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Thursday, 15 November 2018
Page: 8312

Live Animal Exports

Senator GEORGIOU (Western Australia) (14:27): My question is to Senator McKenzie, the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. Senator, it's been revealed that the federal government is investigating complaints against senior officers in the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources who allegedly warned staff not to take action against live export companies over animal welfare concerns. Have any of these senior officers been reprimanded as yet? If not, what kind of action could they face?

Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaDeputy Leader of The Nationals and Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation) (14:28): Thank you, Senator Georgiou, for your question. As a Western Australian senator, you know too well the value that the sheep export industry provides to your state: $250 million. Ninety per cent of the live sheep trade leaves Western Australia, employing 10,000 Australians through that industry. We know that there have been difficulties within the industry, and it is why the minister for agriculture commissioned both the McCarthy and the Moss reviews to look at the regulatory issues and, indeed, how we can sustainably ensure that this industry delivers not just the protein that is required by the Middle East nations who seek to purchase these sheep—Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE, Oman, Jordan, Israel and Malaysia, totalling nearly two million head a year—but, indeed, to ensure that that is done sustainably, and that means ensuring the highest level of animal welfare standards. We have been unashamedly putting those regulations in place as those reviews have been handed down. As you will see, we will now have an independent observer on each and every ship that leaves Freo over coming months carrying live sheep trade to the Middle East. To ensure that the department, as the regulator, is well versed—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Georgiou, on a point of order?

Senator Georgiou: On relevance. I asked the minister about allegations about senior officials and if they've been reprimanded yet, and what they could face if they have been.

The PRESIDENT: The senator has reminded the minister of the specific nature of the question. The minister has 26 seconds to turn to the answer.

Senator McKENZIE: As was handed down by the review, the department has conducted internal conversations with a variety of not just departmental officials but those actually leading certain departmental areas after the closure of the animal welfare branch. We've committed to reinstating that branch to ensure that we can all have confidence that the live sheep trade— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Georgiou, a supplementary question?

Senator GEORGIOU (Western Australia) (14:30): There have also been allegations of falsification of documents in the department to cover up irregularities in the live export sector. Can the minister clarify whether the investigation was centred on animal cruelty or the falsification of documents?

Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaDeputy Leader of The Nationals and Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation) (14:31): I'll have to take the detail of that question on notice.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Georgiou, a final supplementary question?

Senator GEORGIOU (Western Australia) (14:31): The live sheep industry supports 2,000 jobs in Western Australia and generates $250 million for the Western Australian economy. What measures can the federal government put in place to protect the industry in the face of a ban under a future Labor government?

Senator McKENZIE (VictoriaDeputy Leader of The Nationals and Minister for Regional Services, Sport, Local Government and Decentralisation) (14:31): Thank you, Senator Georgiou—and I couldn't agree more that the greatest risk to the live sheep trade out of your home state is the election of a federal Labor government. We've been incredibly committed to ensuring that this is a sustainable industry. We will ensure that the two million sheep that leave our shores to the Middle East, even through the summer trade, are transported in a safe and humane manner—not only to underpin the economy of those Western Australian farmers and their communities but, indeed, to provide much-needed protein to the Middle East nations. We stand with the WA pastoralists and graziers to ensure the sustainability of this industry well into the future, by making sure the regulatory system we've set up can give the broader Australian public the confidence that those farmers, producers and, indeed, exporters are delivering that product to those global markets at the highest quality.