Media statement on live animal exports
8 April 2018
On Thursday 29 March I received an incident report from the Department of Agriculture about a voyage involving live sheep to the Middle East in August 2017.
I immediately requested an urgent briefing from the Department and wrote to industry asking what research they've undertaken about high heat mortalities.
On Wednesday 4 April I saw vision supplied by Animals Australia which it indicates is of multiple voyages from 2016 and one from 2017. The videos shocked, angered and saddened me. The conditions shown in the footage were disgraceful and I remain deeply angry about the conditions those sheep endured.
I immediately requested the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources investigate the footage I'd seen, which Animals Australia supplied the Department. I also gave a press conference explaining how angry I am about the treatment of those animals.
I also contacted Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon to keep him updated on the issue. As I've done with the Murray Darling Basin Plan, we must reach across the aisle, put the politics aside and work together. It's time we aimed to end wars, not start them. Australians are sick of politicians shouting at each other and I intend to lead on this issue and aim to bring people together.
Tonight, many Australians are no doubt shocked and upset. Farmers who care for these animals from birth will be deeply distressed at the footage.
Tomorrow morning I meet with Animals Australia in Melbourne, before a teleconference with the RSPCA and then meetings with the industry.
There's no point complaining about the footage. The footage wouldn't exist if the conditions on the boat were good for those sheep. We need a sustainable trade with good animal welfare outcomes. We need an industry which does not tolerate wrongdoing. We need an environment in which whistleblowers are comfortable coming forward.
The live export trade is important for our farmers. It provides a floor in the market for older sheep and fills demand overseas for live sheep. A ban on the whole industry would only punish those who have done no wrong - both exporters and farmers. Many farming families remain devastated from the 2011 suspension and that class action against the Australian Government still continues.
I've been Minister for Agriculture for just more than three months. I can't change the past but I aim to influence the future. I will support live exporters who do the right thing. I will not support anyone who does the wrong thing. Those who do the wrong thing should be nailed, not slapped on the wrist.
There is a live export ship due to sail from Perth Tuesday. The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, which as the regulator of the industry, acts independently of my office, will make an announcement around that shipment tonight.