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Question Time: Government Interference in 'Independent' Live Exports Review

Question
Mehreen Faruqi 14 Feb 2019

Senator FARUQI (New South Wales) (14:15): My question is to Senator Canavan, representing the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. The Greens forced the government to release various draft versions of the Moss review into the regulation of live export by the department of agriculture. These documents show that the department had an extensive role in influencing the final outcome, proposing edits, censoring references to the corruption, risks in the live exports branch, and the role of the government in allowing animal cruelty to occur. It is outrageous that the department was interfering in trying to doctor an independent review into its own culture and performance. Minister, why was the department allowed to interfere and weaken an independent report? Was it to continue to defend a rotten industry?

Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:16): I thank Senator Faruqi for her question. But, unfortunately, like many questions from the Greens, they leave out many important facts that I'm sure they are aware of. As many in this place who are familiar with independent investigations like the one that has been conducted by Mr Philip Moss into the department of agriculture would know, it is common practice for such reports to be shared with the organisations that are being investigated before they are finalised. That, in fact, is simply due process. It's a process that the Auditor-General follows in his or her investigations, and it's the process that Mr Philip Moss has followed here. Mr Philip Moss was the inaugural integrity commissioner here at the Commonwealth level. He is a man of great integrity. He has stated on the public record that the department did not influence his report and that the report and the recommendations, in fact, got stronger as the report was finalised.

Now, these are simple facts that Senator Faruqi has left out of her question, but the implication is that she does not believe Mr Philip Moss, that she's questioning his integrity, because she seems to be suggesting that he has been influenced by the department. His independence has been called into question. I think it is a great travesty, Senator Faruqi—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Faruqi, on a point of order?

Senator Faruqi: Mr President, my point of order is about the statements that the minister is making.

Government senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Order!

Senator Faruqi: This is not about the integrity of Mr Moss; it is about the integrity of this government.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Faruqi, your question was quite lengthy. It contained quite a number of assertions. The minister is entirely in order to address those assertions. He is being directly relevant to the question.

Senator CANAVAN: We have supported an independent review into both the incident, the Awassi Express, and also the department. We have accepted all the recommendations. Senator Faruqi says it's outrageous to have this normal process to occur. You know what is outrageous, Mr President: the Greens not supporting an independent investigation into Animals Australia. That is what is outrageous. We have seen what Animals Australia are getting up to, or allegedly getting up to—offering money for people to be cruel to animals. I have not seen one thing from the Greens that would support an independent investigation into that, and that is outrageous.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Faruqi, a supplementary question.

Senator FARUQI (New South Wales) (14:19): Minister, the department deleted sections from a draft version of the report that criticised your government's deregulation policy. Does the government agree that horrific animal cruelty on live export ships is a consequence of this deregulation policy, which puts the profit of live export companies ahead of animal welfare?

Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:19): Once again, I restate that Mr Moss has said the department did not influence his report. So, again, Senator Faruqi is putting a misleading statement here, saying that the department deleted statements. They didn't. The report has been written by Mr Philip Moss. He is a man of great integrity and has made very critical comments and suggestions around the department and made serious recommendations around the department, including the establishment of an inspector-general of live animal exports, which we have accepted.

Once again, the Greens will not support independent investigation into the activists that they run a protection racket for, including Animals Australia. A grazier in Central Queensland summed it up for me best over the last week when he said that he pays people to look after animals and Animals Australia are paying people to be cruel to them. That's exactly what's been happening, and the Greens don't say boo about it.

Senator Faruqi: Mr President, I rise on a point of order on relevance. The minister has not answered any single bit of my question and has gone off on a complete tangent.

The PRESIDENT: I remind the minister of the question. Senator Canavan, you have seven seconds.

Senator CANAVAN: I could go on, because we are taking seriously allegations on all fronts here. Sometimes the producers need to be pulled into line, and certainly activists need to be pulled into line too. But the Greens aren't— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Faruqi, a final supplementary question?

Senator FARUQI (New South Wales) (14:20): Minister, this was blatant political interference in an independent review. How arrogant is the government to think that it can get away with this? Minister, why did the department have any role at all in interfering in or influencing an independent review into its own culture and performance? And did the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources direct them to do so?

Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:21): The answer to that question is no. I've already explained how this independent investigation is of great integrity and also was critical of the department, and we've accepted that. So I believe I have answered the questions and statements that Senator Faruqi has raised. But I think it is important on this topic—

Senator Faruqi interjecting—

Senator CANAVAN: I have already said no, Senator.

Let's just have a look at this. The Daily Telegraph reported a couple of weeks ago on copies of emails between undisclosed sources and Animals Australia. Within those emails, the source that was communicating with Animals Australia offered to switch off the exhaust systems on a vessel to create footage of sheep in distress. Animals Australia still continued communicating with this individual and offered him potential payments. This is cash for cruelty, defended by the Greens. They are offering a protection racket for these activists, who do not care about animal welfare but are running a political campaign. Don't come in this place and say you care about animals when you support people like that. (Time expired)

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