The Australian Livestock Exporters Council has appointed a new chief executive officer with former State and Federal political advisor Alison Penfold taking the helm this week.
Ms Penfold brings extensive Government level experience to the role, having previously served as an advisor to Howard Government ministers Mark Vaile and Warren Truss in the agriculture, transport and trade portfolios in Canberra, and as a state director of the NSW national Party.
She was most recently the chief of staff to Northern Territory opposition leader Terry Hills, a role that put her in direct contact with the live export industry during the massive upheaval generated by last year’s Indonesian export ban.
Ms Penfold replaces Lach MacKinnon who announced his resignation after four years to pursue other interests last September. At the ALEC annual general meeting in Adelaide in November last year export industry representatives praised Mr MacKinnon for his dedication and tireless persistence in advocating on behalf of the industry.
The role of the CEO is to work with Government, industry and the community to represent the 20 members of the Australian Live Export Council who are principally private exporting businesses and industry service organisations.
When the search began for a new CEO last September, ALEC chairman Peter Kane said a proven ability to work effectively with Government would be a key requirement for the successful candidate as the industry enters a new era of increased regulation.
The most immediate challenge facing livestock exporters is to meet the first tranche of supply chain assurance deadlines in four Middle Eastern live export markets by February 29, with further deadlines to follow in August and December.
Ms Penfold told Beef Central yesterday that she believed her Government experience in Canberra and at State and Territory level would be crucial for the role.
The industry has been at the centre of intense public and media scrutiny since ABC Four Corners aired footage of cattle being subjected to mistreatment in Indonesian abattoirs last year. The new CEO says she is looking forward to the challenge of representing the trade.
“The challenges facing the industry are certainly not insurmountable, and having seen what exporters are doing, there is a genuine commitment and certainly runs on the board in terms of animal welfare improvement," she said.
“It is an important industry across most of northern Australia, and flows through in terms of the overall boost to the national economy.
“It also plays an important role in our relationship with Indonesia and helping to meet Indonesia’s food security needs, and equally through into the Middle East and other markets.
“There is a clearly a demand for the quality product that we can supply, so I think there is a strong future for the industry.”
Live export regulatory improvements will be delivered
Meanwhile ALEC chairman Peter Kane, who has just returned from the Middle East with agriculture minister Joe Ludwig, said exporters and industry were determined to deliver the successful implementation of the Federal Government’s new regulatory framework in the region.
“Implementation of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System framework will provide the livestock export industry with a long term future and the Australian Government, producers, exporters and importers are all committed to ESCAS and improving animal welfare,” said Mr Kane.
“Through the implementation of ESCAS, Australian livestock will continue to play an important role in the food security needs of the Middle East countries that are dependent on our livestock.”
Tranche one of implementation (Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Turkey) covers 75pc of Australia’s livestock exports and was a significant undertaking, Mr Kane said.
Some supply chains would need additional time to completely meet the ESCAS requirements.
However exporters and importers were determined to make ESCAS work, he said.
“The industry will continue to work with the Australian Government to overcome any hurdles that arise during the implementation of ESCAS but exporters understand that there will be supply chains that will not process Australian livestock because they do not meet the requirements of ESCAS,” said Mr Kane
“Our ongoing work in overseas markets is delivering better welfare for Australian livestock and those from other countries. Industry will continue to focus on animal welfare as well as meeting food security needs and providing protein to our global neighbours.”