Federal Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud has promised to review the animal welfare issues surrounding Australian sheep exports to the Middle East.
Following the distressing footage seen in a 60 Minutes expose, the MP has today expressed concerns a recent report from the independent regulator, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, did not accurately reflect the conditions seen in the vision on the ship.
Mr Littleproud has announced an immediate review of the independent regulator, the creation of an anonymous hotline for whistleblowers, and his intention to increase penalties so offenders are not just “slapped on the wrist”.
"I want to let the light shine in. No-one who is doing the right thing should be scared of transparency,” he said in a statement.
“I thank the whistleblower for coming forward - we need more of it. A hotline for whistleblowers to call anonymously is a logical step to increase transparency and encourage that behaviour.
“I said I'd aim to create an environment where whistleblowers are comfortable and confident stepping forward, and a hotline is a start.
“I'll consult further with Animals Australia and the RSPCA, both of whom I've been in contact with, to help strengthen this.”
It comes as RSPCA Australia CEO Heather Neil expressed “shock” to learn the Australian Government granted a permit to Emanuel Exports, the live export company at the centre of the scandal, to set sail in a few days with tens of thousands more Australian sheep on-board.
“From decades of experience with the live export industry and sitting at the table during the development and review of ASEL, we are convinced that it would be absolutely impossible for the ‘additional specific conditions’ outlined by the Department to be sufficient to meet the animal health and welfare outcomes required under the Export Control (Animals) Order 2004,” stated a letter to the department.
“It also defies belief that anyone in the Department could form the view that Emanuel Exports could adequately meet the conditions outlined in the letter of 5 April 2018 from the Department, and protect the welfare of sheep to a level expected by the Australian community."