Speaking with 5AA’s Leon Byner today Agriculture Minister David Littleproud agreed a transition for live export sheep-meat producers to a sector based on value-adding here in Australia is possible.
When asked “So you’re saying that we cannot transition from live exports even though the market is diminishing and do what New Zealand did and have more employment on shore – are you saying that is not possible?”
David Littleproud said: “Well it is definitely a possibility.”
When the host repeatedly asked about the lack of action on existing penalties and sanctions imposed in the past as a result of animal welfare standards breaches? David Littleproud talked big!
Littleproud: I have got a unique opportunity as Agriculture Minister to be the first one to get it right. I am going to do everything I can to get it right. I am going to engage everybody to make sure I can get the best standards I possibly can for sheep or beef.
Host: Are you going to leave it in the hands of the Department of Agriculture or are you going to put it somewhere else?
Littleproud: Well that is what I have asked Philip Moss to look at. I seriously want him to go through this with a fine tooth comb. I am not afraid to put the blow torch to anyone on this. I don’t give a rat’s. I am going after whoever has done something wrong on this. This is too important. It is too important for animals and it is too important for farmers.
However when asked “Why has it come to this where there has not been a prosecution, or if there has you don’t know?”
David Littleproud could only refer to the current review into the Awassi Express saying:
“Leon, I can’t change the past and I get the frustrations that there has not been enough prosecutions in the eyes of the community. If that means the standards are not good enough, then I intend to change the standards particularly using this incident as a baseline to move forward.”
When asked about the dreaded Northern summer trade and the science that backs that it cannot continue:
Littleproud: “Well exactly. That is why I have commissioned this report by Michael McCarthy and I have had it peer reviewed. And the Australian Veterinary Association was one of the ones I have asked to be on the panel to peer review it. I have nothing to hide. I am opening the books up. I want the sunlight to shine in. I want to get this right because I have had a gutful of it as well. What I saw, and I know those that saw it on 60 Minutes you saw the best of it. I was shocked and just gutted by that crap. I can tell you, it needs to be fixed. It can’t go on. I see it as my responsibility as Agriculture Minister to do whatever I damn well can to make sure we get it right.”
“Getting it right” will require courage from the Minister because the science is in and he will find himself in the situation accepting that the live-sheep export trade must be phased out, in an orderly way via a Strategic Red Meat Industry Plan.
Sadly, the McCarthy Review into the Northern summer trade that had been due tomorrow, appears to have been put back and we have no confirmed date as to when it will be available.
Minister Littleproud must demonstrate meaningful action, his words of shock and horror are becoming tiring and the community is growing increasingly impatient.