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Cormo Express.



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AFFA03/244WT - 14 September 2003

Cormo Express

The Australian Government is using every avenue at its disposal to secure the welfare of sheep on board the Cormo Express in the Middle East, Federal Agriculture Minister Warren Truss said today.

"I share the concerns of many Australians about the welfare of these sheep, and we are exercising every possible influence and diplomatic avenue at our disposal to try and resolve the situation," Mr Truss said.

He said it is important to recognise that, since the sheep left Fremantle, they have been the property of a foreign company, and are on-board a foreign ship on the other side of the globe. There are, therefore, clear practical and logistical problems in any intervention. The Government has no authority to order the owner to pursue any particular course of action.

The consignment of 57,000 sheep loaded in Fremantle was rejected by the Saudi Arabian authorities, who claimed the sheep had unacceptable levels of the disease scabby mouth.

There was a large discrepancy between the levels of scabby mouth alleged by the Saudis and the infection rate as reported by the experienced Australian veterinarian on board the vessel. An independent veterinary inspection has since confirmed the consignment was healthy.

"I am informed that the Cormo Express is currently moving and is well ventilated, with temperatures on board currently around 30 degrees," Mr Truss said.

"The vessel has taken on new supplies and the sheep have adequate fresh water and fresh food. We have intervened to assist the owner of the sheep and stand ready to do what we can to facilitate a resolution to this issue.

"I am informed that negotiations are continuing to secure a destination to unload the sheep. These negotiations are at a very delicate stage and are being handled at the commercial level by the foreign owner.

"Australian diplomatic posts overseas have been briefed and remain ready to offer assistance to facilitate any importing government requirements.

"Australian Government officials were in the Middle East last week, and the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service has acted to ensure all provisions covering livestock export protocols with Australia's Middle East clients are met in full.

"To avoid similar problems with future shipments, the Government decided on 28 August that livestock exports to Saudi Arabia would be suspended

until an effective mechanism to ensure the safe entry of livestock into Saudi could be negotiated."

Further media inquiries:

Minister Truss' office: Tim Langmead - 02 6277 7520 or 0418 221 433