Live Export

WA member questions Ag Dept livex investigation

Sheep Central, July 31, 2019

A Western Australian MP has questioned the thoroughness of the Department of Agriculture’s recent investigation into allegations live export ship workers were paid by animal rights groups in exchange for images of animal cruelty.

The Department of Agriculture announced on Friday it had concluded its investigation and it had found no evidence illegal payments were made or that images were contrived.

Rick Wilson

In the House of Representatives on Tuesday Federal Liberal Member for the WA seat of O’Connor, Rick Wilson, alleged he had possession of a number of bank statements and emails between animal rights activists and whistle blowers.

Mr Wilson said the footage allegedly captured by whistleblowers and aired by 60 minutes last year had been very damaging to the live sheep trade, which was a critical industry for WA. The trade was worth $180 million per annum, with the bulk of sheep exported from the State sourced from his electorate of O’Connor.

Mr Wilson said the resumption of the trade had seen more than 718,000 sheep exported in 11 voyages, with a total of 1800 mortalities.

“That is an extraordinary result,” he said. “As a lifelong sheep farmer, I can tell you that you don’t get those sorts of results running sheep in a paddock, so the trade has really turned things around and is operating very efficiently and effectively.”

Mr Wilson told Parliament he had obtained copies of bank statements indicating payments of almost $175,000 had been made to a live export ship whistle blower. He also read contents of alleged emails between Animals Australia and ship workers, which he alleged involved instructions being given and offers of payment being made.

He said he had passed the information he had in his possession to the Australian Federal Police and asked it to conduct an investigation, because he believed the AFP had stronger investigative powers than the compliance unit of the Department of Agriculture.

Mr Wilson said he was told by the AFP that because the events allegedly documented in the bank statements that he provided took place in the Middle East, it was outside their jurisdiction.

He said he was told by the AFP the information was then handed to the Department of Agriculture’s investigative unit.

The Department of Agriculture announced last Friday, July 26, that it had found no evidence to suggest breaches of Commonwealth law had been committed in relation to alleged payments, and no evidence that footage was contrived or that ventilation fans had been turned off.

Mr Wilson told Parliament he would be putting more questions to the Department of Agriculture investigative unit, including what powers its investigators have to compel witness statements; whether the department verified if the alleged bank statements he had provided to the AFP were legitimate; whether the department spoke to the people who allegedly deposited funds into the accounts of the whistle blower, and whether the department had reviewed the alleged emails from Animals Australia to verify their authenticity.

“In relation to not finding any criminality, let me just say that my industry, the industry that underpins the livestock industry in Western Australia and that supports thousands of farmers across our state, was tried in the court of public opinion.

“I believe that my farmers and the public of Australia are owed the facts of this matter.

“If $175,000 was paid to a whistle blower to provide that footage, I think that not only my farmers but the Australian public have a right to know. I will pursue this to the bitter end to find out whether that was in fact the case.”

Sheep Central has asked the Department of Agriculture for a response to Mr Wilson’s comments today which will be published when received.



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  1. Katrina Love, August 1, 2019

    Mr Wilson states “…the footage allegedly captured by whistleblowers and aired by 60 minutes last year had been very damaging to the live sheep trade…”

    No, Mr Wilson – the actual suffering and deaths captured by the whistleblowers was damaging to the live sheep trade, not the footage of it. What has been known for decades by those of us who oppose the trade, the on-board reality supported by the figures recorded in the biannual reports to parliament, was finally brought to light. Those who support the worst elements of animal agriculture always seek to stop the exposure of cruelty by discrediting and gagging those who film and photograph it, rather than wanting to stop the actual cruelty, abuse and neglect itself.

    The “718,000 sheep exported in 11 voyages, with a total of 1800 mortalities” equates to an average mortality rate of 0.251 percent per voyage; I repeat, per voyage – not annualised. When you average out the voyages undertaken by the Al Messilah and the Al Shuwaikh from Fremantle to the Middle East between October 2018 and June 2019, the average voyage length is 15.4 days.

    Let’s say Mr Wilson has 3000 sheep and is losing 0.251pc of them every 15.4 days not including those lost to predators, drought, bush fires, flooding, exposure, lightning strike, lambing difficulties or old age (all of which are absent as contributing factors on board vessels bound for the Middle East). Surely, a sheep producer with guaranteed feed and water and on-call vet care, losing 7.5 sheep every two weeks, without being able to blame any of the usual contributors to on-farm sheep deaths, would have to be one of the most unsuccessful sheep producers in Australia.

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