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Notice given 5 April 2007

3095  Senator Bartlett: To ask the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry—With reference to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) ‘MOU on Handling and Slaughtering of Australian Live Animals’ signed on 3 October 2006 by the Minister and the Egyptian Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, Mr Amin Ahmed Abaza:

(1) Does the MOU relate to all animals exported from Australia to Egypt.

 

 (2) Can the Minister confirm that there is no distinction made in the MOU in regard of agreed terms for the treatment of Australian sheep, for example whether they are sent to abattoirs or sold privately for home slaughter.

(3) (a) Can the Minister confirm that, in Egypt, no enforceable legislation exists to prohibit cruelty to animals, within slaughterhouses or elsewhere, or to ensure that the conditions of the MOU are complied with; and (b) given that there is a lack of animal protection laws and that significant animal welfare issues are documented in Egypt, on what basis did the Minister believe that the conditions of the MOU would be complied with.

(4) Can the Minister confirm that he and departmental officials were advised by representatives of Animals Australia, prior to the signing of the MOU, that the treatment and handling of sheep in Egypt did not comply with World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) guidelines due to the prevalent practice of on-selling to private buyers and the inept and unregulated handling and slaughter practices that are used, even in major abattoirs, in Egypt.

(5) What assurances about animal welfare standards in Egypt, if any, were made to the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, and to the Australian Government, prior to the granting of an export permit for a consignment of approximately 40 000 sheep from Australia to Egypt in October and November 2006.

(6) Can the Minister confirm that he was advised, in correspondence from Animals Australia dated 22 November 2006, that the welfare of the first shipment of sheep to Egypt since the signing of the MOU was at risk as the import was specifically for Eid-al-Adha (the ‘Feast of Sacrifice’), the major religious festival during which sheep are sacrificed in the street and in homes; if so: did the Minister: (a) confirm the information contained in the correspondence; and (b) take action by sending Australian Government representatives to Egypt to monitor the treatment of the sheep that arrived in Egypt in November 2006 in order to assess the adherence to the MOU; if not, why not, given the statement, in the document ‘Frequently asked questions—Live trade export - Egypt on the department’s website, that ‘initial shipments will be closely monitored for compliance with the MOU provisions’.

(7) Prior to the signing of the MOU, was there any assessment conducted by the Australian Government of market places, abattoirs, transport or handling standards in Egypt, and particularly any assessment of likely adherence to OIE animal welfare guidelines, and therefore the MOU, in regard to sheep; if so, can details of these assessments be provided.

(8) What assurances were made, by either Mr Abaza or other representatives of the Government of Egypt, to Australian Government representatives in regard to the enforcement of the animal welfare provisions detailed in that MOU, and in particular the adherence to the OIE guidelines for the humane treatment and slaughter of Australian livestock.

(9) Given that during additional estimates hearings of the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee in February 2007, Mr Craig Burns, Executive Manager of the International Division of the department, stated, under questioning about the MOU, that the ‘focus’ is on the way Australian animals are treated in ‘abattoirs and official handling facilities’ (Committee Hansard , 14 February 2007, p. 57P) in Egypt, and that the footage aired on television of the Animals Australia investigation related to ‘leakage from that official system’ (p. 56P), can the Minister confirm that: (a) in Egypt no official slaughter and handling system is in place for sheep; and (b) for each of the years 2004, 2005 and 2006, Australian sheep have only been exported from Australia to Egypt in the lead-up to the Eid-al-Adha religious festival, and that a large proportion of these sheep are likely to be privately transported and slaughtered.

(10) Given that the Minister has viewed and is aware of the eye witness, video and photographic evidence, gathered by Animals Australia in Cairo in December 2006, that show multiple and consistent breaches of the OIE guidelines, and therefore the MOU, what measures has the Government taken to investigate the documented breaches.

(11) What measures can the Australian Government take to compel compliance with welfare requirements within an MOU, apart from refusing to supply livestock.

(12) (a) What assurances, if any, has Egypt provided that any other shipment of animals from Australia to Egypt will be treated humanely; and (b) if such assurances have been made, does the Minister believe that the conditions of the MOU will be complied with in future given that the Egyptian Government has no capacity to enforce the conditions of the MOU in slaughterhouses or in private premises.

(13) What further measures will the Australian Government put in place to ensure, and to assure the Australian public, that Australian animals exported to Egypt will be treated in accordance with the OIE guidelines.

(14) Will the Australian Government refrain from issuing any further export permits for animals from Australia to Egypt if no additional and effective measures are in place to protect these animals.

(15) Is the Minister aware that the Egyptian Government Organisation of Veterinary Services Animal Welfare Office has recently renewed its policy and practice of authorising the shooting and use of strychnine on stray dogs in the streets of Cairo.

(16) Given that the Australian Government has, in recent years, negotiated MOUs with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Eritrea and Jordan on the trade in live animals which relate to the agreed off-loading of animals into the importing country in the event of a suspected disease issue, and were intended to protect against a rejection of Australian livestock similar to the Cormo Express incident and given the breaches of the MOU between Australia and Egypt that have been acknowledged in public statements by the Minister, and the apparent disregard by Egypt of the MOU, what confidence does the Minister have that similar MOUs entered into with the remaining countries will be honoured in the event of a suspected major on-board disease event.

(17) Will the Australian Government report the failure of the Egyptian Government to adhere to the minimum animal handling and slaughter guidelines to the OIE.