The industry of live export livestock will begin considering Labor’s proposed changes to animal welfare policy whereby an independent inspector would oversee the conditions and treatment of animals being transported.
This development follows the scandal that came after footage was circulated showing the horrific conditions in which 2,500 sheep died from heat exhaustion in August 2017. The footage was of a live export ship that transports sheep and some cattle from Freemantle (WA) to the Middle East.
The idea of an animal welfare inspector-general was first seeded by Labor in 2013 but the idea was scrapped when the Coalition came into power by then agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce. The live exports industry and farmers have been openly against any such policy, saying that it would introduce an unnecessary level of bureaucracy that would slow down the industry.
But in light of the recent outcry for tougher regulations on live exporting, and even some calls for an outright ban, the ALEX (Australia Live Exporters Council) has retreated from its stubborn stance. Simon Crean, the council’s chairman, has written a letter to Agriculture Minister David Littleproud stating that the live export industry would consider the proposal.
Mr Crean was formerly a minster for Labor and was present in the cabinet then Julia Gillard’s government suspended all live exporting to Indonesia – a vote that he has since said he regrets.
Joel Fitzgibbon, Labor’s spokesperson for agriculture, has said that this offer by the industry is a surprising “but welcome move”. Mr Fitzgibbon agreed that stricter oversight and regulation of the industry was sorely needed.
Mr Fitzgibbon explained that the inspector-general role would act as “the cop on the beat” to oversee the regulator and ensure that they have done their job properly. He went on to say that he expected them to work towards establishing an office for animal welfare that was independent.
Despite the wishful thinking, there are no definitive signs that the industry is going to support the new proposal. However the fact that the industry sent a letter at all shows that they are at least open to some kind of change.
Even if the proposal was agreed to, some like Sussan Ley are saying it would be nothing more than a “band-aid” on the issue. She said that other industry watchdogs have been created in similar reactionary ways and most of them seemed like “toothless tigers”.