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New Inspector-General to improve ‘standards, accountability and transparency’ in live export sector

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Adam PoulsenCountryman
Sheep are loaded onto the Al Messilah livestock carrier at Fremantle Port.
Camera IconSheep are loaded onto the Al Messilah livestock carrier at Fremantle Port. Credit: Cally Dupe

Australia’s Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports has been granted expanded powers of oversight in an overhaul of the role the Albanese Government claims will “strengthen” animal welfare.

The additional functions of the position — which has been renamed the Inspector-General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports — were outlined in a Bill passed through Federal Parliament this week.

Federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said the changes would improve “standards, accountability and transparency” in the Government’s regulation of the live export sector.

“An Inspector-General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports will increase confidence in the oversight of animal welfare standards for exported livestock,” he said.

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“This will ensure exported livestock are treated as humanely as possible, and our trading partners can be assured that the livestock they import meet our high animal welfare and regulatory standards.”

The Inspector-General was established in 2019 to review the Federal Agriculture Department’s systems and processes and exercise of powers in regulating livestock exports.

This included reviewing monitoring and reporting arrangements during voyages and scrutinising the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System.

Speaking in Parliament earlier this year, Regional Development Minister Catherine King said reviewing the conduct of Commonwealth officials who regulated live exports would continue to be the Inspector-General’s central role.

Michael Bond will remain in the role of Inspector-General until August.
Camera IconMichael Bond will remain in the role of Inspector-General until August. Credit: Supplied/DAFF

“This Bill expands on that role to provide a new level of focus and assurance that Commonwealth legislation and standards are achieving good outcomes for animal welfare,” she said.

“For the first time, the Inspector-General will provide an independent layer of oversight over our animal welfare export standards, to assure that Australia’s livestock exports continue to be underpinned by high standards and the best available science.”

She said the new functions were shaped through a public consultation process that revealed concerns about how — and what — information was reported.

In response, the Government took steps to “substantially expand” the Inspector-General’s role in reviewing reporting arrangements, to ensure they were “fit for purpose” — and to “recommend improvements as necessary”.

“This Bill provides for the Inspector-General to have complete discretion in the performance (of) its functions and powers,” Ms King said.

“While the Minister may direct the Inspector-General to conduct a review, importantly, the Inspector-General will not be subject to direction in the conduct of a review or the content of any report.

“Together, these enshrine the new Inspector-General’s independence from the regulator.”

The Albanese Government committed $4 million over four years from 2022-23 to establish the new role.

Veteran public servant Michael Bond was appointed interim Inspector-General in October and will remain in the role until August, or the appointment of his replacement.

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