Purpose of the Bill
The purpose of the Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports Amendment (Animal Welfare) Bill 2023 (the Bill) is:
- to rename the Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports Act 2019 (Live Animal Exports Act) as the Inspector-General of Animal Welfare and Live Exports Act 2019
- to rename the Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports (Inspector-General) as the Inspector-General of Animal Welfare and Live Exports
- to expand the functions of the Inspector-General to include increased oversight, accountability and transparency for animal welfare of exported livestock.
Structure of the Bill
The Bill comprises three Parts:
- Part 1 contains the main amendments to the Live Animal Exports Act
- Part 2 sets out other amendments including amendments to the National Anti-Corruption Commission Act 2022 (NACC Act)
- Part 3 contains saving, application and transitional provisions.
Australia has a long history of exporting livestock beginning as early as 1845 with small shipments of live sheep being exported from Western Australia to Mauritius and Singapore.
The development of the modern live export trade has been accompanied by continuing and significant public and veterinary concern for the health and welfare of transported livestock. Following accidents on livestock carriers in the 1980s, reviews into the trade reported shortcomings in animal husbandry practices and facilities on board export ships. These recommended greater veterinary oversight, more comprehensive standards and mandatory reporting of incidents. A 1985 Senate Select Committee report on the Export of Live Sheep from Australia concluded that ‘if a decision were to be made on the future of the trade purely on animal welfare grounds, there is enough evidence to stop the trade. The trade is, in many respects, inimical to good animal welfare’.
Despite those reviews and recommendations for improvement, in 2018 Sixty Minutes broadcast footage obtained by Animals Australia from the Awassi Express en route to the Middle East in August 2017, run by Perth exporter Emanuel Exports. The footage showed the extreme suffering of sheep on board the vessel, on which approximately 2,400 sheep died from heat stress (3.76 per cent of the total number on board).
The subsequent Review of the Regulatory Capability and Culture of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in the Regulation of Live Animal Exports conducted by Philip Moss in 2018 (Moss Review) acknowledged the tension between the economic value of live exports and animal welfare concerns stating:
The live animal export industry is important to the Australian economy, especially to producers and rural communities. However, the welfare of exported animals is also a priority to the Australian community. Members of the public provide Australian agriculture with the social licence to operate and want good animal welfare outcomes. Furthermore, trading partners will continue to require high standards for exports in terms of environmental sustainability and animal welfare practices.
By its nature, live animal exports present a high risk to animal health and welfare. There have been instances of non-compliance with animal welfare standards and instances of animal cruelty that have not been anticipated by the regulatory framework or evoked an appropriate regulatory response.
The Moss Review was the impetus for the enactment of the Live Animal Exports Act, the purpose of which was to establish an independent Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports, responsible for oversight of the Department of Agriculture in its role as the regulator of the Australian live-stock export industry. In March 2019 Mr Ross Carter took on the role of Interim Inspector-General, pending the commencement of the Live Animal Exports Act.
In 2016, prior to the Moss Review, the Productivity Commission recommended the establishment of an Australian Commission for Animal Welfare, with responsibility for developing national standards and guidelines relating to farmed animal welfare. It also recommended that this independent statutory body play a role in live export regulation:
At a minimum, this role should involve reviewing the performance of the ESCAS, including the performance, independence and effectiveness of the auditing arrangements, and making recommendations for reform… It should also review other aspects of the regulatory system for live exports, including the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock. Although not a focus of analysis of this inquiry, the Commission notes concerns raised about these standards, including with respect to the accreditation and independence of veterinarians on board live export vessels. …
Regular, independent reviews will help to address any perceived or actual conflict of interest in livestock export regulatory arrangements, and ultimately help to further improve the welfare of Australian live exports. It is important that the live export regulatory system is independently reviewed irrespective of whether the Australian Government establishes an independent organisation for farm animal welfare.
The Live Animals Exports Act contains two references to animal welfare—one in section 3, which provides that one of the objects of the Act is to ‘ensure that live‑stock export officials, in performing functions and exercising powers, consider the welfare of animals in Australia’s live‑stock exports’. The other is contained in subsection 10(1A), which provides that in reviewing the performance of functions, or exercise of powers, by live‑stock export officials in relation to the export of live‑stock, the Inspector-General ‘must consider the welfare of animals in relation to Australia’s live‑stock exports’. These provisions are the result of Government amendments to the original Bill, which, as introduced, did not contain any reference to animal welfare.
The ongoing tension in the debate about the live animal export industry—in particular the export of live cattle—is that it has value to the Australian economy but the welfare of exported animals is also a priority.
Value of live animal exports
The table below sets out the numbers of livestock exported in 2022 and their total value.
Table 1: Livestock exports 2022
|Sheep||524, 908||$82 million|
Source: Livecorp website, Industry statistics.
Animal welfare issues
Every six months, the Minister must table in Parliament a report from the department that includes livestock mortalities on every sea voyage. The report is compiled from information provided to the department by the ships' masters, as required by the Marine Order 43 (Cargo and cargo handling—livestock) 2018 (made under the Navigation Act 2012). In accordance with the requirements of the Export Control Act 2020, the report relates only to information provided to the Secretary or a delegate during the reporting period, whether or not the voyages occurred during the reporting period.
According to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry website, no reportable mortalities occurred in the period 1 January 2022 to 31 December 2022. Submissions to the Department’s recent consultation on the Inspector-General’s expanded role (discussed below) called for more detailed reporting and a reconsideration of the appropriateness of the current reporting parameters, such as ‘whether indicators other than mortality may be warranted’.
Role of the Inspector-General
Currently, the role of the independent Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports is to ‘oversee the regulator of live-stock exports: the Department of Agriculture’. The Inspector-General is to:
… promote continual improvements in the regulatory practice, performance and culture of the Department’s function as the authority responsible for the administration and operation of the export regulatory system as it applies to the export of live-stock from Australia … [and] … provide an additional layer of accountability and assurance over the regulation of Australia’s live-stock exports.
This is to be achieved by way of conducting reviews. According to the revised Explanatory Memorandum to the originating Bill:
The review powers will contribute to Australia's live-stock export regulatory systems by providing for an independent review of the performance of functions and exercise of powers by live-stock export officials. The scope of the role will enable the Inspector-General to examine the effectiveness of the operation of the live-stock export regulatory systems, identify shortcomings and make recommendations for improvement. It is intended that any issue or recommendation by the Inspector-General will be considered by the regulator and Government with a view to making necessary improvements to the live-stock export regulatory system as well as to provide an assurance framework for stakeholders of the system. This will ensure that Australia's live-stock export regulatory system maintains its integrity and continues to improve into the future.
For example, in November 2021, the Inspector-General published the report on the review into the ‘Livestock export permits systems and processes’. The review found that the department has made important progress in several areas and has a range of further relevant projects in-train. However, the review also found a range of concerns that should be addressed to ensure the progression of the department to a modern, effective and efficient regulator of livestock exports. The review report made 7 recommendations that the department supported or supported in principle.
The Inspector-General’s role does not include on-the-ground review of animal welfare in live export, either in Australia or overseas. Past breaches of live export standards and poor animal welfare outcomes have tended to come to light through investigations conducted by non-government organisations or media reporting.
In the lead-up to the 2022 Federal election, the Australian Labor Party (ALP) announced that it would establish the office of the independent Inspector-General for Animal Welfare and increase accountability and transparency for reporting of animal welfare breaches stating:
The Inspector-General of Animal Welfare will strengthen reports to the Parliament on:
- New and emerging live export markets.
- The number of head exported and mortalities.
- Any allegations of breaches of animal welfare standards and investigations undertaken.
- Any sanctions or other action taken for breaches of Australia’s animal welfare standards.
This is consistent with previous election pledges by the ALP to make respecting animal welfare standards a top priority for every industry that works with animals, although commitments made prior to 2022 foresaw a wider role for the Inspector-General of Animal Welfare, being to advise ‘on the protection of animals in all Commonwealth-regulated activities’, rather than being confined to live export. The scope of the Inspector-General’s role was raised in submissions to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (the Department) in recent consultations, as discussed below.
Consultation on proposal for Inspector-General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports
- From 2 February to 9 March 2023, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (the Department) consulted on the proposal to expand the current role of the Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports.
- The consultation paper advised that the Government has committed to ‘establish an Inspector-General of Animal Welfare to strengthen animal welfare and increase accountability and transparency for animal welfare in livestock exports’ and that this would be implemented by ‘expanding the current office of the Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports to include animal welfare related objectives and expertise, forming an Inspector General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports (IGAWLAE)’. The consultation paper sought feedback on 6 questions:
1. What animal welfare objectives related to livestock exports would be most valuable and why?
2. What other objectives related to livestock exports could be considered within the scope of the IGAWLAE’s work?
3. How should the objectives related to livestock exports be prioritised (if not all could be included)?
4. What animal welfare information related to livestock exports would be valuable to be included in reports to the Parliament?
5. What animal welfare information related to livestock exports would be valuable to be published on the department’s website?
6. Considering the objectives of the IGAWLAE, what experience, skills and capabilities would be desirable in recruiting animal welfare expertise/staff into the office?
- In a thematic consultation summary, the Department advised that it received 24 submissions from industry groups, animal welfare organisations and other interested parties. While the submissions do not appear to be available on the Department’s website, some are available on submitters’ websites and are discussed below under ‘Position of major interest groups’.
- The Department’s consultation summary looks at four main themes raised in submissions and states the Department’s position on each of the following issues: scope of the Inspector-General, animal welfare reporting, qualifications and expertise, and independence.
Scope of the proposed Inspector-General’s role
- The consultation summary advises that a range of feedback was received on the proposed expanded scope of the Inspector=General position, including:
- that the scope of the Inspector-General should remain contained to the export of livestock
- that the Inspector-General’s scope should be expanded to include the animal welfare of all live animal exports, such as trade in non-livestock and wildlife
- that the Inspector-General’s scope should be expanded beyond exports, including that the position should play some role in the forthcoming renewal of the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS).
The Department clarified:
The government has announced the [Inspector General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports] IGAWLAE will expand on the current Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports (IGLAE), and include additional animal welfare objectives for exported livestock. This is the basis upon which the consultation paper was developed.
Expanding on the IGLAE’s established role will help to ensure that that the IGAWLAE focusses on the Commonwealth’s regulatory responsibilities for animal welfare in livestock exports.
As Australia's states and territories regulate domestic animal production and welfare laws, the IGAWLAE’s responsibilities will not encompass state and territory responsibilities.
The Australian Government is committed to strengthening animal welfare and has committed to renew the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy (AAWS). This is being progressed separately to the establishment of the IGAWLAE, given the IGAWLAE’s scope and the domestic-focussed role of the AAWS.
- Submissions on the scope of the Inspector-General’s role are discussed in ‘Position of major interest groups’, below.
Animal welfare reporting
As set out above, every six months the Minister must table in Parliament a report from the Department that includes reportable livestock mortality on every sea voyage. The Department advises that many submissions to its consultation ‘called for more granular and detailed reporting relating to animal welfare’, either by the Inspector-General or the Department. Submissions also called for ‘a reconsideration of what reporting currently occurs, for example, whether indicators other than mortality may be warranted’. LiveCorp advised that through a collaboration with Meat & Livestock Australia, it had:
invested in research projects aimed at identifying meaningful, objective and standardised animal welfare indicators to complement the current use and recording of mortality. These include a university project that identified standardised indicators of animal welfare that moved beyond mortality as the primary measure used by industry … and the Shipboard Animal Welfare Surveillance (SAWS) project which developed practical measurement protocols for implementing the animal welfare indicators on livestock voyages.
Other submissions ‘recommended careful consideration before amending current reporting arrangements, and a view that any current or future reporting must guarantee privacy and confidentiality’.
The Department clarified that the expanded remit of the Inspector-General would include reviewing the Commonwealth’s reporting on livestock exports under the Export Control Act.
Inspector-General qualifications and expertise
The Live Animal Exports Act does not require the Inspector-General to have any specific qualifications or expertise. Submissions to the consultation:
were consistent with the view that practical and demonstrated animal welfare understanding and experience was necessary, either through past experience within the livestock export supply chain, and/or post-graduate experience in animal welfare science, law or policy. Memberships to professional organisations, such as the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists, were also suggested.
The Bill maintains the current position and does not impose any qualification or expertise requirements that must be met before an Inspector-General may be appointed.
The Department advises that ‘a process to recruit an IGAWLAE will commence once the role is established. The feedback on qualifications and expertise will be considered as part of the ensuing process’.
The Department reports that the importance of ensuring the Inspector-General’s independence from the Department and Government was a consistent concern raised in submissions, with this considered to be key to ensuring public confidence through independent oversight of the regulator. In response, the Department advises that ‘implementation of the IGAWLAE will clarify independence and transparency as much as practicable’.
Selection of Bills Committee
At the time of writing this Bills Digest, the Bill has not been referred to Committee for inquiry and report.
Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills
At the time of writing this Bills Digest, the Senate Standing Committee for the Scrutiny of Bills has not commented on the Bill.
Policy position of non-government parties/independents
At the time of writing, no comments on the Bill from non-government parties or independents could be identified. However, Australian Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi has questioned the remit of the proposed Inspector-General of Animal Welfare being confined to live export, rather than animal welfare within the Commonwealth’s jurisdiction more broadly:
Labor did promise an independent office of an Inspector-General for Animal Welfare, and Labor's election policy which was titled 'Strengthening animal welfare' states that the Inspector-General of Animal Welfare's functions would 'strengthen reports to the parliament, including on allegations of breaches of animal welfare standards and investigations undertaken and any sanctions or other actions taken for breaches of Australia's animal welfare standards'. I think that gave a very clear indication to voters that the role was much broader and much more far reaching than the live export industry. 
The Greens have previously introduced private member’s Bills to establish an Independent Office of Animal Welfare. Under their proposal, the Office would be responsible for reviewing and monitoring livestock export standards; preparing reports about a range of animal welfare issues including live animal export and the commercial kangaroo industry; and reviewing the activities of the Department in relation to the monitoring, enforcement and effectiveness of the Commonwealth’s animal welfare laws.
Independent Andrew Wilkie has also previously introduced a Bill to establish an Independent Office of Animal Welfare. In addition to oversight of the live export trade, under Mr Wilkie’s proposal, the Office would ‘undertake inquiries, commission research and prepare reports about a range of issues including the commercial killing of kangaroos, importation of animals and animal products, introduced species, and development of Commonwealth animal welfare policy’.
Position of major interest groups
The Australian Livestock Export Corporation (LiveCorp) advised that animal welfare ‘is a core focus for the livestock export industry and addressing its complexity has been a priority program of work for LiveCorp and the Livestock Export RD&E Program’. LiveCorp stated that its research on community views on live export
suggest that the general public are not necessarily seeking specific or granular details about the industry’s performance; rather, they perceive good regulation itself as a driver of trust, providing assurance that standards are being applied and met. This can be achieved through the development of evidence-based standards and regulation based on science and the meaningful interpretation of data.
WoolProducers Australia expressed support for the scope of the proposed change to the Inspector-General’s remit being targeted to animal welfare issues relating to live animal exports, but was concerned with the consultation paper’s suggestion that the role could include ‘reviewing/reporting on the Commonwealth’s interaction with state and territory animal welfare enforcement agencies’. WoolProducers considered that this would not align with the Commonwealth’s legislative responsibilities and ‘would not contribute to the enhanced reporting of animal welfare standards outcomes with respect to live animal exports’.
Animal protection organisations
The Australian Alliance for Animals (the Alliance), which comprises Australia’s key animal protection organisations: Animals Australia, World Animal Protection, Compassion in World Farming, Humane Society International, Four Paws and Voiceless, expressed disappointment with the proposed expansion of the role of the Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports to encompass animal welfare:
During the 2022 Federal Election, the Australian Labor Party committed to establishing the “office of the independent Inspector-General for Animal Welfare” in recognition of Labor’s support for strong animal welfare standards and belief that all animals should be treated humanely. The Government’s subsequent October Budget indicated that this would be delivered by simply “expanding the functions” of the current Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports (IGLAE). This was disappointing to the animal welfare sector as we understood Labor’s commitment to encompass the establishment of a new statutory office. Nevertheless, we remained open minded about the potential for achieving the outcome of expanding the functions of the IGLAE through the existing structure.
However, the model proposed in the consultation paper fails to achieve this. The proposed role and objectives for the new Inspector-General for Animal Welfare (IGAW) add nothing new to the role and objectives of the current IGLAE. Reviewing and reporting on the Department’s approval of regulated entities, detection of non-compliance, conduct of investigations, interaction with state territory enforcement agencies, and reporting on animal welfare breaches are all topics the current IGLAE has the power to review. The only substantive difference under the consultation paper’s proposed model appears to be the change in name.
We strongly encourage the Government to review this proposed model with a view to enacting more meaningful reform. At a time when Australia is facing increasing international pressure from trade partners to lift its animal welfare standards and strengthen its assurances, limiting the scope of the IGAW in such a way would be a missed opportunity [emphasis added].
The Alliance called for the establishment of an office that would deal with animal welfare at the Commonwealth-level broadly, rather than being confined to animal welfare in the context of live export only:
Expanding the [Inspector-General for Animal Welfare’s] IGAW’s role to include oversight of animal welfare standards in all Commonwealth-regulated fields, including animal welfare standards at export abattoirs and the international trade in wildlife and wildlife products, and reporting on the implementation of national animal welfare standards, would be a far more meaningful reform. There is a great need for further consistency in the Australian Government’s approach to animal welfare policy, The benefits of the IGAW’s role should not be siloed to one particular area of one portfolio [emphasis added].
The Alliance also called for the immediate establishment of a national Animal Welfare Commission 'to provide national leadership in the development of Australia’s animal welfare standards’.
According to the Explanatory Memorandum to the Bill ‘the Australian Government is providing $4 million over four years from 2022–2023 to support the expanded functions of the Inspector-General’.
Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights
As required under Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 (Cth), the Government has assessed the Bill’s compatibility with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of that Act. The Government considers that the Bill is compatible.
Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights
At the time of writing this Bills Digest, Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights has not commented on the Bill.
Key issues and provisions
Changing the name
Items 1 and 2 in Part 1 of the Bill change the name of the long title and short title of the Live Animal Exports Act respectively to include references to animal welfare.
Similarly, items 5 to 8 make consequential amendments to reflect the proposed renaming of the Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports to the Inspector-General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports.
Expanding the functions
Item 11 repeals and replaces subsection 10(1) of the Live Animal Exports Act. Currently subsection 10(1) provides that the Inspector-General may review the performance of functions, or exercise of powers, by live-stock export officials under the Export Control Act 2020, or an instrument made under that Act, in relation to the export of live-stock. Proposed subsection 10(1) sets out an expanded list of matters which may be the subject of a review by the Inspector-General being:
- the performance of functions, or exercise of powers, by livestock export officials under the animal welfare and live animal export legislation and standards in relation to the export of livestock
- the effectiveness of Commonwealth systems, including the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL), for the administration of livestock exports under the relevant legislation and standards for maintaining and enhancing the welfare of exported livestock
- the effectiveness of Commonwealth reporting of any or all of the following:
- the welfare of exported livestock
- livestock export investigations related to animal welfare
- non-compliance with the animal welfare and live animal export legislation and standards in relation to the export of livestock
- the information required in the Inspector-General’s report to Parliament about export of livestock
- potential non-compliance with state and territory laws relating to animal welfare, as reported to state and territory Governments.
The inclusion of references to the ASEL is important.
It sets the standards for the conduct of the livestock export trade, as required by the Australian Government. It covers the sourcing, preparation, transport and onboard management of exported livestock. Exporters must comply with the ASEL in order to be permitted to export livestock.
Updating the objects
These functions are complemented by updated animal welfare-related objects to the Live Animal Exports Act. Item 3 repeals and replaces sections 3 and 4 of the Live Animal Exports Act which contain the objects and the simplified outline respectively.
The existing objects are retained and renumbered. Proposed paragraph 3(1)(a) updates the objects stating that they are to enable monitoring, investigation and reporting on the implementation, by the Commonwealth Government, of the animal welfare and live animal export legislation and standards in relation to the export of livestock, and the outcomes of such implementation, and, in doing so:
- to increase accountability for, and the transparency of, compliance with such legislation and standards and
- to increase accountability for those outcomes.
Proposed paragraph 3(1)(b) would expand upon paragraph 3(1)(a), which provides that an object of the Live Animal Exports Act is to ‘promote continual improvements in the regulatory practice, performance and culture of the Department in its role as the regulator of Australia’s live‑stock exports’. The proposed paragraph would expand on this to include promoting improvements in the development of ASEL. The Explanatory Memorandum states:
As the ASEL is a critical part of Australia’s regulatory system for the welfare of exported livestock, new paragraph 3(1)(b) would provide independent oversight over the development of the ASEL and as such, ensure that improvements to the ASEL are promoted.
Proposed subsection 3(2) specifies that the expanded objects are to be achieved with a view to ensuring that the animal welfare and live animal export legislation and standards in relation to the export of livestock are complied with.
Independence of the Inspector-General
Item 13 inserts proposed section 10C into the Live Animal Exports Act. Proposed subsection 10C(1) specifies that the Inspector-General has complete discretion in the performance of their functions and the exercise of their powers and is not subject to direction by any person in relation to the performance or exercise of those functions or powers.
Proposed subsection 10C(2) puts the independence of the Inspector-General beyond doubt by stating that the Inspector-General is not subject to direction in relation to:
- whether or not a particular outcome or priority is to be included in a work plan for a financial year
- the conduct of a review, including matters such as the terms of reference, how a review is to be conducted, its timing or its priority or
- the content of the report of the review.
Under proposed section 10D, there are three ways in which reviews may be commenced. First, the Inspector-General may conduct a review on their own initiative: proposed subsection 10D(1).
Second, the Minister may direct the Inspector-General, in writing, to conduct a review. This is called a directed review. In that case the Inspector-General must comply with the Minister’s direction and must consult with the Minister about the terms of reference and the priority to be given to the directed review: proposed subsections 10D(2)-(5). However, the independence of the Inspector-General in the manner in which the review is conducted and the outcome of the review is preserved.
Third, the Secretary or a Minister that administers a law relating to the export of livestock may request (that is, a Minister other than the Minister for Agriculture), in writing, that a review be conducted. In such circumstances the Inspector-General is not required to comply with the request: proposed subsections 10D(7) and (8).
Qualifications for appointment as Inspector-General
As discussed above, currently the Live Animal Exports Act does not impose any requirements in relation to the qualifications or expertise of the Inspector-General or persons assisting them. The Bill does not change this position. In its summary of the consultations on the proposed changes to the Inspector-General’s role, the Department advised that submissions were consistent in the view that ‘practical and demonstrated animal welfare understanding and experience was necessary’ for such roles.
The Alliance stated:
Staff appointed to the office of the IGAW must have animal welfare qualifications. A veterinary degree on its own is not a qualification in animal welfare nor is a degree in veterinary science the only pathway to an understanding of animal welfare science. Officers appointed to the office should have post-graduate qualifications in animal welfare science, law or policy, such as an MSc Animal Welfare Science, Ethics and Law, be a member of the Animal Welfare Chapter of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists (MANZCVS (Animal Welfare)) or hold other higher degree research qualifications in animal welfare.
Annual work plans
Item 14 in Part 1 of the Bill requires the Inspector-General to prepare and publish an annual work plan for each financial year: proposed subsections 11A(1) and (4).
The work plan for a financial year must set out the key outcomes and priorities for the Inspector-General for the financial year, including the details and timing of the reviews that are to be conducted: proposed subsection 11A(2).
The Inspector-General must consult the Minister in preparing a work plan for a financial year and may consult additional persons who the Inspector-General considers appropriate: proposed subsection 11A(3).