The long-awaited Moss Review into the culture, capability and investigative capacity of the Department of Agricultural Resources as the regulator of Australia’s live export industry has been handed down this morning, recommending independent oversight of live exports through the establishment of an external Inspector General of Live Animal Exports.
Releasing the review this morning Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud said the Inspector General position will oversee the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources’ regulation of live export, and will report to the public and the minister.
“The live export industry needs a tough cop on the beat and the department must become a capable, trusted and effective regulator,” he said.
The review into the culture, capability and investigative capacity of the regulator of live exports has also recommended that a principal regulatory officer and animal welfare branch be created within department.
Mr Littleproud said in releasing the Moss report and supporting its recommendations that he was resetting the live export industry to make it more sustainable.
The Minister said he will bring forward legislative amendments to establish the Inspector General position.
He also called the Federal Opposition to give a written guarantee it will support the Bills to double penalties for live export animal cruelty without political amendments, through both houses of Parliament.
The Australian Labor Party has been seeking re-establishment of an independent animal welfare inspector-general, but Mr Littleproud said he had supported Moss’ recommendation of the Inspector General position.
“I specifically asked Mr Moss to consider an Inspector General in his review, and I said at the time I don’t care who thought of the idea.
“Mr Moss recommends it so I’m doing it,” Mr Littleproud said.
“I don’t give a stuff who claims the credit.”
“Australians were appalled in April when they saw footage of sheep dying on voyages to the Middle East during a shipment in August 2017, and further angered at their assessment the report of the incident did not match the footage,” Minister Littleproud said.
“Australians need to be confident the independent regulator of the live export industry will hold the industry to account.
“It was clear we needed an independent inquiry into the culture and capability of the regulator,” he said.
“I said in April I was determined to clean this industry up and make it sustainable, because so many farm families and rural towns rely on it.
“I followed through on the McCarthy Review into the northern summer trade and today I follow through on the Moss Review into the regulation of the industry, accepting all recommendations.”
Mr Litleproud announced:
Mr Littleproud said the principal regulatory officer will be key in driving cultural change within the department as well as improving compliance and investigations.
“I accept Mr Moss’s recommendation the regulator of the live export trade have an animal welfare branch and introduce animal welfare indicators along the supply chain as part of the regulatory framework.
“Compliance and regulation should not be a bureaucratic tick box – to change culture, the light needs to be shone onto animal welfare andthe threat of being caught and punished needs to be real,” he said.
“Employees of the department need to be confident their concerns about animal welfare will be taken seriously and the Department will improve systems that encourage this.
“I thank Mr Moss for his review and look forward to implementing his recommendations.”
These actions follow Minister Littleproud’s move to put independent observers on each sheep vessel to the Middle East and changes implemented after the McCarthy Review, which included a 28 percent reduction in stocking densities and speeding up the new Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock to the end of 2018.
In a statement the department said it welcomed the Review of the Regulatory Capability and Culture of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in the Regulation of Live Animal Exports by Philip Moss AM.
The department has released a full response supporting all 31 recommendations in the report (link below).
It said regulation requires continual improvement and responsiveness to a changing environment. The department said it had recently implemented significant changes in the regulation of live animal exports and the Moss Review was an opportunity for reform of current practice.
“The department is using this process to strengthen its regulatory practice and performance by placing animal welfare at the centre of the regulatory system, supported by people with the necessary skills and fit-for-purpose systems. Work was already underway to support this,” the DAWR statement said.
“Key responses to the review include the appointment of a Principal Regulatory Officer to oversee the implementation of the Moss recommendations, better coordinate regulatory functions across the department, improve culture and performance and ensure a consistent response to non-compliance.
“The Australian Government will establish an Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports to provide independent oversight and evaluation of the live animal export regulator and the regulatory system.
“Regular engagement will be established with exporters, livestock producers, animal welfare organisations and the wider community to ensure the department is informed, transparent and builds understanding between parties.
“The department will also establish an Animal Welfare Branch that will focus on standard setting and policy development in live animal exports. This branch will collaborate with researchers, with the aim of trialing animal welfare indicators in the first half of 2019.
The live export trade is a highly contested space and Mr Moss’ report reflects the diversity of views about the department’s performance as a regulator. The department accepts the need to better engage with the views of all stakeholders in our regulatory practice.
“The department will implement these recommendations to ensure the transition to becoming a modern, trusted and mature regulator that fosters a strong compliance culture within the live animal export industry.”
The department’s full response to the review’s recommendations is available at www.agriculture.gov.au/moss-review.
The Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council said it welcomed the reforms announced today.
“In April, exporters called for the introduction of an Inspector General to oversee independence and cultural change in our industry and to work constructively with exporters to improve animal welfare outcomes,” ALEC independent chairman Simon Crean said.
“That reform is part of a suite of initiatives endorsed by ALEC in April targeting major cultural change in the industry and the strengthening of welfare accountability. The Minister’s announcements today reflect clear alignment in terms of industry reform and enhancing regulatory transparency.”
“Exporters have demonstrated a willingness to reform to secure a sustainable future for the livestock export industry and to ensure producers who rely on the trade have certainty and confidence for the future.”
As part of the reforms announced today, a principal regulatory officer will be established in the Department to improve regulatory practice, compliance and culture, alongside a new animal welfare branch within DAWR.
Mr Crean said ALEC welcomed measures to improve systems to allow concerns raised by DAWR staff to be addressed transparently and promptly. Mr Crean also restated ALEC’s support for the development of animal welfare indicators to be used as part of regulatory compliance systems.
“ALEC’s number priority is best practice in animal welfare – poor welfare outcomes are never acceptable. That’s why as an industry we’re working with the researchers to define the welfare measures and to apply the technology to better monitor livestock in our supply chains.”
“Concurrent with regulatory reform, industry must play the leading role in building a culture and vision that supports improved animal welfare outcomes, in alignment with the best available science and community values,” Mr Crean said.
“We’ll work with all those who are committed to improved welfare practices because we are determined to achieve ongoing improvements, built on the genuine care producers, exporters and importers have for the animals in our supply chains. That commitment is reflected in our work to introduce the Livestock Global Assurance Program (LGAP).”
LGAP is designed to deliver improved Export Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) compliance by applying responsibility for welfare across international livestock export supply chains.
“LGAP is underpinned by our commitment to major change and long-term sustainability,” Mr Crean said.
“We’ll continue to work closely with the Minister, the regulator and other industry stakeholders, to adopt ongoing reforms, including on the introduction of LGAP.”
Wellard Limited executive chairman John Klepec said the Moss Review made a valuable contribution to the future regulatory oversight of the live export industry.
“Mr Moss flagged very early in his report that although “exporters are individual businesses, some have behaved in a non-compliant way that has adversely affected the reputation of the industry as a whole”.
“The penalisation of poor performance and reward of good performance are fundamental components to an efficient regulatory system.
“However, it is both apparent and unfortunate that we are moving towards regulating for the lowest common denominator. The fact that the “cop on the beat” (as the Minister has portrayed the regulator) was missing in action, does not now justify excess government bureaucracy to the extent of appointing another regulator to oversee the appointed regulator, and creating additional departmental divisions – all of which Australian producers will ultimately fund.
“In addition to a regulatory response, the live export industry itself needs to act on how it has operated to date and how it needs to operate in the future to achieve public acceptance of its continued operation.
Animals Australia said the review had laid bare an industry with a cultural acceptance of cruelty and a “blatant disregard for the law”.
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has vowed to introduce another Private Member’s Bill to ban live export.
RSPCA Australia senior policy officer Dr Jed Goodfellow said the report was a damning revelation of “the rot of the live export industry” and the failure of the department as the regulator is long overdue, but changes proposed won’t be enough to end the inherent cruelty.
The government is kidding itself if it thinks the Moss Review recommendations are going to fix the live sheep trade.
“This is the third damning review of the live export trade we’ve seen in fifteen years, and the same problems keep reappearing – a callous disregard for animal welfare, inherent conflicts of interest and an impotent regulator,” he said.
“This review is based around the premise that the live export trade enjoys the unwavering support of government regardless of its failings and catastrophically bad performance.
“That’s the mindset that really needs to shift.”
“The findings of the Moss Review show the importance of putting animal welfare and scientific evidence at the centre of the regulatory system.
“In fact, if these findings were actually acted on, live sheep exports would be unviable, which is why we need an orderly transition to a meat export trade,” he said.
Dr Goodfellow said the RSPCA had no faith in the department’s ability to change, given a number of recent incidents.
These include the department’s approval of a new export licence for Rural Export and Trading WA, “a company with strong links to disgraced exporter Emanuel Exports and arguably the worst remaining live sheep exporter in the business.”
“We’re also yet to see any of the evidence gathered by these much-lauded departmental observers on board, despite multiple and ongoing attempts by the RSPCA to have that evidence released under Freedom of Information laws,
“And behind the scenes and as recently as last week, our experience with the Australian Standards for Export of Livestock review process have confirmed these conflicts prevail,” said Dr Goodfellow.
He said it was reassuring to see the review’s recommendations recognise the RSPCA’s repeated calls for independent and external oversight of the live export sector and proper enforcement of live export standards.
“But what we really need to see is the RSPCA’s previously recognised role in providing input in decision-making and standard-setting around animal welfare re-instated.
“The fact is Australians can never, and should never, have any confidence that animal welfare will ever be assured in the live export industry,” Dr Goodfellow said.
“These immediate improvements are welcomed in the interim, but the sooner we can commence the phase-out of this volatile and risky trade, the better.”
The Government’s official response to the Moss review can be found at www.agriculture.gov.au/moss-review