Live trade plea: han­dle with care

Countryman - - FRONT PAGE - Melissa Wil­liams, Nick But­terly and Jenne Bram­mer

De­tails of live ex­port scan­dals, Fed­eral Agri­cul­ture De­part­ment staff un­der pres­sure and on­go­ing frus­tra­tion with de­layed sheep ship­ments emerged this week dur­ing the third visit to WA by Fed­eral Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter David Lit­tleproud.

His dis­cus­sions with WA farm lobby groups and in­dus­try stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing grow­ers and live­stock ex­porters, were dom­i­nated by de­vel­op­ments in live sheep ship­ping and re­ac­tion to last week’s re­lease of the Moss Re­view rec­om­men­da­tions for Aus­tralia’s live ex­port trade.

At a round­table meet­ing on Tues­day, co-or­di­nated by the Na­tion­als WA, the min­is­ter re­vealed he

had in­structed for­mer Aus­tralian Crime Com­mis­sion boss John Lawler to in­ves­ti­gate claims bu­reau­crats had ev­i­dence of “wrong­do­ing” by live ex­porters but sat on them af­ter be­ing cau­tioned by su­pe­ri­ors.

Pas­toral­ists and Gra­ziers As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Tony Seabrook met the min­is­ter on Tues­day, with live sheep ex­porters, and said they raised con­cerns about in­tro­duc­ing overly re­stric­tive re­forms that could make De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture and Water Re­sources staff and sys­tems too cau­tious.

“We wel­come the rec­om­men­da­tions from the Moss Re­view but we don’t want to scare the de­part­ment and end up in a sit­u­a­tion where its staff are too cau­tious to make nec­es­sary de­ci­sions,” he said.

“For ex­am­ple, there is a sheep ship ready to load in Fre­man­tle this week but it can’t get a per­mit to leave the port and de­lays are cost­ing the ex­porter more than $100,000 each day in ex­tra feed and de­mur­rage.”

As Coun­try­man went to print, Live­stock Ship­ping Ser­vices and RETWA, the WA sub­sidiary of Kuwait Live­stock Trans­port and Trad­ing, were un­der­stood to be wait­ing for fi­nal ex­port per­mits from DAWR for ship­ments.

Per­mits had re­port­edly been slow be­cause of de­part­ment staff changes that had led to de­lays in pro­cess­ing doc­u­men­ta­tion.

“We are see­ing that a lack of ex­pe­ri­enced staff at DAWR is hold­ing up pro­cesses, such as get­ting per­mits through,” Mr Seabrook said.

He said it was also es­sen­tial that any ap­point­ments of in­de­pen­dent ob­servers on live­stock ship­ments, as flagged by the Moss Re­view, were based on ad­e­quate qual­i­fi­ca­tions and hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence.

“The min­is­ter told us he would not back down on hav­ing in­de­pen­dent ob­servers on live ex­port ship­ments but there was feed­back from in­dus­try that this could cost up to about $30,000 per trip,” Mr Seabrook said

He said in­dus­try play­ers ad­vised the min­is­ter this week that re­duc­tions to ship stock­ing den­si­ties went too far and would be a huge cost im­post for ex­porters.

“Our ex­pert ad­vice is that the Moss rec­om­men­da­tions go be­yond what is needed but they are a start­ing point,” he said.

WAFarm­ers live­stock pres­i­dent David Slade said it was vi­tal the re­forms pro­posed in the Moss Re­view were rolled out in close part­ner­ship with in­dus­try.

“The re­view has iden­ti­fied nec­es­sary changes at DAWR to pro­vide con­fi­dence to the Aus­tralian com­mu­nity that high an­i­mal wel­fare stan­dards can be met and main­tained,” he said.

Mr Slade said DAWR needed to be ad­e­quately re­sourced to en­sure it had the abil­ity, ca­pac­ity and cul­ture to reg­u­late ef­fec­tively, with staff who un­der­stood the sec­tor.

“Re­cruit­ment of newly ap­pointed reg­u­la­tory staff must be based on stock­man­ship and live­stock pro­duc­tion sys­tems’ ex­pe­ri­ence, not just ad­min­is­tra­tive reg­u­la­tory skills,” he said.

“Con­sid­er­a­tion should be given to bas­ing staff in WA who are suit­ably qual­i­fied, trained and ex­pe­ri­enced to cul­ti­vate re­la­tion­ships with the State Gov­ern­ment, given WA is the big­gest ex­port­ing State.”

Na­tion­als WA leader Mia Davies said the meet­ing with Mr Lit­tleproud and more than 20 in­dus­try del­e­gates also dis­cussed a need for pro­tect­ing the live­stock in­dus­try from wild dogs and greater har­mon­i­sa­tion of State and Fed­eral laws to pro­mote ir­ri­gated agri­cul­ture in the north.

Fed­eral Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter David Lit­tleproud, right, with WAFarm­ers grains sec­tion pres­i­dent Dun­can Young.

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