At the outset, I want to stress that the Coalition Government condemns cruelty to animals and takes animal welfare very seriously. Australia requires levels of animal welfare much higher than other countries throughout the live export supply chain.
The government is urgently investigating information and footage provided of on-board conditions on a number of live export voyages to the Middle East so it can take further action.
The Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources is also engaging with the Opposition on increasing sanctions and penalties that apply to exporters who do the wrong thing, and exploring options so directors of exporting companies can be personally held to account. This is in addition to the powers, penalties and sanctions contained within the Export Control Bill 2017 which is currently before the Senate.
At the same time, the Coalition Government supports farmers who rely on the live export trade and the exporters who do the right thing.
The recently released footage is horrific and is completely at odds with community expectations and the care that farmers provide to their animals.
We need to create an environment where groups, whistleblowers and individuals are confident providing information on animal welfare concerns. That is why the Coalition Government has established a whistleblower hotline – 1800 319 595 – to allow those who witness bad behaviour in the export industry to report it anonymously.
The Minister has also announced a review into the standards of the sheep trade during the Middle Eastern summer. The review will consider stocking density on ships, bedding and animal waste management, ventilation and heat stress risk. It will also consider and evaluate the potential use of air conditioners, and conditions placed on recent voyages, which includes the independent observer paid by the Department of Agriculture.
The review will also consider the number and skills of the crew in managing animal health and welfare, and will identify any improvements in how our current standards can be administered and executed.
This review will be completed in time to make any recommended changes to the 2018 northern summer trade.