Backflip on WA ship erodes public confidence in live sheep regulations

Backflip on WA ship erodes public confidence in live sheep regulations

Federal Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has written to Agriculture Minister David Littleproud to ask whether the sudden reversal of a decision preventing a live sheep export ship sailing to Kuwait during the northern summer months will be reviewed by the Inspector-General of Live Exports.

"Like many in my community I was shocked to learn yesterday that the Department of Agriculture had approved a second application for exemption by the Australian arm of the Kuwaiti exporter Rural Export and Trading WA (RETWA)," Rebekha said.

"Along with Animals Australia, I was unaware there was even a second exemption application and I am concerned that Animals Australia and other groups with valid interests in this export shipment were not provided with the opportunity to make submissions like they were the first time around.

"The public statement of reasons for granting the second exemption said the Department took into account the submissions from the first exemption application.

"However, I find it concerning that the statement said that while some weight was given to submissions from Animals Australia, RSPCA Australia, the Australian Veterinary Association and others because they 'gave voice to the concerns of segments of the community' these submissions were found 'not to be representative of the community as a whole'. 

"I have received a large volume of correspondence from concerned constituents who believe that the Department’s decision to grant the exemption has demonstrated a desire to compromise animal welfare for the sake of economic returns.

"It is clear that the public has once again lost confidence in the regulation of the live sheep export trade.

"I have written to the Minister to ask whether the decision made by the Department regarding RETWA’s application for an exemption to the Northern Summer Order will be subject to a review by the Inspector-General of Live Exports. 

"If there is going to be a review, the Australian public needs to know when that will happen and if interested stakeholders will be permitted to provide written submissions.

"I have long advocated for the phasing out of long haul live sheep exports.

"Like so many Australians, I was horrified by the 2018 video footage that showed the inhumane treatment of sheep in the long-haul live export trade.

"The Government refused to support successive Private Member's Bills, including my own, to phase out this cruel trade over five years.

"They assured us that their new regulatory settings for exporting live sheep would address the animal health concerns relating to conditions for the export of sheep to the Middle East during the Northern Hemisphere summer.

"I was heartened to learn on May 27 that the regulator had refused to grant an exemption to the Northern Summer Order. Now they've backflipped.

"Notwithstanding that the second approved exemption involves the shipping of 50,000 sheep instead of 56,000 and other measures including additional personnel and strict placement of the animals on the ship, these sheep are still being transported in the northern summer.

"How can the community have trust in the regulatory settings if the rules are just adjusted to give more weight to economic considerations over the humane treatment of animals?"