Tuesday, 28 November 2023
There are few in this place or the other place who you would sooner have in the political trenches at your side than my good very good friend and colleague Rick Wilson MP, the member for O'Connor. Earlier this week, Mr Wilson and I co-authored a letter to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Minister Murray Watt, concerning the relationship between Animals Australia and the Department of Agriculture—a relationship that should not go on for one day more. As I've said in this place before—and as the member for O'Connor, Rick Wilson, has said in the other place—Animals Australia is not an organisation that deserves a place in civil society and is certainly not one that deserves a special place at the table with our Department of Agriculture.
In this letter, we call on the minister to sever ties between his department and Animals Australia and, in particular, to immediately remove them from the Livestock Export Animal Welfare Advisory Group. On the public record now, from multiple media outlets, the evidence is clear. Animals Australia paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to a relatively poor deckhand on the Awassi Expresssomeone who's paid on average about US$500 per month. They paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the procurement of footage of animals suffering in order to raise money Australia in order to procure new footage of animals suffering. This is not an organisation that should have a privileged place at the table with the Department of Agriculture.
Let me read some of the evidence that's now in the public domain. I'll read from the letter that the member for O'Connor and I sent to the minister: 'Animals Australia paid over $100,000 to Faisal Ullah before, during and after his time on the Awassi Express. This money provides a considerable financial incentive to produce footage of animals suffering, especially when the wage for a deckhand is less than US$500 per month on these vessels. Emails show Animals Australia spending significant time and money grooming Faisal Ullah for his role and the type of footage of animals suffering that was required. At one point, Faisal Ullah suggested that ventilation to the sheep could be closed in order to increase animal suffering. Allegedly sheep housed in the areas of the Awassi Express controlled by Faisal Ullah suffered the highest mortality rates, and the footage he took showed clear evidence of carer neglect.'
A former shipmate of Faisal Ullah, in a sworn affidavit, supported the allegations of cash for cruelty, emphasising the following points: 'Many of the issues shown in the footage were Faisal's responsibility, such as empty water troughs, sheep crowded into the corner of a pen, pens that were filthy and carcasses being allowed to rot.' He went on to say in the sworn affidavit: 'I cannot prove that Faisal shut off the ventilation systems on the ship, but it is my suspicion that is what he did.' The group procured the footage in this despicable way. This is the footage from which the minister and the Labor government have sourced their policy to shut down the live export trade, which will affect farmers in my home state of Western Australia. They don't listen to the farmers. Minister Watt and his department don't listen to the farmers, but they listen to Animals Australia—a group that has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to procure footage of animals suffering. And guess what? If you're willing to pay a relatively poor deckhand from a developing country hundreds of thousands of dollars, you will get footage of animals suffering. That relationship needs to stop today. (Time expired.)