Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee
Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation
Senator RHIANNON: Where is the scoping process of the review of the poultry code up to?
Mr Chapman : As you are probably aware, in 2013 the Animal Welfare Committee agreed that a review of the poultry code is a priority. On 10 December the members of the AWC agreed in principle the scope of that review. Further engagement with the various stakeholders on the scope of the review and on industry agreements for funding arrangements are required before the review can progress a lot further. The development of those guidelines for poultry is jointly funded by the Commonwealth, the state and territory governments and industry, and Animal Health Australia will manage the review process. The review process will include extensive stakeholder consultation. The process is expected to take at least three years before it is completed. At this stage, a target date and terms of reference have not yet been determined.
Senator RHIANNON: In a response to one of my questions on notice, you stated: 'Preliminary views on scope have been sought from egg farmers of Australia and the Australian Chicken Meat Federation Inc.' I understand that views have not been sought from the Free Range Farmers Association or animal welfare groups. Why was it only sought from the former groups and how do these preliminary views fit into the scoping process?
Ms South : At this point in time the work that has been done on this scoping exercise has been undertaken through the Animal Welfare Committee. The Animal Welfare Committee has engaged with, yes, a limited number of stakeholders to start to form a view around what the scope of this exercise might look like.
When we are talking about scope, we are talking about elements that for example are currently in the existing model code for poultry, so we are getting down into low levels of detail, for example things like behavioural needs and environmental enrichment of animals. That is the level where we are trying to get engagement from states and territories, to inform what this review might look like, how long it might take, how complex it is going to be and how much it is going to cost. That work is still ongoing. There is a more extensive consultation process that obviously needs to be undertaken, but before we can do that we really need that preliminary work to be done and we need to be able to engage with Animal Health Australia, who will ultimately have responsibility for the project management.
Senator RHIANNON: I understand you are still getting down to the details, but will you be covering ducks and other waterfowl, because they do obviously have more specific needs? Will you be getting down to that level of detail?
Ms South : We covered this at last estimates, and other species are being considered. They are also, as I understand, covered in the model code. It is very much mirroring the existing code, or using it as a basis. So the answer is yes.
Senator RHIANNON: Dr Grimes, is the government supporting or considering supporting the reopening of the live export trade to Bahrain?
Dr Grimes : This is really handled in the next item, rather than have us go off track across different areas.
Senator RHIANNON: I also had questions about buffalo exports to Vietnam.
Dr Grimes : That will be Live Animal Exports as well. If the committee is happy to run them both together, then Deputy Secretary Glyde will be able to assist.
Senator RHIANNON: So we are doing all these sections together?
Senator BACK: Biosecurity Animal and Live Animal Exports we are doing together, are we not?
CHAIR: Yes, we are.
Senator RHIANNON: Can I get back to my question, which was whether you have reopened trade with Bahrain.
Mr Glyde : The government is currently considering its policies in relation to reopening trade. I cannot comment much more than that.
Senator RHIANNON: You have said there is consideration. Does that mean that there are talks with Bahrain about this, or talks with the pastoralists, or anybody?
Mr Glyde : There have been discussions with the industry in the sense that the industry is keen to reopen trade where SCAS-compliant supply chains can be established, and there have been discussions across a whole range of different countries, including Bahrain. The government has made very clear its intention to do what it can to reopen the trade, to increase the trade, because of its value to the Australian rural economy.
Senator RHIANNON: Considering Bahrain has completely replaced live Australian sheep imports with Australian chilled and frozen meat, has an economic assessment been done on where the greatest benefit comes to Australia?
Mr Glyde : Certainly the Live Animal Exports Division and the Australian Bureau of Agricultural Resource Economics and Sciences have not done any economic assessment. We might be in a position to describe what has happened to the trade. I think in your question earlier this morning you mentioned that as a result of the suspension of the live trade there had been a significant increase in the import of Australian boxed chilled and frozen lamb, and that is certainly the case. But we have not had an investigation into some of the other factors happening in that market. We also imagine that there would be some substitution of live animals from other exporting countries as well as importing animals for consumption. As you would be aware, there is considerable import of animals to do with particular religious festivals in the region, and those sorts of things do end up distorting the market. Ms Irwin might be in a position to give you the statistics if that would help, or perhaps we could take it on notice and supply what we know about the box trade and the live trade over the last three or four years.
Senator RHIANNON: Concerning the recent high-mortality sheep and cattle shipment aboard the Ocean Drover to Israel and Jordan after the ship broke down for four days near the Cocos Islands, was the department advised that full repairs had not been made and that the ship was only able to continue at a reduced speed?
Mr Glyde : Yes, the department, right throughout the difficulties the Ocean Drover experienced, was fully informed by the company involved, Wellard. We established a critical-incident response team to do our best to make sure that from the government side we could make sure that the welfare of the animals was well looked after and that the vessel was able to make it through. But that is part of our standard practice with any of these voyages.
Senator RHIANNON: Did you understand that there was sufficient food? And, if you understood that, why did the vessel stop at Dubai to allow emergency fodder onboard, if all those checks had been made?
Mr Glyde : Because of the fact that the vessel could not proceed at its previously organised speed, it soon became apparent that even though we do require additional feed fodder et cetera for the animals on top of what you would normally require on a voyage for contingency purposes, that additional amount was not going to be sufficient. So, after consultation, we and the company spoke with the various ports involved and were able to organise for additional fodder to be provided to those animals onboard.
Senator RHIANNON: Why didn't you consider that that boat should have returned to Australia, considering the serious problems onboard?
Mr Glyde : We looked at a number of options in terms of contingency management during that critical-incident response time. We had to contemplate questions such as the length of the voyage back to Australia and the difficulties we might have in terms of animal health and disease in having those animals return to Australia. On balance, the decision was made in the interests of the welfare of the animals that the best solution was to take onboard feed and continue with the journey.