Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee
Estimates hearings, 22 May 2012
Australian Livestock Export Corporation Limited
- Mr Sam Brown, Acting Chief Executive Officer
- Mr David Uebergang
Senator RHIANNON: What is the latest strategic plan and annual operating plan on the public record? I was not really able to sort it out from the website, so I would like you to inform us of that, please.
Mr Brown: We are in the middle of an AOP planning cycle at the moment, so our annual operating plan is being developed in consultation with industry. The same can be said for our strategic plan. As a result of a change in the environment that was a result of last year’s suspension of the trade, the strategic plan needed to be adjusted. We are doing some industry consultation on that at present.
Senator RHIANNON: Are copies available of the current one?
Mr Brown: There are copies available of the current strategic plan. As I said earlier, it is being redeveloped at the moment.
Senator RHIANNON: I found your funding agreement but I could not find the strategic plan and the annual operating plan. Are they available online?
Mr Brown: Once we finalise them, they will be available online.
Senator RHIANNON: But the current ones are not available?
Mr Brown: No.
Senator RHIANNON: Could you inform the committee about the animal welfare provisions that you anticipate will be contained in these plans?
Mr Brown: Yes. Firstly, LiveCorp is a not-for-profit organisation limited by guarantee. We operate on a statutory levy. We do not attract government matching levy. We do that in partnership with MLA. We operate under four key principles, which are animal health and welfare, supply chain assurance and productivity, market access and stakeholder communications. They are the four key areas in which we operate and we are undertaking R&D across all of those.
Senator RHIANNON: Just on trying to access this information, on the LiveCorp website it actually needs a password. It says that it must be made available to charge-payers and industry bodies. Does that mean that some people can view the strategic plan and the annual operating plan?
Mr Brown: There is a protected section of the LiveCorp website, that is correct. It is available to members, licensed exporters, where we provide information to them which is sometimes of a commercial-in-confidence nature.
Senator RHIANNON: I am specifically after the strategic plan and the annual operating plan. Does that mean they are viewing the old versions of it or the new versions, or what you are currently working on?
Mr Brown: Most likely the old versions.
Senator RHIANNON: Most likely?
Mr Brown: Yes.
Senator RHIANNON: Can you confirm that?
Mr Brown: I will take that on notice.
Mr Uebergang: The new version will be signed off at the June board meeting.
Senator RHIANNON: When do you anticipate that it will be publicly available?
Mr Uebergang: Shortly after.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. Your statutory funding agreement states that the plans and spending priorities ‘must foster the development of best-practice animal health and welfare outcomes’ and ‘result in continuous improvement in animal health and welfare outcomes’. I picked that up when I was looking at your material. How do you measure those animal health and welfare outcomes?
Mr Brown: Health and welfare outcomes? I would have to be perfectly honest with you. I am actually new in this role. I have been here for two months and there is a lot of material I need to get across. I would gladly take that particular question on notice and get back to you about those particular KPIs.
Senator RHIANNON: Yes, fair enough. If you have only been there two months, it is hard. Just to spell out what I am really trying to understand, it is that the development of best-practice animal health and welfare outcomes sounds really good, but so often these days we read the fine words but it is not actually clear how it plays out. How is it measured and then, if that is not being achieved, how do you then work to achieve it? How do you make what is a fine statement actually real? That is in your funding agreement. What I would then be interested in is, when you are negotiating your funding agreement, how do you give consideration to those specific points?
Mr Brown: I have not been present for the renegotiation or negotiation of our statutory funding agreements with DAFF. However, as you would expect, animal welfare and our objectives there are highly regarded. How are they measured? I cannot answer that at present for you.
Mr Uebergang: Animal welfare and the advancement of animal welfare is one of LiveCorp’s main priorities. Over the course of the last five to 10 years there has been tremendous advancement in animal welfare. That is continuing today and every effort is made to advance that as quickly as we possibly can. LiveCorp is doing that.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. In your annual report you detail considerable infrastructure upgrades that you have funded overseas. Again, I am interested in how you evaluate the benefits of those infrastructure upgrades in terms of your own objectives and in particular how you evaluate animal welfare outcomes from such investments.
Mr Brown: Some of the infrastructure upgrades are obviously reflective of a past paradigm where we were involved in infrastructure improvements, but under the new regime we are not funding infrastructure or equipment. However, I can say that I have been to some of these marketplaces overseas and have seen first-hand some of the improvements through infrastructure upgrades, from ramps to slaughter tables to providing assistance in redesign of these killing floors. It is very difficult to put an actual figure on the value of the change that these have brought around but, in many cases, had we not been there and assisted in those infrastructure upgrades they may not otherwise have happened.
Senator RHIANNON: Are there any animal welfare representatives formally involved in your management structure?
Mr Brown: LiveCorp is a very small organisation. Other than myself, we have a finance person and a secretary. We primarily base our services in fields of animal welfare out to experts and we contract those people in to provide services. They come from a range of fields such as CSIRO, Melbourne university and Murdoch University. We certainly aspire to bring to the table people with the desired expertise and skills in animal welfare.
Senator RHIANNON: You say that you are just a small organisation, but you do have a board. Are there people with animal welfare expertise who sit on that board or who have been chosen for that reason?
Mr Uebergang: Our board comprises seven directors. There are four independent skills based directors. The other three directors are industry representatives.
Senator RHIANNON: I am sorry, I have heard this term all night about skills based directors. With all due respect, does that mean that the other three do not have skills? It is a new language.
Mr Uebergang: They do, but the skills based directors have specific skills in their area.
Senator RHIANNON: So to ask it again, are you suggesting that they all care for animals and so it is covered in that way?
Mr Uebergang: I think the brief of LiveCorp is that every person attached to LiveCorp in general and specifically the board do care for animals. They would not be in a board position if they did not care for animals and specifically all of the board members have an active role in either having animals themselves—farming animals—or being a livestock exporter. As well, the independent skills based directors all have a leaning for livestock and animal welfare.
Senator RHIANNON: Considering this emphasis on a skills based board, and that is certainly what you read about when you are looking into LiveCorp, could you take on notice and provide the committee information about your board members: what their skills are and those that have skills in animal welfare.
Mr Uebergang: That is in the annual report.
Senator RHIANNON: What their skills are?
Mr Uebergang: Yes.
Senator RHIANNON: Spelling out what their animal welfare skills are?
Mr Uebergang: Not specifically their animal welfare skills but their general skills.
Senator RHIANNON: That is what I am asking: if you could take it on notice to provide the committee with the board members who have skills in animal welfare.
Mr Brown: I can provide you with a copy of the skill sets as stated in our constitution and the SFA that does have details about knowledge of animal welfare, transport and the live export industry.
Senator RHIANNON: That sounds like a general statement. I was interested in the skills of the specific members so that we have an understanding that people with animal welfare interests are represented on the board.
Mr Uebergang: We would be pleased to provide that.
Senator RHIANNON: Thank you very much. Would you assess that LiveCorp has changed organisationally to address animal welfare concerns after what happened last year?
Mr Brown: LiveCorp is certainly devoting financial resources and human resources to assisting exporters to meet ESCAS and animal welfare compliance domestically here through the export chain. I can state that LiveCorp is intending to do that. LiveCorp will devote a large portion of its financial resources to R&D and services to the trade associated with animal welfare specifically.
Senator RHIANNON: When you say ‘a large proportion’, what would that be, please?
Mr Brown: Approximately 57 per cent of our financial resources will be devoted to program activities that directly relate to animal welfare.
Senator RHIANNON: That 57 per cent has already been determined for the plans that you are working on at the moment?
Mr Brown: It is difficult. We have been facing declining exports, so that percentage will vary, but it is our utmost priority to invest in that area.
Senator RHIANNON: Did LiveCorp make any payments to the Commonwealth under the statutory funding agreement last year and, if so, how much was it for? I have down here in my notes—unfortunately, I am not sure if I have the right document—that it was item 6.2.
Mr Uebergang: Would you repeat that question.
Senator RHIANNON: I wanted to know if LiveCorp made any payments to the Commonwealth under your SFA last year and, if so, how much.
Mr Uebergang: No, we did not.
Mr Brown: No, we did not.
Senator RHIANNON: Did LiveCorp seek any advice from DAFF about the application of its funds in terms of their efficient and ethical use, which is actually set out in 8.2 of the SFA?
Mr Brown: Yes. We engage the department on our annual operating plan as part of the development cycle and we submit it to them once it is approved from the board.