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Speech: The Department of Agriculture is a Failed Regulator of Live Exports

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 14 Feb 2019

'The department has failed as a regulator.' This is the beginning of the draft report provided to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources on 17 December 2018. Ten days later, when the final version was released by the minister, those words had been removed. Let's remember that the independent Review of the Regulatory Capability and Culture of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in the Regulation of Live Animal Exports, known as the Moss review, was set up in response to the horrific abuse we saw on five separate voyages of the Awassi Express.

But what we now know, thanks to the papers that my motion passed by the Senate released, is that the department of agriculture's fingerprints are all over draft versions of the so-called independent report. They were shown at least four draft versions of the report, provided extensive editing and were allowed to influence and even propose deletion of whole sections of the report. We see the department suggesting that wide-ranging criticisms of the government and its contribution to animal cruelty be removed, and these criticisms never made it into the final report. We saw that the agriculture department wanted to remove statements about any involvement or praise of animal welfare groups—the very groups that exposed the animal cruelty in the first place.

The Moss review put much of the blame for extreme cruelty for live export at the government's feet—and rightly so—in the 17 September draft version of the report. It blamed them for the departure of experienced staff members, some of whom predicted this disaster. The report blamed the government's deregulation policy. The review stated that the science that suggested that the stocking densities and heat stress in the live export standards were incorrect would probably apply to other animals who suffer live export, but, 10 days later, those criticisms were gone.

This government's integrity is seriously under question. It really beggars belief that the department was able to have any influence whatsoever over an independent review of their own culture and their own performance. It is blatantly obvious that the department did everything in its power to try to weaken the report's recommendations. This is not a regulator interested in animal welfare. It is a regulator solely interested in defending the cruel live exports industry. It really begs the question: did Minister Littleproud instruct his department to interfere and influence the report to save the live export industry? It is really sickening so see the Liberal-National government side with animal cruelty time and time again. Let's face it: this is a government that will run interference and cover up for the live export industry no matter the animal cruelty, no matter the complete lack of integrity and no matter how many animals have to suffer.

Despite all of the PR spin of stage-managed visits to live export ships, it is clear that not much has changed. Just recently, the RSPCA revealed independent inspectors' reports of live export ships that continue to be allowed to sail. In these reports we see photo after photo of sick, dead and dying sheep—sheep in extreme heat stress, cows standing in 10 centimetres of their own faeces, animals standing over each other because there is not enough space for them to sit down. There were 1,500 sheep dead, which is considered to be acceptable by this government. The government fought tooth and nail to stop these photos going out. Do you know what the independent observers say on almost all of these pictures? 'No issues identified.' What a farce! What a load of crock.

What we have heard from the minister today confirms that the government just wants to do the absolute minimum to look like they're doing something and hopes that this whole thing goes away. Well, I have news for you. We're not going away. We have been fighting to stop live exports for 30 years, and we will keep fighting because the live export industry is inherently cruel. The reality is that it cannot be regulated to meet community expectations or animal welfare. The only solution is to shut it down.

Question agreed to.

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