WOOLPRODUCERS Australia has said it is concerned and disappointed shadow Minister for Agriculture, Joel Fitzgibbon neglected to acknowledge livestock industries high level of investment in health and welfare by proposing extra levels of red-tape in a Labor policy announcement on Wednesday.
Labor this week said it will reinstate national leadership in animal welfare matters and dedicate resources to a new national framework through a our six-point plan to ensure protecting animals is a top priority for every industry that works with them.
The party said protecting animal welfare and boosting agricultural profitability aren’t competing aims – they support one another.
“The growing demand for high quality food produced in an ethical way means Australia’s agricultural producers must embrace the highest animal welfare standards to stay internationally competitive.
“Labor has a six-point plan to re-establish national leadership on animal welfare – filling the void left by the Abbott-Turnbull Government over its time in office,” the party said in its policy statement.
However, WoolProducers chief executive Jo Hall said the minimal detail ‘six point plan’ is the only agriculture-related Labor policy to be released prior to the election and no model is provided.
“There are no assurances that the position of Independent Office of Animal Welfare and the Inspector General of Animal Welfare won’t be political or ideological appointments.
“There is also no pledge that livestock industries would even have input to such a position,” she said.
“Firstly, we are concerned about the additional layer of red tape.
“WPA are also concerned the so-named ‘Independent Office’ is based on a flawed premise – it suggests a conflict of interest exists that the Minister for Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture don’t understand the industry they regulate.”
Profitability and welfare can co-exist
Ms Hall said WPA agreed with the shadow minister that profitability and welfare can all successfully co-exist, Australian wool growers are proving that every day.
“In fact, for livestock to be productive their health and welfare must be managed well – there is no alternative.
“Suggesting that those with genuine understanding of livestock shouldn’t be responsible for production animals and giving that responsibility over to an outsider with potential to be misguided in their understanding of livestock, not be driven by evidence based science, or at worst, a political agenda is a recipe for disaster and a red tape nightmare,” she said.
“Unfortunately, I think this has come about because of a lack of understanding of the livestock health and welfare research, development, and project investment which for the wool industry is in the tens of millions of dollars every year.
“We’re disappointed Labor seems to have listened to a squeaky minority that refuse to believe livestock industries are invested in their animals in every way.”
WoolProducers Australia, together with the National Farmers’ Federation, are seeking greater clarity and commitment on agricultural policies that propel our sector forward.
These include building a stronger workforce, supercharging farm businesses, leading the global marketplace, and investing in innovation and technology.
WoolProducers Australia said it was always willing to speak with the government of the day to facilitate a better understanding of on-farm practices and the investment made into animal health and welfare.
Labor has promised a Shorten Labor Government will:
- Establish an independent Office of Animal Welfare
In government, we will work with the States and Territories to identify the most appropriate structure for an Office of Animal Welfare operating independently of government. The office would ultimately have responsibility for providing advice and oversight on the full spectrum of animal welfare issues – including issues like kangaroo culling, puppy farms and commercial animal husbandry – with equal buy-in from the Commonwealth, States and Territories.
Labor will also re-establish State and Territory intergovernmental cooperation to ensure animal welfare matters receive the consistent national approach they deserve.
- Establish an independent Inspector-General of Animal Welfare
We will provide $1 million a year to establish the Inspector-General of Animal Welfare as an independent statutory position operating from within the Department of Agriculture. The Inspector-General will be responsible for leading the work to establish the independent Office of Animal Welfare. They will also be responsible for advising on the protection of animals in all Commonwealth-regulated activities, and will report directly to the Minister of the day on issues like live exports, animal welfare standards and guidelines.
- Renew the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy
Labor will work with the States and Territories, industry and animal welfare groups to update and renew the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy for the coming decade. We will draw on the best available research and evidence to develop a strategy that confirms Australia as a leader in our region for the care and protection of animals.
- Review the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System
The Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System plays a critical role in reassuring Australian agricultural producers, their customers and the broader community that animal welfare is being protected at every stage from the farm gate to the plate. In government, Labor will conduct a top-to-bottom review of the system to ensure it is working as effectively and efficiently as possible.
- Provide more transparency and accountability
Under Labor, the Minister for Agriculture will provide quarterly reports to the Parliament on:
- New and emerging markets.
- The number of head exported.
- Any allegations of breaches of animal welfare standards and investigations undertaken.
- Any sanctions or other action taken for breaches of Australia’s animal welfare standards.
- Ban animal testing for cosmetics within Australia and the importation or sale of new products tested on animals overseas.
Labor ’s national consultations on animal testing in 2014 received more than 13,000 submissions. Over 90 per cent supported a ban on animal testing for cosmetics, along with the importation of products that use this.
In delivering our plan to better protect animal welfare, Labor will consult with the States and Territories and stakeholders across primary industry to ensure these policies promote international competitiveness for producers and do not undercut it.
Raising the bar on animal welfare will ensure our agricultural producers can continue to expand into the growing consumer markets in Asia and beyond, building on Australia’s reputation as a provider of clean, green and safe products.