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Speech: Live Animal Exports

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 10 Sep 2019

I rise to speak to the Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports Bill 2019 and to indicate at the outset that, while the Greens will be supporting this bill, we do so only because even a little bit of something is better than nothing at all. At the end of the day, this bill, as it stands, is somewhat of a toothless tiger; it doesn't even meet the recommendations of the Moss review—the very advice this government is pretending to be taking. I foreshadow that I will be moving amendments to address some key flaws in this bill.

It has been a few months since the Senate passed a motion calling on the government to release independent observers' reports more transparently and more quickly. I can see that the government has begun to comply with this, with more 2018 reports being released—although I should note that just six reports from 2019 have been completed and released out of the 65 voyages taken to date this year. What is contained in these reports is really quite incredible. The independent observers all use the same words and come to the same conclusion of 'no issues identified'. The words make it seem like there were no issues at all. But when you get to the photos and you see cattle and sheep piled up on top of one another, wading in their own faeces and in flooded pens, you see that things are a bit different. The observers go on to congratulate the exporters on how generous the size of the pens is, when they allow only half of the cows to lie down at any one time. And calves continue to be born on these ships of misery.

Then, of course, you realise that these conditions are business-as-usual for the live-export industry. From reading the reports, there are two particularly sickening voyages I wish to identify to the Senate. I want to highlight a particularly gruesome part of the report on MV Ganado Express. In 2018, while loading MV Ganado Express with cattle in Townsville, three cattle were killed. The independent observer's report states:

There were three mortalities which occurred prior to leaving Australian waters. Two of the cattle were spooked by the feeding process and fractured their leg when it was caught on the pen rails. The cattle were euthanased by the stockperson. These two cattle were in the 500 to 700 kilograms bodyweight range and were euthanised using a captive bolt that did not appear to be powerful enough for the size and breed of the cattle. The stockperson showed experience in technique and placement of the captive bolt, however both cattle required six applications of the captive bolt.

How can you not see this as an issue? Obviously, for this government the terror that these animals feel has no meaning.

Take the report on MV Ocean Ute, which voyaged from Portland in Victoria to Tianjin in China. Over the 22-day voyage, 47 cows died, including from bovine respiratory diseases. So, it's not just heat stress that kills and tortures animals on live-export ships. On this voyage, the temperature decreased to around zero degrees. This is how inhumane live export really is.

Bills like the one we are debating today perpetuate the myth that there is some kind of regulatory failure that can be addressed to stop the cruelty. Of course regulatory failures must be stopped, but the truth is that there is only one thing that can stop the cruelty and that is to ban live export. When the former agriculture minister, Minister Littleproud, announced last year the intention to establish a live-export inspector-general, he said that the live-export industry needs 'a tough cop on the beat'. I'm sorry, but this bill ain't it. The bill doesn't even reference animal welfare and won't allow the inspector-general to investigate individual actions. There is no mention of animal welfare in the entire bill. The whole reason that this bill exists is the Moss review, which was set up to investigate the horrific torture of animals in live exports. I have no confidence that the bill, as introduced by the government, and the inspector-general, as defined in this legislation, will actually improve animal welfare at all.

The first set of amendments I circulated would rectify this. I do understand now that the government has taken up my amendments and they've circulated them as well. If animal welfare is an objective for this government, and Senator Duniam's second reading speech mentioned animal welfare about 10 times, I think, then why not include it in the bill from the very start? However, it is good to see that the government has since taken up my amendments—the Greens' amendments—to insert 'animal welfare' in the objects of the act, and to ensure that live-export officials, in performing functions and in exercising powers, consider the welfare of animals. The amendments will also insert a requirement for the inspector-general to consider the welfare of live export animals in their investigations.

I've also circulated another amendment to this bill which will bring the inspector-general in line with the recommendations of the Review of the Regulatory Capability and Culture of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in the Regulation of Live Animal Exports conducted by Mr Philip Moss AM, commonly known as the Moss review. The Moss review did call for an inspector-general of live exports who would 'review the performance of functions or exercise of powers by department staff members in the regulation of live animal exports'. This clearly calls for the ability to exercise the review of functions by departmental staff. Yet here we have a bill that explicitly prevents this from happening. Section 10(2) of the bill states:

Subsection (1) does not permit the Inspector-General to review only a single performance of a function, or a single exercise of a power, by a single live-stock export official.

This would actually rule out the inspector-general investigating any individual decision of a livestock export official. This is why I call this bill a toothless tiger—pretending to do something without actually doing it.

I understand that the government has very lazily done a cut-and-paste job from the Biosecurity Act 2015, and in doing so has actually missed the point of this Moss review recommendation. As it stands, the bill doesn't fulfil the recommendations of the Moss review, as the government claims, and my amendment would remove this unnecessary restriction on the inspector-general. Ultimately, we need to end live exports. In the meantime, we should at the very least be doing everything we can to improve animal welfare.

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