarded as commercial-in-confidence.
“There is no power in the Act which allows the regulator to share commercial in confidence information.
“For a Minister or shadow minister to suggest legal obligation should be ignored is irresponsible,” he said.
The minister also rejects claims that farmers supplying the live export trade could transition to supplying and growing the chilled meat trade.
“Gulf State Ministers and the mostly government-owned livestock importer Livestock Transport and Trading Company Kuwait explained to Minister Littleproud during last week’s visit that if they are forced to look elsewhere for live animals, they’ll look elsewhere for chilled meat also.
“So if Australia phases out the live trade, the chilled trade would likely shrink and Australian farmers could lose both selling markets,” he said.
Mr Littleproud said ministers from Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE, and the government-owned livestock importer explained they want to continue importing similar amounts of live sheep to what they are now.
He also produced figures disproving statements that the live sheep trade and Australian exports are in decline, Mr Littleproud argued that Australian live sheep exports have declined over the last decade in line with the shrinking flock, and said Meat & Livestock Australia analysis showed Middle East live sheep imports have increased, albeit from other countries. He said it was also not accurate to say that New Zealand transitioned away from live sheep exports “and it didn’t hurt them.”
Mr Littleproud also rejected assertions that the McCarthy Review had ignored the science on heat stress in relation to sheep and that sheep would not get sufficient space under the new allometric system recommended by the recent McCarthy Review.
Awassi Express shipment highlights need for independent live export inspector-general
Mr Fitzgibbon said an Inspector-General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports will have oversight of the Commonwealth regulator in animal welfare matters.
“As Agriculture Minister I appointed an interim Inspector-General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports in September of 2013.
“Unfortunately, the new Coalition Government did not proceed with the legislation necessary to make the position permanent,” he said.
“That was a regrettable decision which has proven contrary particularly to the interest of animal welfare in the live sheep export trade.
“Like the Inspector-General of Biosecurity, an Inspector-General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports will deliver the robust regulatory oversight the community is demanding and the Productivity Commission has backed,” he said.
“The Awassi Express incident and testimony at the recent Senate Estimates both confirm that we need an independent statutory officer auditing the work of the regulator.”
Click here to read Minister Littleproud’s full ‘Fact Check: Live Export Claims; Facts and Stats’ statement.