HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [6.39 pm]: I rise because I want to address some of the recent developments in the live export debate, which obviously has a particular impact on what is happening here in Western Australia. I refer specifically to the federal government’s recent extension of the ban on the live export of animals during the Northern Hemisphere summer. This, of course, follows the prosecution of Emanuel Exports and two of its directors for shocking cruelty onboard the Awassi Express, when nearly 2 500 sheep died in quite horrific circumstances.
It is also important for members to be reminded that the whistleblower who was alleged to have benefited from or even to have deliberately created the conditions that led to the deaths of these animals has been completely vindicated. It is important to note that. There have also been concerns about the sanitising of reports of live export onboard observers. There are some quite interesting developments in this space.
Members will know that the Greens remain implacably opposed to the live export of Australian animals, especially to the Middle East during the Northern Hemisphere summer, when winter-acclimatised sheep are subject to sweltering temperatures, heat stress and ongoing suffering before they are butchered, often in very cruel and inhumane ways—ways that, in fact, would be illegal here in Australia. Like most Australians, I was appalled by the revelations in 2017 of cruelty and death onboard the Awassi Express; I hope we will never see anything like that again. As I have said, the evidence of that fateful journey was provided by a concerned whistleblower, Fazal Ullah. It is appalling that he was publicly smeared by suggestions he was illegally paid or even that he contrived to stage the event by switching off fans and ventilation. What a disgraceful way to treat that man! A comprehensive investigation by the department of agriculture and food’s compliance division, in association with the Australian Federal Police, found there were no grounds to substantiate these sickening allegations.
These deaths led to Emanuel Exports’ licence being cancelled and a three-month industry-wide export ban being imposed during the northern summer. Now, after an 18-month investigation, Emanuel Exports and two of its former directors have been charged by the WA government for alleged cruelty to the animals onboard. I welcome that prosecution and I trust it will send a strong message that there is no excuse for animal abuse and that no amount of profit can legitimise this cruel trade. I note that although the outcome of this investigation has been accepted by the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council, some have attempted to dispute the outcomes and claim that exporters are conducting their business in a way that is acceptable, despite all the evidence that has been presented. I want to be clear that this view is certainly not shared by the Greens, nor, I suspect, by the majority of Australians, who were as appalled by the cruelty they witnessed on their TV screens as they would be if it had happened to their own pets.
Although the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s subsequent imposition of a three-week extension to the ban is welcomed, I maintain that it simply does not go far enough, because we know that conditions in October onboard these ships are equally oppressive. That has been confirmed by the RSPCA. It is clear that independent monitoring of the trade will be essential for as long as it continues. However, I am concerned that the requirement for independent monitors to be onboard has failed. In fact, just two weeks ago the Senate passed a motion introduced by my federal Greens counterpart Dr Mehreen Faruqi for the timely release of the observer reports. It is absolutely not sufficient that reports on only 20 out of 45 voyages have been released to date, and none from 2019. Those that have been released have been redacted and edited to exclude footage of the voyages. Information about the risk assessment plans for heat stress and about heat stress itself has also been redacted. That is the sort of information we should be able to see. This comes even after the full reports showed high wet-bulb temperatures on deck and a significant number of mortalities. There are serious concerns about what is being made available.
I note that these facts have not escaped the notice of the RSPCA and veterinarians, who have requested copies under freedom of information. The RSPCA noted, in a 24 July article in The Guardian —
“The whole point of introducing the observer program was to improve transparency and get the ‘truth and proof’ about conditions onboard live export vessels. Having to wait up to a year before receiving a short, highly selective summary of the observer’s report is undermining the very purpose of the program.”
It is clear that the ongoing heat stress and unsanitary conditions revealed in the 2018 reports show that it is virtually impossible to reform this industry, which is why it needs to be shut down for good. The Greens make no apologies for standing up for the welfare of animals, and we will continue to work towards a phased ban with a structural adjustment assistance fund that will transition the industry to the chilled meat trade. We believe that this will ultimately deliver better animal welfare outcomes, less cruelty and, importantly, more Australian jobs.