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Tuesday, 26 February 2013
Page: 1037

Live Animal Exports

(Question No. 2660)

Senator Rhiannon asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, upon notice, on 12 December 2012:

(1) With reference to the independent inquiry conducted by the Pakistan Ministry of National Food Security and Research on 11 October 2012, which questioned the authenticity of the Certificate of Health No. 612-000891, issued by the Australian veterinary authorities and signed by the authorised Australian veterinary officer 27 days after the ship had left Australia:

(a) how could an Australian veterinarian in Perth sign documents on 1 September 2012, given that the ship and sheep in question left Perth on 4 August 2012;

(b) how did Pakistan obtain overnight Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) approval, given that it takes months for other countries to follow the same process; and

(c) was this documentation rushed in order to obtain the ESCAS approval to land the sheep in Pakistan.

(2) Given that these sheep were then taken to the PK Livestock and Meat Company, jointly owned and operated by Australian exporter the Wellard Group, which is a slaughter house and not a quarantine station, that Pakistan Animal Quarantine Rules (1980) did not authorise the director of the Animal Quarantine Department (AQD) to act as quarantine officer, and that rules established under the Pakistan Animal Quarantine Act (1979) were violated, why has Wellard's export licence not been revoked.

(3) Can the Minister advise exactly how the Memorandum of Understanding or ESCAS are working to protect animals rather than commercial interests and institutionalised corporate cruelty.

(4) With reference to public claims made by Wellard (, including that '[o]nly animals that pass the health screening test are brought for slaughtering, under strict veterinary supervision' and that 'PK Livestock has become one of the largest exporters of chilled [and frozen] mutton and beef, supplying ... meat across the Gulf region':

(a) what sanctions will be brought against Wellard; and

(b) why would Wellard deny work to its own abattoirs in Australia to have the animals slaughtered overseas after they have been forced to endure suffering.

(5) Can the Minister confirm reports that the sheep that were buried alive were subsequently dug-up and sold.

(6) Why does the Minister not accept the findings of the independent report by economic consultants ACIL Tasman, including that 1 300 full-time jobs would be created if livestock were slaughtered in Australia rather than enduring the inhumane treatment they receive offshore.

(7) What further evidence does the Minister require to acknowledge that acceptable standards of animal welfare cannot be enforced after animals are exported from Australia.

(8) With reference to the announcement by the Australian Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO), that he will conduct a review into whether the Mark IV restraint box meets World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) guidelines and ESCAS requirements:

(a) can the Minister advise when this review will be completed and whether it involves a direct assessment of cattle being slaughtered using this restraint box; and

(b) given that the CVO has stated that 'proper use of the Mark IV restraint box is consistent with the requirements of the OIE Code', what steps has the Minister taken to ensure that the CVO's statement cannot be exploited as an endorsement of this product.

Senator Ludwig: The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

(1) (a) The Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) issued a Certificate of Health to Accompany Animals or Animal Reproductive Material (Certificate number 612-000891) on 1 September 2012 for 22 000 slaughter sheep consigned to Pakistan.

The Australian health certificate was only issued by DAFF after Australian officials confirmed requirements with the relevant Pakistan authority. On 24 August 2012 the Pakistan Ministry of National Food Security & Research provided a copy of formal animal health import requirements (Pakistan Import Permit F. No. 12-1/76).

On 31 August 2012 DAFF sought confirmation from Pakistan that the Australian health certificate and assurances were acceptable to Pakistan. The Pakistan Ministry of National Food Security & Research replied on 31 August 2012 and confirmed their requirements for the Australian animal health certificate.

The Australian health certificate confirmed the health status of the sheep based on the original inspection of the consignment by Australian veterinarians which was certified on 4 August 2012. This health certificate was issued in accordance with Pakistan requirements.

The shipment was inspected by Pakistan veterinary health officials on arrival in Karachi and was confirmed as meeting Pakistan import requirements.

(b) The exporter's ESCAS application for Pakistan met all regulatory requirements. The exporter had been working with the importer since June 2012 to establish ESCAS compliant processes in the facility with the view to commencing exports to Pakistan.

(c) DAFF fully assessed the ESCAS application submitted by the exporter. Following careful consideration, DAFF made a decision to approve the ESCAS on the basis it was satisfied the ESCAS would ensure the livestock would be transported, handled, slaughtered and subjected to any other related operations in accordance with the relevant OIE recommendations. The exporter's ESCAS application for Pakistan met all regulatory requirements.

(2) It is not appropriate for the Australian Government to comment on the enforcement of Pakistani law.

In regards to potential regulatory actions, DAFF is currently undertaking an investigation of the alleged ESCAS non-compliance. Any regulatory action which may be applied to the exporter, is subject to the outcomes of the investigation. The results of this investigation outlining any regulatory action, proportionate to the confirmed non-compliance, will be published on the DAFF website.

(3) Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) of trade in live animals have been negotiated with ten of Australia's trading partners in the Middle East and north Africa since 2004. The MoUs provide for government-to-government assurances on animal welfare and safety for Australian livestock shipments to these countries. While not legally enforceable as these MoUs are less-than-treaty status, they nevertheless encourage importer countries to treat Australian livestock exports to international standards and guidelines. The Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) also requires that exports of Australian livestock meet international animal welfare standards and guidelines to the point of slaughter. However, ESCAS is implemented by Australian exporters rather than on a government-to-government basis.

(4) (a) Please see response to question 2 above about potential regulatory actions.

(b) It is not government practice to comment on the commercial matters of licensed livestock exporters.

(5) DAFF has no information to confirm (or otherwise) that culled sheep were subsequently removed from slaughter pits and sold.

(6) The department cannot comment on the Minister's views of the findings of the ACIL Tasman report.

However, in its report An economic analysis of the live exportation of cattle from northern Australia, ACIL Tasman acknowledges that there are significant issues that need to be managed in order to be able to process more cattle from northern Australia. These issues include:

The climate is harsh, soils are not highly productive. It is more difficult to finish cattle to slaughter weight in northern Australia than in other regions of Australia;

The annual wet season means it is difficult to maintain a consistent supply of livestock necessary to sustain a northern meat processing sector;

Other hurdles, which have traditionally been difficult to overcome in northern Australia, include access to skilled labour and infrastructure requirements such as power, water, gas, roads and ports; and

Uncertainties associated with the Indonesian government's live cattle and meat trade policies currently act as a disincentive to the construction of a northern Australian cattle processing facility.

(7) The Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) regulatory reforms which were phased in over the course of 2012 aim to ensure that the treatment of exported livestock meets, or exceeds, international animal welfare standards, and provides a mechanism for DAFF to investigate allegations of animal welfare breaches and to take appropriate regulatory action against exporters.

(8) (a) The review is currently being finalised. It did not involve direct assessment of cattle being slaughtered used the Mark IV restraint box.

(b) The manufacturer of these restraint boxes was asked and has modified his advertisements to remove implied endorsement of this product.

Regardless of the type of restraint box used, exporters must provide evidence that the livestock will be handled in accordance with internationally accepted World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standards up to and including the point of slaughter. The supply chain must be assessed by an independent and suitably qualified auditor to demonstrate compliance with the animal welfare standards along the supply before animals can enter the supply chain.