Move to shut live export ships loophole

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Jenne BrammerThe West Australian
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Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan wants older ships which do not meet modern standards to stop carrying animals, and has told the live export industry the State Government will take a bigger role in monitoring animal welfare.

Speaking at the Australia’s Livestock Export Conference in Perth yesterday, Ms MacTiernan said it was time to abolish “grandfathering provisions” which had existed for the past decade when modern shipping standards were introduced to ensure vessels met basic ventilation, movement, drainage and fodder requirements to guarantee animal welfare.

“While I acknowledge that (grandfather provisions) may have been an OK call then — there are often these transition provisions — their continued existence simply lacks any credibility now,” she said.

“The industry has had 10 years to work towards meeting these standards.

“It is time those grandfathering clauses ended. These provisions are causing some disquiet within the industry itself because some shippers feel there is a non-level playing field and disadvantaging those exporters who have invested in more modern contemporary ships that meet these standards.”

She said the Federal Government’s decision to review shipping regulations was welcome.

But it was important decisions on grandfathering provisions did not drag on endlessly, to ensure there were no further instances such as the Al Messilah case this year.

In the Al Messilah case, possibly thousands of sheep died of heat stress on board the 37-year-old ship — a converted car carrier with poor ventilation — although it’s not possible to determine the exact number.

Ms MacTiernan said Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development livestock inspectors would play a more active role at the docks.

She said amid some contention about the responsibilities of the State Government, legal advice from the Solicitor General determined that applying State animal welfare laws on live export ships would not be inconsistent with Federal laws.

WA Departmental livestock inspectors therefore have jurisdiction to ports, and to board ships up to 200 nautical miles from the WA coastline.

“We want to work closely with the industry and don’t want this to be something that is confronting,” she said.

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