JUST more than a month ago, I saw footage that shocked and angered me and all Australians. The community was understandably outraged. It was time this industry became transparent and accountable.
I immediately called a short, sharp review of the live sheep trade into the Middle Eastern summer. I called on others to wait for the science and the evidence. I waited, and now I have it and I am acting.
The McCarthy Review calls for a major overhaul of the live sheep trade during the Middle Eastern summer. It will be delivered. The live sheep export trade is in for significant change.
We accept all 23 recommendations made by Dr McCarthy, noting that further testing and consultation is needed to understand and implement Recommendation 4 on Heat Stress Risk Assessment.
There will be immediate changes that impact now on the live sheep trade during the current Middle Eastern Summer and there will be changes that will be take more time to introduce.
The live sheep trade will move now to the allometric stocking density system, which takes into account animal weight and size. This means sheep will get up to 39 per cent more space and reducing stocking densities by up to 28pc. This change will affect shipments during the Middle Eastern summer this year.
The reportable mortality level will be halved now from 1pc to 2pc, which means if more than one per cent of sheep die it must be reported immediately and investigated.
In the past, the independent regulator has used the sheep deaths as the indicator of animal welfare. It will now move towards a model that focuses on animal welfare, rather than mortality - just because a sheep didn't die doesn't mean it was treated well.
The Heat Stress recommendation will change the way we think about and measure animal welfare, and consequently requires further work and consideration to understand its ramifications and impacts. It also potentially produces fluctuations in stocking density of between 18pc and 79pc. Dr McCarthy has said this needs independent technical review. I want to start that journey immediately.
The live sheep export trade is in for significant change.
Dr McCarthy recommends the regulator must ensure the integrity of the system. It must nail those who do the wrong thing. The independent regulator tells me it will progressively implement the McCarthy recommendations subject to further work on the heat stress risk management recommendations.
The Moss review into the culture, capability and investigative powers of the independent regulator is due to report in late August.
The independent regulator will work closely with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which will be doing its own review of Marine Order 43 that has direct implications on the live export trade.
The livelihoods of farmers across WA and parts of SA, NSW and Victoria as well as 1800 jobs, depend on the live sheep trade and we need to give certainty to these people. The Liberal Nationals Government supports a live trade which is sustainable and respects animal welfare outcomes and community views.
Further, this industry is part of Australia’s strong standing as a secure source of food and agribusiness investment location for a number of Middle East countries. We are aware of the importance of not disrupting food security in partner nations and are concerned to see that any adjustment to the live sheep trade is also managed with these important relationships in mind.
In coming weeks I will introduce a bill increasing penalties and creating a new offence of profiting from poor animal welfare outcomes.
Under this offence, a director of a company could face 10 years prison or $2.1 million fine.
An individual convicted under the same offence would face 10 years and $420,000 fine.
For a company, the fine will be $4.2m, three times the benefit gained, or 10pc of the company’s annual turnover, whichever is greater.
Under the current Australian Meat and Livestock Act, penalties will increase from the current five years prison and/or a $63,000 fine for an individual to eight years prison and/or $100,800 fine.
For a company the fine will be increased from $315,000 to $504,000.
I also want an independent observer on every voyage carrying either sheep or cattle - not just the sheep voyages during the northern summer - reporting back daily to the independent regulator. This reform will take effect now.
This is necessary given the independent regulator's report to me on the Awassi voyage last year did not paint a true picture of what occurred on that voyage.
I'm seeking support from Labor and all members of Parliament - we must have a lasting solution that responds appropriately to community concerns.
- David Littleproud is the federal Minister for Agriculture.