Live export changes welcomed

Rueben HaleCountryman
The Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council has welcomed administrative changes to the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System.
Camera IconThe Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council has welcomed administrative changes to the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System. Credit: Mogens Johansen

Live exporters may breath a sigh of relief after the Federal Government announced an early intervention to "streamline" Australia's animal welfare system and reduce exporter fees.

Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce today announced cuts to red tape for livestock exporters.

Mr Joyce said ESCAS changes included separating ESCAS approval from individual consignment approval, adding the option of risk based auditing for compliant supply chains and consolidating and improving auditor checklists used to assess compliance with international animal welfare standards.

“In line with our election commitment I am fast-tracking an achievable and sensible reduction in the regulatory burden industry bears in meeting Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System requirements,” he said.

Australian Livestock Exporters' Council chief executive Alison Penfold welcomed the "early harvest" administrative changes.

In May the Federal Government came under attack from live exporters after being burdened with a massive fee increase and it was revealed administration of the Exporters Supply Chain Assurance System was largely to blame.

At the time Mr Joyce said he planned to "drill down" into the 66 per cent fee increase his department has lumped on live exporters, before demanding any new money through Federal Cabinet.

Ms Penfold said the Australian Livestock Exporters' Council was committed to animal welfare.

"We are not committed to inefficient administrative processes and associated excessive costs. Today's announcement addresses the latter and we are pleased the Minister has moved to implement these changes," she said.

"The changes will streamline and approve the administrative efficiency of ESCAS and align with industry suggested improvements - a firm start to reform.

"Recognising that ESCAS - a first of its kind internationally - is a complex regulatory system and was designed in a matter of weeks, our knowledge and experience over the past three years is critical to support further changes.

"Experiences from the implementation of ESCAS highlight areas for improvement that will lead to improved animal welfare outcomes, facilitate market access and remove unnecessary regulation.

"The Government has an opportunity to reduce regulatory inefficiencies caused through the prescriptive and bureaucratic approach to ESCAS administration, unnecessary red-tape not supporting improved animal welfare outcomes, and a lack of consistency, transparency and predictability in regulatory decision-making.

"The Government's review of ESCAS we hope will recognise this."

Ms Penfold said under the current application and approval process, where an exporter submits a Notice of Intention to Export for the export of feeder/slaughter livestock, the ESCAS arrangements for the consignment must be reviewed and approved at the same time.

"This process creates excessive duplication by failing to recognise the whole ESCAS network of an exporter and creates unnecessary timeframe tensions between the Department and commercial arrangements of exporters," she said.

"The announcement will allow for a "standing" ESCAS approval. Supply chains will have to be approved before exporting, but only once.

"This will significantly reduce duplication, remove unnecessary bottlenecks and potentially reduce the time the Department spends assessing NOIs and ESCAS applications.

"Exports will still only go to approved supply chains so there are no changes to the outcomes of ESCAS (welfare assurance). The decision has no impact on the auditing regime, which is linked to supply chain performance."

Ms Penfold said Mr Joyce's decision reflected that well-performing low-risk supply chains should be recognised for their performance.

The number of audits required could be reduced for supply chains that had a good record of compliance.

"The decision does not affect the Department's ability around determining the audit regime for facilities that have poor performance or are new supply chains," she said.

"The announcement is a good first step in improving the auditing framework within ESCAS.

"There is more work to be done, 34 per cent of audits are duplicated, costing industry $1.8 million a year - costs that do not improve outcomes, just line the pockets of auditors."

Ms Penfold said the changes would go to consolidating and improving auditor checklists used to assess compliance.

"The current animal welfare checklist developed from the World Organisation for Animal Health animal welfare guidelines, contains a number of audit points which are subjective and allow for variability in auditor interpretation and approach and are complicated and extensive and assessed by auditors at an extraordinarily high frequency when compared to other third party audited programs," she said.

"The current checklist is repetitive and requires significant auditor time and effort resulting in heightened costs and inefficiency. The auditor costs associated with the current level of duplication are estimated at an additional 25 per cent.

"The announcement to consolidate the checklist will focus the auditor on critical control points and the highest risk, highest impact areas. It will minimise subjective elements, encourage auditor consistency and maintains the key principles of the OIE guidelines. It will also bring the ESCAS checklist in line with normal checklist practice."

Ms Penfold said the ALEC would work with the Department on the timeline for implementation and ensure the efficiencies expected are delivered.

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