Senior Nationals MP Darren Chester has urged against banning Australia’s live sheep export industry after a damning review revealed disastrous failings to stop animal cruelty.
Mr Chester said the industry was worth $250 million and employed 3000 people.
“If there was a ban on the live export of sheep, the flow-on impacts on the market would be dramatic,” he told the ABC on Sunday.
“We’ve got to be very careful when we start talking about banning things – the impact on the economy would be quite significant.”
A review of the trade conducted by public sector integrity expert Philip Moss has recommended much stricter management of animal welfare.
Several Liberal MPs this week called for the trade to be scrapped altogether.
“I don’t support their position,” Mr Chester said.
A new external inspector-general will oversee the Agriculture Department’s regulation of live animal exports.
There will also be a principal regulatory officer within the department to improve compliance and culture.
The department’s animal welfare branch, which was scrapped by former agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce in 2013, will be reinstated.
New animal welfare indicators will be developed and introduced along the supply chain.
The Moss review found the skills, resources and technology for effective regulation were lacking, with concerns the department’s dual roles in promoting the trade and policing it could be contradictory.
Getting rid of the animal welfare branch detracted from the regulator’s ability to achieve that balance.
In April, footage of 2400 sheep dying on voyages to the Middle East during a shipment in August 2017 emerged, prompting Agriculture Minister David Littleproud to initiate a range of reviews.
Earlier in the year, the government announced independent observers would be on each sheep vessel to the Middle East and stocking densities reduced by 28 per cent.
While the government and the Agriculture Department accepted all 31 of the Moss review’s recommendations, Labor is standing firm on pushing for a five-year phase out of sheep exports.
Mr Littleproud called on Labor to back legislation to put harsh new penalties on dodgy live exporters, which has stalled because of an opposition amendment to phase out the trade over five years.