Tuesday, 10 September 2019
Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports Bill 2019; In Committee
I have a few questions for the minister. Minister, the Moss review called for an Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports—one that would:
… review the performance of functions or exercise of powers by department staff members in the regulation of live animal exports.
This clearly calls for the ability to review the exercise of the functions of the department staff. So I want to understand why the government has subclause 10(2) in the bill, which basically would restrict the inspector-general in doing what the Moss review recommended.
Thank you for your question. I'm advised that the section you refer to, on limitations, is simply in regard to ensuring that the inspector-general focuses on the broad overarching assurance of the livestock regulatory process rather than investigations into any specific individual breaches of that framework. The Department of Agriculture is the independent regulator for the livestock industry, so issues that go to specific individual breaches of the framework are investigated by the independent regulator. The role of the inspector-general is to review and provide assurance over the regulation provided by the Department of Agriculture itself.
Would the inspector-general be able to investigate mortality reports that are revised or redrafted to dilute or expunge findings which reflect adversely on the regulatory framework? This is part of what the Moss review highlighted.
Sorry, I'm not the minister responsible for this legislation; I'm standing in today. But, on advice, I am informed that the inspector-general will be able to look at events that go to the reporting of the mortality event through the independent regulator, the Department of Agriculture, that is provided in this bill.
The cost is outlined in the legislation explanatory memorandum at $450,000 each year over four years. That cost will of course be absorbed by the department through general revenue.
As I'm sure you're aware, the interim inspector-general has been appointed for a period of 12 months. However, if this bill receives royal assent, the minister can appoint an inspector-general straight after that. It is the intention of the government to do so.
by leave—I move amendments (1) and (2) on sheet ZA494 together:
(1) Clause 3, page 2 (line 19), at the end of the clause, add:
; and (c) to ensure that live-stock export officials, in performing functions and exercising powers, consider the welfare of animals in Australia's live-stock exports.
(2) Clause 10, page 7 (after line 2), after subclause (1), insert:
(1A) In conducting a review under subsection (1), the Inspector-General must consider the welfare of animals in relation to Australia's live-stock exports.
There are two amendments. One provides for an explicit mention of animal welfare in this bill, and the other amendment inserts a subclause into clause 10 that will provide that the matters the inspector-general must consider in the conduct of review include the welfare of animals in relation to the export of livestock.
The TEMPORARY CHAIR: I invite you to table the supplementary explanatory memorandum.
I also table a supplementary explanatory memorandum to those amendments.
The TEMPORARY CHAIR: The question is that the amendments moved by the government be agreed to.
Question agreed to.
I won't be moving Greens amendments (1) and (2) on sheet 8736, because the government has now moved amendments identical to those, but I do move amendment (3) on sheet 8736, because the bill as presented by the government unnecessarily restricts the ability of the Inspector-General. We would like subclause 10(2) to be removed completely because, as I said earlier, the subclause does restrict the inspector-general from investigating individual cases. I think this is quite a ridiculous limitation and one that is wholly unnecessary. We know that there are serious problems with the way exports of live animals are carried out and regulated, and there are serious issues with the lack of oversight. This bill as it stands won't really allow the inspector-general to investigate individual actions. This oversight is absolutely necessary, given that we know what the Moss review said about the department and its limitations, and this amendment will ensure that that's not the case. So I do urge senators to support this. The Greens oppose subclause 10(2) in the following terms:
(3) Subclause 10(2), page 7 (lines 3 to 12), to be opposed.
Labor opposes the proposal to remove subclause 10(2) on page 7, lines 3 to 12. The subclause provides further clarification about the role and responsibilities of the inspector-general, and it is important to ensure that there is no confusion about the position.
The government too indicates its opposition to this amendment, as I outlined to Senator Faruqi in response to questions. This subclause is purely there to clarify and to ensure that the separate role of the Department of Agriculture as a regulator of individual breaches is clear, relative to the role of the inspector-general, which is to oversight the overall framework.