Labor pledge on animal inspections

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Bob GarnantThe West Australian
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The Rudd Labor Government has promised an independent Inspector-General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports if given another term.

Federal Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon last week said an independent Inspector-General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports would add an important layer of independence to the animal welfare assurance system and would build public confidence in Australia's live export trade.

"The Rudd Government wants to ensure the live export industry enjoys the support, not just of the Government, but of the broader Australian community," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

"This additional layer of assurance will help build public confidence in the live export trade.

"This is a sensible extension to a world-leading system that adheres to international animal welfare standards, while not overloading industry with unnecessary regulation."

The minister said the role of the inspector-general was to reassure the community as an independent authority responsible to oversee the live export regulator, the Federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, and the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System.

"The sooner we have the right person in the role, the better," Mr Fitzgibbon said.

"The right person is someone who is seen as independent by all sides of (politics)."

But shadow agriculture minister John Cobb said the appointment was seen as a quell to the divisions of the Labor Party.

"The decision to appoint an inspector-general is all about dealing with internal differences within the Labor Party and has nothing to do with animal welfare," Mr Cobb said.

"In the minister's own words we have the strongest animal welfare assurance system in the world and we are the only country that requires specific animal welfare conditions are met for exported livestock.

"This is a forerunner to an office for animal welfare which would without a doubt attempt to bring to a halt all animal production in Australia."

Sheepmeat Council of Australia chief executive Ron Cullen said there were few details on the functions of this new position and it was a concern that adding another layer of regulation was not going to improve animal welfare.

"What is needed is a focus on people, education and training," he said.

Mr Cullen said the idea of an inspector-general looked like a vote of no confidence in the current system.

"It is critical we support the structures we already have in place."

WAFarmers meat section president Jeff Murray it was difficult at this early stage to assess the merits or otherwise of the appointment of an inspector-general.

"While WAFarmers supports Federal Government initiatives to strengthen animal welfare standards in the live export industry, it appears the new office will add another level of bureaucracy," Mr Murray said.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has called an election for September 7.

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