Senate inquiry told Ludwig capitulated
Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig bowed to caucus pressure to ban live exports despite department advice to work with industry, a parliamentary estimates hearing has been told.
The Senate estimates hearing on Monday was told Senator Ludwig received departmental advice to work with the live cattle export industry to improve animal welfare standards rather than ban the trade weeks before the footage of Australian cattle being treated inhumanely was aired.
Details of the ministerial brief were obtained by the opposition under Freedom of Information but two other documents Mr Ludwig received were not made public.
During the hearing, the department was questioned by opposition senators as to why it failed to release all documents and why the briefings made public were heavily censored.
The hearing, before the Rural Affairs and Transport committee, was also told costs to exporters had not changed under the new regulatory framework and there were 14 supply chains across five exporters approved.
Live Animal Exports Reform Taskforce (LAET) general manager Lee Cale said 32 notices of intention to export had been submitted and so far the department had approved 26 of those.
LAET acting deputy secretary Paul Morris told the hearing the new framework only applied to Indonesia.
But he said a decision was pending, after the Government flagged through two industry-government working groups' intent to look at applying it to other countries.
Mr Morris said he was not aware of any other countries which had taken market share from Australia in Indonesia.
The Bill Farmer Review, which examined the live animal export supply chain from paddock to point of slaughter for all markets that received Australian livestock, was also mentioned.
Senator Ludwig told the hearing the review would be released soon but declined to give a date.
_Countryman _ understands that it could be released as early as next week along with a financial package to repair trade relations.
The hearing was also told Mr Ludwig rejected an offer to view the Four Corners footage because the offer to see the footage came with the condition to be interviewed afterwards - a request he refused.
The footage aired on May 30 and on June 8 the Government imposed a month-long ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia.
PGA president Rob Gillam said it was disappointing Senator Ludwig did not follow his department's professional advice.
"He responded to the politics at the time instead of relying on the advice of his department which quite clearly told him to work in collaboration with exporters for an outcome and try to achieve some measures of moving forward in welfare without disrupting the trade tremendously," Mr Gillam said.
"But unfortunately politics got in the way."
WAFarmers president Mike Norton said the news demonstrated how fractured the whole political process was at the time.
"The aftermath of what they did to the north of Australia and ancillary industries is a wake-up to everyone in Canberra," Mr Norton said. "It caused an enormous amount of pain for everyone.
"The Government and those aspiring to lead the Government should have done a proper analysis of the television show and a proper analysis of the likely outcome of suspending the trade."
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