Live sheep exports set to continue
DODGY live exporters will face up to 10 years in jail and multimillion-dollar fines in a major crackdown on animal cruelty in the live sheep exports trade.
The government has stopped short of banning the live exports trade outright but will be accepting all 23 recommendations of an urgent review into the northern summer trade.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud announced the harsh new measures to regulate the industry today, including that export companies will face fines of up to $4.2 million or up to 10 per cent of their annual turnover for misconduct.
"Today is about setting a new course for the live export industry," Mr Littleproud said.
"There is still a lot more to be done and I give you a commitment to lead that journey.
"If anyone in the industry is not up to it, I urge them to leave now because there is too much at stake."
Under the crackdown, company directors will face fines of up to $2.1 million or 10 years jail if it can be proved they sought to financially benefit from any misconduct.
Individuals could face 10 years in jail and fines of up to $420,000.
Independent observers will also be required to be aboard all sheep and cattle shipments and will report back daily to the independent regulator.
Exporters must also immediately report to the regulator if more than one per cent of sheep die on their ship and regulator must investigate. It halves the previous reportable level of two per cent.
The number of sheep allowed on a single ship will also be overhauled under a new model based on animal welfare, rather than mortality, to create 39 per cent more space for sheep and a stocking density reduction of 28 per cent.
It could also prompt exporters to upgrade their ships to improve ventilation to reduce heat stress.
The minister said further consultations would take place on the heat stress model as it could potentially dictate stocking density reductions of between 19 to 79 per cent.
The recommendations come after a snap review of the northern summer trade was launched last month when shocking footage of animal cruelty on board export ships to the Middle East emerged along with revelations that more than 2400 animals died from heat stress on board a single ship in August 2017.
It also sparked calls for an end to the live export trade from animal rights groups, the federal Labor Party and a number of government backbenchers.
The review was conducted by livestock vet Michael McCarthy.
Despite the crackdown, the government will still face calls to end the live exports trade.
Rural NSW backbencher Sussan Ley has indicated she will introduce a private members bill seeking to end the live exports trade to parliament on Monday.
Labor's Agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon said his party was close to supporting the legislation on the condition the industry's end date was no less than five years away.
Mr Littleproud said "no sane human being" would see animal cruelty as acceptable but Australian needed to stay in the live exports trade.
He said there was a demand for live exports internationally and if Australia did not meet it, other nations with weaker standards would.
"We have got a responsibility to stay and get it right. We have a responsibility to the animals, but also to our farmers," he said.
Mr Littleproud also rejected suggestions that the government's crackdown could put the industry at risk.
"I intend to visit the key trading partners to let them understand how important they are to us and what we have put in place," he told reporters in Sydney.
"(The) framework that we have put in place will make sure there is a sustainable live trade into the future."
He also said the measures were a "foundation stone" to rebuild trust with farmers that the live exports industry would be sustainable and that dodgy exporters would be held to account.
A review into the culture, capability and investigative powers of the independent regulator, the Department of Agriculture, was also launched in April after the footage was released.
The Department investigated the shipment last year and found no breaches of export regulations. That report will be released in late August.