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Minister's decision risks livestock exports.



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KERRY O’BRIEN LABOR SENATOR FOR TASMANIA SHADOW MINISTER FOR PRIMARY INDUSTRIES AND RESOURCES

44 Charles Street, P.O. Box 1193, Launceston TAS 7250 Phone (03) 6334 9366 Fax (03) 6334 9369 Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600 Phone (02) 6277 3842 Fax (02) 6277 3780 Email: senator.obrien@aph.gov.au

1 October 2002

MINISTER’S DECISION RISKS LIVESTOCK EXPORTS

Warren Truss’ decision to permit a shipment of 45,000 sheep to depart Portland at the weekend, but impose a moratorium on further shipments days later, is bizarre and places the future of the industry at risk.

If a moratorium on live sheep exports is justified due to high mortality rates, it should have been imposed when the current pattern of death became known.

If the Minister is satisfied that the procedures followed in assessing the latest shipment are satisfactory, further shipments complying with these new conditions should be approved.

Mr Truss cannot have it both ways.

I understand AQIS initially opposed approval of the latest shipment, but was persuaded to change its mind.

The decision to approve the shipment just hours before the moratorium rests squarely with the Minister.

In approving the shipment, he has put at risk the whole sheep export trade, worth $400 million last year.

Today’s report of 2,000 sheep deaths aboard a livestock carrier bound for the Middle East is the latest in a series of abnormal mortality events to hit the industry.

According to the Minister’s own statement, this is the fifth shipment in the past 12 weeks to record unacceptable losses. In July, 14,500 sheep and 200 cattle died while en route to the same region.

The export trade in live cattle and sheep makes a vital contribution to Australia’s rural economy.

The Minister should have acted by imposing a firm moratorium as soon as he became aware of the latest deaths.

In approving the weekend shipment, Mr Truss is placing the future of this important industry at risk through inconsistent and ill-timed decision-making.

For Comment: Kerry O’Brien 03 6334 9366 or 0419 007 780 Jack Lake 02 6277 3843 or 0427 773 842