Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (09:43): Many of my constituents have contacted me over the past months, concerned by the recent reports of animal cruelty and mistreatment by some in Australia’s live export trade. Many of these same constituents want to see the member for New England, the agriculture minister, use the statutory powers he already has to prosecute those who breach our export laws. Labor introduced these powers through the Export Supply Chain Assurance Scheme, or ESCAS, in 2011. This reflects Labor’s commitment to see animal welfare maintained throughout the live export process both in Australia and overseas.
The regulatory regime we created forces exporters to show they have a plan to treat animals humanely and provides a monitoring and auditing system all the way from port to abattoir. Heavy sanctions and penalties can be applied for breaches of ESCAS. These range from financial penalties, the suspension of an export licence, the cancellation of a licence—or indeed imprisonment. These provisions are currently available and it is up to the minister to examine the recent allegations that have been made about breaches of these rules and take action where necessary.
When last in government, Labor took the strong decision to suspend exports to Indonesia while supply chain welfare assurances were sought. This was a significant decision for Australia to take, as we have been exporting livestock for over a hundred years.
Prior to the last election, Labor also committed to appointing an Inspector-General for animal welfare and live animal exports as an independent statutory officer to oversee the ESCAS. Labor remains committed to the position. Unfortunately, the coalition government has failed to implement this important and independent position.
Labor has also recently proposed that the minister provide regular reports to the parliament. The minister’s report should place on the public record an easy-to-access and understandable account of the state of the sector, any animal welfare incidents, and how they have been dealt with. I want to see effective welfare provisions in place. It is currently up to the agriculture minister to explain why he has refused to introduce the additional checks that the former Labor government proposed. The agriculture minister must also outline how he will meet his ministerial responsibilities in ensuring that animal welfare is maintained in the industry.