FEDERAL Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has confirmed his Department of Agriculture and Water Resources withheld information on the controversial Awassi Express live sheep shipment to the Middle East last year requested by the Western Australian Government.
The minister’s office has claimed the information was regarded as commercial in-confidence and he has had to sign a special order to override relevant laws to comply with the WA government request.
Since February this year, following the shipment in which more than 2400 sheep died in overheated crowded conditions en route to the Middle East in August last year, the WA Government has been investigating whether it could prosecute exporters over cases of animal cruelty under its state legislation.
The federal-state government tussle over information relating to the rules under which the Awassi Express shipment operated was exposed after shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon claimed in a radio interview that Mr Littleproud was “duplicitous” and not interested in lending assistance to WA Government’s attempt to pursue rogue operators.
“The Federal Department of Agriculture could not supply information to the WA government because it’s not lawful to do so,” Mr Littleproud said in a statement.
“However, I recently signed an order to allow the exchange of information between federal and state governments on live export issues from July 1.
“This would also have been made possible by the Bill currently before Parliament, though it would have taken longer,” he said.
Mr Littleproud’s office also claimed the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources did hand over significant information to the WA Government that had been FOI’d previously by other groups.”
Mr Littleproud did not explain why the date of order to release information to the WA Government was not set before July 1 or the name of the legislation under which the federal department was unable to supply it.
WA wanted to know exporter approval rules
However, Western Australia’s Minister for Agriculture and Food, Alannah MacTiernan, said the state government contacted Mr Littleproud after deciding in February to investigate the 2017 Awassi Express shipment.
“In particular we wanted to know what was the arrangement; particularly the approval that the company (export Emanuel Exports) was operating under.
“I find it amazing, that that would be commercial in-confidence,” she said.
“For the public, if there is to be any transparency, you have to know what the arrangements are, we are not talking about commercial in-confidence.
“To have the terms of their animal welfare requirements commercial in-confidence is really truly extraordinary,” she said.
“I find it very interesting that this going to take effect from the first of July, which means that we will not have access to that information in relation to the matter that we are investigating … the voyage of the Awassi Express which has caused so much controversy and which the minister himself has said was truly horrific and people should swing for it.
“I don’t understand why he would only allow this documentation to be provided from the first of July,” Ms MacTiernan said.
“Clearly that is ensuring that it will be very very difficult to prosecute whoever was responsible for what happened on that vessel.
“And the fact that he has given us stuff that he has already given someone else, which is what he appears to be saying there, I don’t think is adequate.”
Littleproud was ‘duplicitous’ – Fitzgibbon
In a 5AA Radio Adelaide interview this morning, shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said the the WA Government doesn’t have a lot of faith in the Commonwealth regulator.
“Because you will recall that initially at least the Commonwealth regulator said nothing that took place on the Awassi breached the law.
“So the Western Australians are having their own look,” he said.
“Of course they have asked the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth regulator for information they require to round up their case and have been told by the Commonwealth that they’re not going to have access to it and if indeed they want it they are going to have to make an application under Freedom of Information laws.
“Now this is so duplicitous,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.
“David Littleproud, the Commonwealth Minister has been talking tough.
“He’s going to hunt down the bad guys and he’s going to put them in gaol etc, and now when the Western Australian Government is attempting to also pursue rogue operators, the Commonwealth is not interested in lending them any assistance.”
Barrie Tapp and Trish Brown are both correct. The animals have the protection of state animal welfare laws for as long as they are in Australian territorial waters, including while on ships. Eminent barrister Graeme McEwen was of the opinion that this actually extended to disembarkation. The regulators — the WA government and the RSPCA — have powers of entry ‘if they suspect an offence is being committed … or will be committed’. Both should have boarded the Maysora when it arrived in Fremantle from Adelaide, when that carnage was found after just three days. There were grounds for the removal of every animal from that ship, and they should have been. Now it will take months for the mortality data to be released, in the hope that we’ll all forget and go away. Not this time.
I agree with Trish. The department is a disgrace. I hate my taxpayer dollars being used to prop up live export – both in direct grants and paying the high salaries of numerous bureaucrats. I hope the integrity reviewer Philip Moss will expose DAWR for what it is; an ad agency and supporter of live export while the AACo abattoir goes into mothballs and 200 Australians lose their jobs. Great work fellas.
I can’t see where the WA government has done anything wrong, because they have been asking the Federal Government for all information about the Awassi Express before 60 minutes went public. And because Emanuels, as the exporter of the 2400 sheep that died is from WA, the WA government was entitled to know the full story before the 60 minutes report became public.
The very fact that the Federal Government gives between $39-$52 million dollars of taxpayers money to Meat & Livestock Australia every year, which filters down to Livecorp (the company owned by all the exporters) under a “joint program: with MLA, and this is used by both companies to help prop up the live trade, just shows how sneaky and secretive Littleproud and the Federal Government are.
Simple solution; prosecute the offenders in the state where alleged offences take place with the live export trade. Each Department of Agriculture has the authority under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, so do it. Strewth, they have all the evidence needed to form a prima facie case anyway, and to boot, an eyewitness.
David Littleproud? Little or nothing apparently. Pathetic.
No wonder there is such a city vs rural divide; when departments of both federal and state governments, via the mandarins, fail to realise the importance that it has to the producers who bear the backlash of not working together.
This about sums up how serious David Littleproud is about calling this industry to account. Well the public will not be quietened on this and the more he tries to be less than transparent, the deeper the hole he will dig himself into, and the government with him. If he thinks this will go away, then he better think again.