Live export employees in the clear
The live export regulator has cleared its workers of wrongdoing amid claims officials were leaking sensitive industry information to animal activists in an effort to compromise the trade.
Countryman can reveal the Federal Department of Agriculture and Water Resources issued an internal investigation to gauge if employees had filtered information to anti-live export campaigners.
It is understood DAWR was put under the microscope after a meeting held in August, which included Federal MPs, raised concern about department officials sharing information with animal rights groups.
In response to Countryman questions, a DAWR spokesman confirmed the probe was conducted.
He said it found the claims were untrue.
“The department initiated an internal inquiry after becoming aware of the claim,” he said.
“The department’s inquiry has concluded and there was no evidence to support the claim.”
The DAWR spokesman was noncommittal when asked when the inquiry — which was separate from the Moss review — started and concluded.
The spokesman also refused to reveal who ordered it.
The internal inquiry revelations come in the wake of DAWR granting Rural Export and Trading WA’s export licence application last Thursday to ship live sheep to the Middle East.
It took more than two months for the Australian-based Kuwait Livestock Transport and Trading subsidiary’s licence approval to be given the green light after the company applied for the licence on August 17.
Federal Liberal Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson, a sheep producer from Katanning, praised the approval but launched a scathing attack on DAWR’s handling of the application.
“They have dragged this process out . . .their performance has been sub-standard,” he said.
“It is another example of how the department seems to be wanting to punish the industry.
“It is either gross incompetence, or they are deliberately going out of their way to be spiteful to the industry.
“The more voyages we can get under our belt, with good outcomes under the new regulations, the more chance we have in defending the industry in the future.”
The DAWR spokesman said the department would not comment on individual export licences, but it endeavoured to process applications “as soon as possible”.
“It is influenced by how quickly applicants respond to departmental requests for more information,” he said.
The live sheep industry has remained in limbo since April, after whistleblower footage of dead and heat-stressed sheep aboard Emanuel Export livestock carrier Awassi Express was made public.
Emanuel founder Graham Daws, who formed RETWA with his Kuwait associates in 1974, quit the boards of his own companies in July.
Emanuel’s export licence was cancelled by the Federal Government in August.