Author Topic: Labor MPs to meet over new concerns on live sheep exports 18.9.2012  (Read 1724 times)

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Labor MPs to meet over new concerns on live sheep exports 18.9.2012
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2012, 11:50:46 PM »
Labor MPs to meet over new concerns on live sheep exports Sabra Lane reported this story on Tuesday, September 18, 2012
  MARK COLVIN: There's still no clear answer to the fate of 20,000 Australian sheep shipped to Pakistan, and now condemned.

Pakistan accepted the sheep earlier this month after Bahrain rejected them.

Bahrain claimed that some of the sheep had scabby mouth disease.

Vets in Pakistan initially cleared them but when they changed their minds authorities ordered the sheep killed and buried.

The Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig has asked Pakistan to reverse that decision.

One Pakistani newspaper is reporting that some of the sheep had already been transported to restaurants and roadside hotels before the culling order.

With a Labor caucus sub-committee meeting on the problem tomorrow, Kelvin Thomson MP is a live export opponent and he spoke to Sabra Lane.

KELVIN THOMSON: I am very concerned about this. No live animals should be exported from Australia or allowed to leave our shores without a guarantee that they will be accepted when they arrive at their destination.

Clearly that has happened here.

SABRA LANE: And the Caucus working group, are you meeting about this to discuss it?

KELVIN THOMSON: We have a meeting this week and no doubt this and other issues will be raised there.

Our concern is to get good animal welfare outcomes. In the case of the sheep it seems pretty clear to me that there would have been a market for them to be sold here in Australia domestically.

SABRA LANE: The Minister says now that he's trying to make sure that the 21,000 sheep aren't culled. Pakistan's international newspaper says that hundreds of the animals have already been transported to restaurants and hotels prior to the order for them to be culled.

Are you worried by that?

KELVIN THOMSON: I am concerned about that. One of the obvious questions is whether if they're now being killed whether they are being killed in accordance with the supply chain assurance scheme, which the Government put into place after the live cattle export situation.

So, my question would be, are they being killed in accordance with those arrangements or outside those arrangements?

SABRA LANE: And Pakistan, the Minister says Pakistan was a nation that agreed to this supply assurance chain which effectively means that they should have had a plan B in place should this incident happen in another market. That doesn't appear to be the case.

So is there a breakdown of this system again?

KELVIN THOMSON: Well, it is a matter of concern. If you go back to the time of the Cormo Express, the live sheep export trade was allowed to be resumed on the basis of the memorandums of understanding. Bahrain has signed the memorandum of understanding but it doesn't seem to have meant anything because Bahrain simply refused to accept the sheep.

Whereas the memorandum of understanding says that you've got to accept the sheep while various matters are being discussed, even if there's a dispute arises that you've got to accept the sheep. They haven't.

So the issues that are stake here are; were the sheep diseased? If they were diseased, why was this not picked up in Australia before they left? If they were not diseased, how is it that Bahrain is able to get away with not accepting them? Because clearly every day that a sheep remains at sea this has adverse animal welfare consequences.

SABRA LANE: Well, apparently, and this is what we're told, the Minister says that the sheep were originally bound for Bahrain. It rejected them two weeks ago. They said they weren't healthy but the report from the Agriculture Department, with the vet on board the ship, he says that they were healthy.

So is there something else at play here?

KELVIN THOMSON: Well it's a very unsatisfactory situation and that's why we'll be asking questions about it.

The issue is, were they diseased and if they were diseased how were they allowed to leave Australia in that condition? If they're not diseased, how is it that Bahrain is apparently able to thumb its nose at the memorandum of understanding.

SABRA LANE: This is yet another live export problem. We had the cattle export issue last year. Just a couple of weeks ago we had issues about questionable slaughter practices in Kuwait from memory.

Is it time just to say no more?

KELVIN THOMSON: I personally believe that we would be much better off if we transitioned out of live animal export altogether and moved towards domestic processing I believe we'd get much better animal welfare outcomes and much better economic outcomes if we were to do that.

Pending that, I think there needs to be a focus on the establishment of an independent office of animal welfare. This is something that the Labor Party national conference agreed to do at the end of last year and I and a number of other Labor MPs believe that that is an important step forward to secure and independent office and enable it to examine some of these issues which don't seem to be being satisfactorily dealt with.

SABRA LANE: Is it also a question of the Minister's responsibility here? I mean all these issues have happened under his watch as well.

KELVIN THOMSON: The Minister can comment on the way that the issues have been handled. What I believe is an important safeguard is securing an independent office of animal welfare.

I think if we were able to do that then a lot of the issues that we've been talking about here would be able to be considered independently. As things stand, we are seeing a procession of incidents which are unsatisfactory and represent, in my view, animal welfare outcomes which are unacceptable.

MARK COLVIN: Labor Member Kelvin Thomson, speaking to Sabra Lane.