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Senate Estimates: Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 27 May 2013

Finance and Public Administration Legislation Committee

Estimates hearings, 17 October 2011

Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Foresty

·       Senator Joe Ludwig, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry

  • Mr Phillip Glyde, Deputy Secretary of DAFF
  • Mr Andrew Metcalfe, Secretary of DAFF
  • Ms Karen Schneider, First Assistant Secretary, Biosecurity Animal Division
  • Ms Rebecca Irwin, Ms Rebecca Irwin, First Assistant Secretary, Live Animal Export Division

Senator Bill Heffernan

Full transcript available here

 

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Chair. I have some questions about the health of animals that are being moved through Australia for the live export trade. Have you received any complaints or concerns raised about instances of the overloading of animals on trucks, or when one level falls down onto another level and legs are broken, or any of the health issues in getting the animals to the port on the road transport?

Mr Glyde: I could perhaps start an answer on that. I have received emails from groups associated with loading at the Fremantle port that go to some issues with the claims being that there are some issues with whether or not the animals have been transported consistent with the Land Transport Standards. In terms of getting a complete and full answer to your question we probably have to take it on notice.

Senator HEFFERNAN: Sheep or cows?

Mr Glyde: Sheep are the ones I have received.

Senator HEFFERNAN: So we have had a collapsed deck, have we?

Mr Glyde: I am just saying I have received.

Senator HEFFERNAN: That does happen.

Senator RHIANNON: Chair, can the witness be allowed to answer the question, please?

ACTING CHAIR: Yes, if Senator Heffernan can refrain from interjections that would be helpful.

Mr Glyde: I do not have anything more to add to the original answer. I do not know whether or not anyone else has got anything more. If you want the specifics of what we have received we can provide that.

Senator RHIANNON:    Is there any more detail? Could you take on notice what details you have received and how you are responding, how you are managing it? So as far as you know to date it is only concerning sheep going into Fremantle?

Mr Glyde: No, sorry, I was just saying that was my personal experience of information I have received, emails I have received from the various groups that operate around the Fremantle port. I would have to check the record to establish whether or not there have been other things that have been brought to DAFF's attention.

Senator RHIANNON:    When these issues are brought to your attention, what do you do to address the problem?

Mr Glyde: In principle with any of these live animal issues it really comes down to making sure that it is being dealt with by the jurisdiction that has responsibility for those particular aspects. As both the minister and the secretary have already pointed out, the responsibility for animal welfare largely does lie with the state and territory governments. We would make sure that the information that we received would be referred to the relevant authorities. Obviously in issues to do with ESCAS, et cetera, we are the competent authority and we would deal with those through the investigations process that is outlined on our website.

Senator RHIANNON: In terms of what you are taking on notice, could you also include, if you have received complaints, who it has been referred to and any follow up you have done with the state jurisdictions?

Mr Glyde: Sure.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, I would just like to move on to the issue of DAFF spending $10.2 million in ODA funding in 2013-14. I understand that that money is going on four programs, the International Agricultural Cooperation Program, the regional animal biosecurity program, the Improved Animal Welfare Program and for the International Agricultural Cooperation Regional Animal Biosecurity and Improved Animal Welfare programs. Is that how that money is going to be divided up? Is it going to be spent on anything else? Could you provide details of how much money will go to those different programs?

Mr Glyde: I might make a general observation before I hand over to Ms Schneider, who has some of the details for those programs, which we could probably more easily provide on record because some of those programs have been established for quite some time. I think the starting point of your question was that these were ODA funds. In fact these are separately funded programs and one of the programs is eligible to be spent in countries that are eligible to receive ODA funding. But I might ask Ms Schneider to talk further about the programs.

Ms Schneider: I have information on the Improved Animal Welfare Program. I have to ask you to repeat the other programs that you were referring to. In October 2011 the government made an allocation of $10 million from the Official Development Assistance Contingency Reserve to eligible countries that import livestock for slaughter from Australia. Of that $10 million we have expended $776,000 in 2011-12, and projected commitments to date in 2012-13 are $995,000.

Senator RHIANNON: Are you saying those other programs that I read out there are not funded under the ODA? The figures that I read out, Mr Glyde, come from a statement from the foreign minister in table 4 of the statement that he made. That is where got those ODA figures for DAFF. I am assuming we all agree with that, do we?

Senator Ludwig: Could we have a look at the figures and where you got the statement?

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, here it is table 4.

Senator Ludwig: It is in fairness to the department so that they may check on the veracity of those.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Minister. It is from Minister Carr's budget statement this year, page 132 under aid administered by other government departments. It has a section there about DAFF coming at $10.2 million and lists those various programs. What I am just trying to understand is how much money goes to each of those programs that Senator Carr has identified and does it go on anything else?

Mr Metcalfe: Could we check on that and come back to you during the course of the hearings. I am sure that we will be able to find more detail about that information. When I was in Jakarta recently I was briefed to visit with our staff working on the infectious diseases program where we work in Indonesia. That essentially is an early warning system to detect diseases such as rabies or foot and mouth disease. It was through Australian efforts that foot and mouth disease was originally eradicated from Indonesia. I think it is that type of program, but we will look at the specifics of the announcement from the foreign minister and we will come back to you with detail about it.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you. I had some follow up questions so I will come back to that. I notice that there was an interesting submission from an AQIS accredited vet, Ms Lyn Simpson.

Mr Metcalfe: Senator before we go any further, I wonder if that is an issue that we could deal with offline? There are some sensitivities about that and I am happy to brief you privately. I have made the same offer to Senator Back. For reasons, which I think you will agree are good reasons, I prefer not to have that on the public record. If you wanted to persist with that I would ask the Chair for a short adjournment so that I could mention the reason why. It is quite a serious matter.

Senator RHIANNON: When you say offline, you mean privately?

Mr Metcalfe: Privately, I am very happy to offer a private briefing. It will not take long, but it is an area that I would prefer to deal with privately.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.

Mr Metcalfe: Thank you very much, Senator.

Senator RHIANNON: Moving onto some issues to do with live exports, has any government or industry personnel ever exposed any serious breaches to animal welfare in the live export market? I am sure you understand why I am asking the question because the reports that the public hear come as a result of the work of groups like Animals Australia. Are there examples where your people have exposed these serious problems and we see that ESCAS is working as you say it does?

Mr Glyde: We talked about this at an earlier estimates about the three sources of information we have for trying to make sure that we are monitoring and supervising the ESCAS system. The sources being the audit reports, the self-reports from the exporters, and also from third parties, all of which provide a scrutiny over the trade. We could give you the numbers if I could find them in my briefing. I am not sure if one of my colleagues might have the specific numbers of where we have the percentage of different complaints we have had from those three sources. If that would help we could try to do that.

Senator RHIANNON: I think you would be able to see where I am going with this question, particularly after that last really horrific footage. I remember your comments on the television, Mr Glyde. Are there any examples where those horrendous situations have been exposed by your people?

Mr Glyde: We do not have people that operate in the markets. The responsibility under ESCAS is for the exporters to provide assurances they have control traceability and that the animals in their supply chain are dealt with to international animal welfare standards. What we rely on is the independent auditing process, the reports of the exporters and also the third party reports.

Senator RHIANNON: Well, your process. Let's change people to process, because it seems as though you cannot say yes to the question. Why is your process not exposing this terrible cruelty? If there was not Animals Australia or courageous people in those abattoirs we would not know about this.

Mr Glyde: I am trying to get across the system where we have our sources of information. I can give you the rundown through some figures of the noncompliances that we have become aware of, if that would help, and the various sources of them.

Mr Metcalfe: I think the point you are trying to make, Senator, is: do we find out about problems other than having them drawn to our attention from Animals Australia? Do our processes identify problems that are quite separate to the ones that Animals Australia bring to our attention?

Mr Glyde: We have got 165 noncompliances reported ranging from minor through to major. Of those nine allegations were reported by those third parties, Animals Australia and the RSPCA. That information is quite important but it is not the only source of information we have for trying to make sure that we are aware of what is going on and if mistakes are being made that they can be corrected.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you, Mr Glyde. Minister, what was the date that you promised the investigation into the Bahrain-Pakistan ship cruelty incident? I was interested in what date the report was released.

Senator Ludwig: I will have to check the record. When you say I promised the report, did I provide a date at that time? I would have thought I would have said it is a matter for the department and they would then be allowed to undertake their work and then release the report accordingly.

Senator RHIANNON: I am just trying to see how long as it seems that a lot of this is taking a long time. How long is it between the commitment from the minister to the report being released?

Senator Ludwig: Just to be clear there is an independent compliance unit which Mr Glyde heads up. I do not order an investigation. Mr Glyde as part of his compliance framework undertakes investigations as they are brought to people's attention then finalises the investigation and releases it accordingly. I think the time that they have taken has been, quite frankly, very responsive to the issue.

Senator RHIANNON:    But Minister, you did make a public commitment with that incident in Pakistan. My understanding was—and correct me if I am wrong—you kicked it off, you made a public statement that this investigation will occur.

Senator Ludwig: I can agree that it will occur because, of course, it will occur. That is what the compliance branch will do.

Senator RHIANNON: Yes, but from the timing of you saying that to the report being released, how long does that take?

Senator Ludwig: Well they all vary.

Senator RHIANNON: I am just asking for that one.

Senator Ludwig: Well they all vary. In that instance the department can provide that answer on the timeframe.

Mr Metcalfe: Let me assist. That obviously was an example of what we do not want to have happen. As we were discussing with Senator Boswell before, effectively, an MOU with Bahrain failed, the animals were not taken onshore and the exporter then looked for an alternate market. Ms Irwin, I think, can assist.

Ms Irwin: On our website there is a current list of the complaints and investigations underway. In relation to the Pakistan sheep case it indicates that this was actually self-reported by the exporter. The date it was reported to DAFF is 17 September 2012.

Senator RHIANNON: When did the report come down, please?

Ms Irwin: As the website indicates, the investigation is still in progress.

Senator RHIANNON: So that is eight months and we still do not have a report. Is that the timeframe that you would expect, or will it be eight months or more before we get the report about the Egyptian situation?

Mr Glyde: As the minister has already said these things vary enormously from complaint to complaint, establishing the facts of the matter, the complexity of the particular issue. In this particular case of Pakistan obviously in investigating it we are also looking at the circumstances that occurred in another country, in Bahrain. There is also the matter of gathering of evidence for whether or not it is a simple regulatory action or there is criminal action that needs to be taken. These things, unfortunately, take as long as they take in order to make sure that we are right in our judgements and that we can apply the appropriate compliance measure commensurate with the scale of the problem that has occurred. I accept the fact that these things have taken some time, but that is unfortunately what it takes to do these investigations.

Senator RHIANNON:    Which countries fall within the ESCAS framework and for what animals?

Mr Metcalfe: It is probably best if we provide a table or whatever, I think, Senator.

Senator RHIANNON: I will ask for that on notice.

Mr Metcalfe: We will take it on notice and provide you with that.

Ms Irwin: Senator, there are 18 markets that we currently have exported over 2.8 million animals to since ESCAS has been introduced.

Senator RHIANNON:    Thank you. What countries are under ESCAS? What animals does it cover? Ms Irwin, did you say that all current reported breaches are on the website? I did not realise that they are all on the website.

Ms Irwin: Since the last estimates there is a table that has been added to the website that outlines the investigations process, as Mr Glyde has outlined and there is a list of current reports and investigations underway.

Senator RHIANNON: That is comprehensive?

Senator Ludwig: Bahrain is a case in point where it is currently under investigation and the report has not been finalised. That should be reflected on the website, hopefully.

Senator RHIANNON: Does it also include incidences where has not yet been an investigation?

Mr Glyde: It has the ones that are currently underway. It has the complaints we have received and the status of whether it is completed or whether it is still in progress. The list is growing as the experience with ESCAS continues.

Senator RHIANNON: In terms of the finalisation of it you are saying that you do not know when a lot of these reports will be finalised? It is a long time, Mr Glyde.

Mr Glyde: I would agree, Senator. As I said before, they take as long as they need to to make sure that we take appropriate action and that we establish the facts of the matter. I think the evidence from the table is showing that we are getting a large number of noncompliances as the new system is bedding down. We are investigating them and corrective action is being taken to make sure the system is improved as we go forward. I think that track record of compliance history is really quite important in the overall administration of the live trade to make sure that everyone involved is aware of the what the consequences are when noncompliances occur.

Ms Irwin: Senator, I could add that three investigation reports have been completed and released since the last estimates hearing. They are all available on the website as well.

Senator RHIANNON: Thank you.

Mr Metcalfe: I just wanted to add to what I mentioned to Senator Boswell, who I know has just left. I have been advised that, in relation to priorities for export of animals, the industry requested last week that the status for animals going to China for slaughter be raised to a priority 1. The department has agreed with the request and we are now putting that work into the train. The secretariat might be able to update Senator Boswell on that.  

 

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