Independent live export scrutiny
The Federal Government will establish an independent inspectorgeneral of live exports after a damning report blasted the Agriculture Department’s repeated failures to police the industry.
The Government has also promised to create an animal welfare branch in the department and promised to clean up the culture inside the bureaucracy to take a tougher stance against rogue operators.
The Moss report, which was commissioned in the wake of the Awassi Express scandal, suggested that cuts introduced by former Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce weakened the department’s enforcement regime — setting the scene for a series of live export incidents.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud promised to accept all recommendations from the review, saying he was determined to clean up the industry and ensure it was able to continue.
The plan for an independent inspector general had first been put forward by Labor but Mr Littleproud said he did not care who had thought of the idea.
“Compliance and regulation should not be a bureaucratic tick box — to change culture, the light needs to be shone on to animal welfare and the threat of being caught and punished needs to be real,” he said.
The report also called for a principal regulatory officer to be established in the department and said vets working on live export ships should declare conflicts of interest.
The inquiry said a full costrecovery model should be levied on the industry for the changes, likely meaning live exporters would be hit with millions of dollars in extra costs.
The report detailed that Mr Joyce, during his time as agriculture minister, abolished department animal welfare units as part of the Abbott government’s “red tape” and deregulation agenda.
It is understood some live exporters protested against the watering down of the department’s policing of animal welfare standards under Mr Joyce, cautioning that it would lead to major live export scandals.
The Government has already put new stocking density restrictions on voyages to the Middle East in summer months and has placed independent observers aboard vessels to report on conditions.
The National Farmers’ Federation said the changes would improve the regulator’s capability and culture and ultimately increase confidence in the regulation of live exports.