Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities
Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
Press Conference: Supertrawler Murray Darling Basin reform - Tasmanian Forestry - Wheat Export Marketing Bill live animal exports
11 September 2012
TONY BURKE: Thank you very much. Some weeks ago I first announced I was seeking advice from my department on the extent of the legal powers that I would have as Environment Minister concerning the Margiris or now more recently renamed the Abel Tasman or more commonly referred to as a super trawler.
There were two possibilities in how that advice would come back. There was a chance that Section Ten of national environmental law was – or Part Ten – was going to be activated. That would have allowed me to effectively pause any operation of the vessel while a whole lot of scientific work was done which creates levels of uncertainty at the moment on the environmental impact.
Unfortunately the threshold for that section of the Act is very high and you need to have a level of certainty about the operation of the vessel to be able to activate it. The challenge with this one is not the certainty but the uncertainty and once the advice came back I went to the limit of the legal powers that I had in using Part Thirteen of national environmental law. But it still fell short of where I hoped to be able to get to.
After that decision had been made I then started talking to my department about the essential question if my current powers under law are limited – how can we change the law to be able to increase those powers?
Last night an agreement with ministers, this morning in Caucus it's been agreed that I will introduce new legislation to the Parliament to amend National Environmental Law which will give me the powers that I had hoped to have to be able to apply a much more precautionary approach to the super trawler.
Effectively the Part Ten clauses that I'd hoped to be able to trigger will be replicated in a new section of the Act. What that new section of the Act will create is the following.
A situation where the Fisheries Minister Joe Ludwig and myself can agree that there is uncertainty about the impact of a particular fishing activity and we will have a new concept of a declared fishing activity. Once a fishing activity is declared there's a two–week period for natural justice and consultation but after that we get the opportunity to jointly initiate the scientific work and the expert advice which we believe is lacking. While that work is being undertaken the relevant fishing activity cannot take place within Australian waters for a period of up to two years.
This creates a situation where we're not flying blind. This creates a situation where we get the information that we want to be able to work out how you can give the guarantees of sustainability that are so important.
This Government has a strong commitment to protection of the oceans. We've shown in it marine national parks, we've shown it in our treatment of the Great Barrier Reef. Today we also show it with our concerns about the potential operation of the super trawler and its impact on by–catch.
The legislation that has passed through the Caucus this morning I intend to introduce to the Parliament later today. I'll ask Joe Ludwig to say a few words and then we'll open up to questions.
JOE LUDWIG: Thanks very much. Of course this is a sensible step taken by the Government to ensure that we continue to have sustainable managed fisheries in Australia. While Minister Burke – was looking at his powers I also had an opportunity to go through the management powers that are available to me.
Like Minister Burke I also have a degree of uncertainty about how this vessel would operate within these waters and the likely impact. Particularly on the environment but also the social and economic considerations. In examining the powers that I had under the framework it was clear to me that I could not meet – and the advice was clear about this – I could meet the double–barrelled test within that, which meant that at the first instance whether there was exceptional circumstances and the second as to whether there were public interest issues that were there. In other words against public – against Government policy.
They were not met. What that meant was that both Minister Burke and I had to work together to look at what circumstances could be made available. Minister Burke at first instance provided a range of conditions that we could operate within the Fisheries Management Authority to ensure that we could continue to have one of the best sustainable managed fisheries in the world.
What we've now done is gone one step further to make sure that the community expectations are met to make sure that the stakeholders, the Fisheries Management Authority, continue to be the best managed in the world.
What I'm also announcing today is a review – a root and branch review of the Fisheries Management Act. Why? Because the legislation came through in the 1980s, brought through in the 1990s and so for the last twenty years we've been operating under that legislation. It's clear to me that after twenty years of operating that legislation that there is now community expectation about how we should continue to have the world's best managed fisheries. So to do what I will consult with stakeholders, consult with the community to continue to ensure that we've got confidence in our fisheries management.
QUESTION: Can I ask you Minister – how could you possibly be uncertain given that your fisheries management team has been working on the science of this for years and continues to do that – what are you uncertain about? Is it the size of the boat or the size of the quota?
JOE LUDWIG: Let's be clear. In travelling through various stakeholders' groups, Rec Fishing groups, they've raised concerns around the environment. They've raised concerns around social impacts. They've raised concerns around the economics of the boat. All of those matters have led me to conclude that there is uncertainty around the environmental science.
Having looked at Minister Burke's evidence as well – Minister Burke has concerns around by–catch issues. All of that has led me clearly to conclude that we do need to act.
QUESTION: Is the size of the boat or the size of the quota?
TONY BURKE: It's the capacity of the boat to stay in the same location for an extended period of time. You see the quota that you talk about stretches all the way from South Australia up to Queensland. If you have a large number of vessels taking different parts of the quota from different areas then you're not going to have any risk of a localised major by–catch issue. But when you have a vessel with a large freezer capacity that therefore is able to remain for extended periods of time in the same part of our oceans there are a different set of environmental considerations and that's the difference.
QUESTION: The stay is also regulated isn't it Minister?
TONY BURKE: I beg your pardon?
QUESTION: The length of time it can stay anywhere is also regulated by your Department isn't it?
TONY BURKE: In terms of the science that we're talking about with this the information on which you would rely on for those environmental issues has never had to be done in any level of detail before because we've had small vessels going in and out of port.
The basis of the information – this is why I had hoped Part Ten of the Act would have been triggered. Had it been triggered and had the Departmental advice come back that way I would have been able to make an equivalent decision to this Monday of last week.
QUESTION: So is your main concern about conservatives to do with the by–catch or to do with the fish catch?
TONY BURKE: As Environment Minister I'm only concerned with the by–catch. On the issue of the quota I'll leave it to the Fisheries Minister.
JOE LUDWIG: Thanks very much. I think Minister Burke makes a very good point is that there is in this fishery – the small pelagic fishery which stretches right from Cairns effectively and dissected between the east and west all the way around to Western Australia. It's a small pelagic fishery. The total allowable catch within the framework that AFMA managers all means that if you look at that particular issue in isolation from the environment, from the by–catch, from the harvest strategy it does mean that you would conclude that they could be managed.
However when you look at all of it in unison you come to the conclusion that the science remains uncertain across the board. The last time the harvest strategy – the science was done was back in 2003/2004. So Rec Fish has raised with me concerns about local area depletion; about the science not underpinning that sufficiently. They also raised concerns about – from the environmental groups that I met – by–catch issues.
All of that has contributed to my uncertainty to agree with Minister Burke that we do need not only a route and branch review of the management arrangements, but also need to act in these circumstances.
QUESTION: Do you think there's a problem with the catch proposed, that...
JOE LUDWIG: Well, that's the uncertainty. We do need science to ensure that we have certainty.
QUESTION: [inaudible] will fill, considering they've spent years negotiating this, and it's only now that the boat's been brought out there and you're about to start fishing [inaudible].
TONY BURKE: In terms of negotiating – and as I say, I had thought that I may have been able to trigger something of this magnitude a week ago. It was the lack of information – the uncertainty – that actually caused me to not be able to have the precautionary approach that I would have liked.
So in terms of had those triggers been met a week ago you don't negotiate environment approvals. You don't come and negotiate environment approvals. There's either a sufficiently precautionary approach or there's not. We've ended up with a situation where what I believe my obligations to Australia are, as Environment Minister, are not fully reflected in the law. So I'm proposing we change the law.
In terms of having a sensible approach to managing the oceans, a sensible, cautious approach to any of this sort of activity, then I think it's what every operator would expect.
QUESTION: How much of the public on pressure on this and the pressure from – like the Greens – Andrew Wilkie and others?
TONY BURKE: There's been no doubt that there has been a massive public focus on this. And the key relevance of that has been the extent to which it has undermined confidence in our management. There's no doubt about it. Confidence in our management of fisheries and by–catch issues has been undermined.
In terms of the politicians that you name look, I guess the best way to answer that is simply to say I haven't been approached by Andrew Wilkie or by the Greens on this issue. I'm not aware if they've sent correspondence to me. I don't think any of them have.
I've had a lot of lobbying on this from Labor members of Parliament. Many of our Tasmanian members – you would have seen Melissa Parke in WA. In New South Wales I've had both Mike Kelly raising it with me, Janelle Saffin's raised it with me, Yvette D'Ath in Queensland.
There's been a large level of interest on all of this. But, ultimately, some people would have liked to say well, can't you just say go away and never come back?
My principle has to be that these decisions are scientifically based and these decisions are based on actual evidence. Now, the law at the moment only allowed me to take a high level of precaution if I was sure it was going to have a detrimental impact. Now, my challenge is I think uncertainty needs to be covered as well. If these amendments are carried by the Parliament it will be.
QUESTION: Is compensation now due to the operator?
TONY BURKE: Any issue like that would be a matter for the courts but, certainly, this vessel currently has no quota assigned to it.
QUESTION: How long will it take to do the assessments and determine whether the vessel can [inaudible]? What's the time frame?
TONY BURKE: The maximum proposed under the amendment is twenty–four months. My intentions – once the legislation is proclaimed – would be that I would activate it straight away.
The reason for the twenty–four month period is some of your environmental issues are seasonal. And so you need to have your time preparing the work. You then do need to have a full twelve months clear for your seasonal work. And you then need to be able to analyse it. So I would work on the basis that we would access the full twenty–four months.
QUESTION: But after that the super trawlers could operate here, depending on what that [inaudible]?
TONY BURKE: Depending on the evidence, that's correct.
QUESTION: What precise scientific work do you want undertaken? And what results would make you – what kind of results would make you confident that super trawling could go ahead?
TONY BURKE: There's a fair bit of pre–judging in the question. I can give you some headline concepts. I won't go species by species but, obviously, there's a series of targeted species that, as Environment Minister, I've got a legal responsibility to look out for – dolphins, seals, sea lions are ones that are often referred to.
There can be issues with sea birds as well because even though they're not down under water as deep as the net is, as you pull the stock up you can still get entanglement issues. So for each of those there's a sort of cute technical phrase of interactions that's used. Mortalities is probably a more accurate phrase in many circumstances. And you want to be able to absolutely minimise those.
If you can get them down to zero that's the best, but you want to be able to absolutely minimise those. And some of these issues can go to fishing activities at different times of year. On the conclusion of it all – two years down the track – all I can tell you is they're the sorts of issues that I wanted to be precautionary about right now. The law didn't allow me to, so we're changing the law.
QUESTION: Do you have the [inaudible] through Parliament? And have you spoken to the independents about it?
TONY BURKE: The independents were briefed on the issue this morning, but I was in a caucus meeting so I'm not able to give you an update on that. We'll make a briefing available to the Opposition this afternoon.
QUESTION: Mr Ludwig, can I ask do you have confidence in the Australian Fisheries Management Authority? When did your confidence start to wane in them? And how long has that been?
JOE LUDWIG: Now, let's be clear. That's what I said at the beginning. I've continued to have confidence in the Australian Fisheries Management Authority. They do a job within the legislative framework. What we discovered when I looked at the powers that I had – the legislative framework does not deal with the circumstances which we're now faced. That's where the level of uncertainty has come from.
If you go back and look at where the legislation came from, this is twenty year old legislation. That's why, again, today, I also announced a review of that legislation to make sure that we have appropriate legislation in place to meet both today's circumstances and tomorrow's circumstances. It's very important to keep that in mind.
QUESTION: Have the authorities been dealing with this boat for a long time? When did you first become concerned that it wasn't doing its job properly?
JOE LUDWIG: As I said, the AFMA continues to do its job very well. We have one of the best managed fisheries in the world. They continue to work within the legislative framework. What I've said, and continue to say, is the legislative framework does not meet the circumstances that are now faced – that we now face. And that's why – both with Minister Burke and I came to a conclusion that we do need to act.
QUESTION: But you can't be confident that it's doing a good job. [Inaudible] not confidence in doing a good job. You're at cross–purposes here.
JOE LUDWIG: No, no. I think you missed – between a legislative framework – they're doing a good job within the legislative framework that Parliament set for them. That legislative framework is now twenty years old. I don't think it meets community expectations any longer, that legislation. So what you're now talking about is the legislation, not the Authority. The Authority has been acting appropriately and well within that legislative authority.
When I asked for the…
QUESTION: What, when?
JOE LUDWIG: When the vessel first came across the horizon I asked the Department to look at what powers I had in relation to this vessel; what circumstances we should be confronted with. I also then had a stakeholder consultation. I spoke at the Rec Fishers' Conference, met with the Rec Fishers' Round Table. I spoke with industry about this; spoke with the community about this – about the types of circumstances that this vessel would pose in this pelagic fishery. I also met with environmental groups as well who came, I think, three times now to meet with me across – both with rec fishers on this issue.
The advice that I continued to receive continued to support the framework that we operated within. What it didn't give me was the confidence that Minister Burke and I are now seeking from this legislation to ensure that we do continue to have the best managed fishery in the world.
TONY BURKE: Can I say until last Monday we didn't know whether the legal powers that we had were going to be sufficient for the sort of precautionary approach we wanted. And our departments weren't sure.
Now, as of last Monday, we were left in no doubt that the legal authority that we had was less than we'd hoped for. So at that moment we started work on amending the law.
QUESTION: Minister Burke, isn't it a fact that the issues you raise – environmental issues for the by–catch – are, in fact, part and parcel of the risks that trawling does anyway? In other words, is the issue here the size of the boat, because there are other trawlers and other species get caught in their nets that they're not fishing?
TONY BURKE: The risk posed by this particular vessel is that it can remain in the one location for a very long period of time. So if you have by–catch of a protected species, effectively, it's one of the trade–offs that the environment deals with, that there will be some level of by–catch.
But, previously, we've had to deal with it spread across a massive area. Here, we have the potential for that to occur in a very targeted, localised area. That's what creates new issues. That's what I had hoped current legislation would have allowed me to take a much harder line on last Monday. It didn't, so we're changing the law.
QUESTION: Can you say why Melissa Parke's suggestion for a capacity limit on the trawlers isn't the way to proceed? Or is that something you might do based on the advice of the expert panel?
TONY BURKE: We can both have a go.
JOE LUDWIG: All right. You go first.
TONY BURKE: The concern with that sort of approach is I think you need to keep a clear sight on what you're trying to protect. And what you're trying to protect here is the sustainability of the ocean and, in particular, the species that are most at risk.
So any approach that's about gear or something else is automatically one step removed from what you're trying to protect. And I believe we're in the strongest possible position. If we look at what is it within the ocean that we're wanting to protect and get the information and the expertise that targets at exactly that and does it in a highly cautious way.
JOE LUDWIG: So the only thing I wanted to add to that is that, originally, back in, say, 2004 and before, vessels were managed by their gear size. In other words, input controls. From 2005 onwards, with encouragement of stakeholders, environmental groups, everyone considered moving to output controls was a more sensible place to land. So with the reasons Minister Burke outlined, plus I think that background provides that answer.
QUESTION: Minister Ludwig, did your department keep you informed about the negotiations that they were having for approvals for this ships for many years – you know, long before it came across the horizon?
JOE LUDWIG: Well, the information that I've got from the Department – and I'll go back and check – usually advises me – AFMA is an independent authority – they advise me when the issue becomes relevant to me for consideration. So that's only just come to its surface.
QUESTION: So you didn't know about the negotiations between AFMA and the people who – running the trawler until…
JOE LUDWIG: As I said, the information that's provided to me is usually only provided from an independent authority such as AFMA. When it becomes a matter that I either ask for or, secondly, it requires input from me.
QUESTION: So when was that in this case?
JOE LUDWIG: About the same time that the vessel appeared.
QUESTION: Over the horizon?
JOE LUDWIG: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you explain how this will be applied? Is it just specific to this vessel alone? Or [unclear]?
TONY BURKE: No, fishing activity, Mark. So it's the...
QUESTION: What's the threshold?
TONY BURKE: Well, the threshold is of sufficient concern that the two ministers agree, and they want to actually conduct the declaration. But understandably, the concepts today are focused on a particular vessel, and the concern with this vessel is best described by the storage capacity on it, because that defines how long it can remain in the same part of the ocean.
QUESTION: So no other vessel operating today will be affected?
TONY BURKE: Correct.
QUESTION: Minister Burke, just on that Murray–Darling Basin plan is it true that you're moving an amendment this week to give the authority the power to adjust the STL's or down without having to refer to Parliament and also where are you at with your negotiations with the states because they're likely to be pretty upset by a move like that?
TONY BURKE: Okay. Well, in the first instance the states have requested a move like that and are fully supportive of a move like that. The reason for what's being proposed – and there will be legislation introduced to the Parliament on this – is the authority will arrive at a recommended figure. At the moment, their recommended figure is 2750.
But an understandable question is asked and that figure will have a social impact, an economic impact, an environmental impact. Now, people will say, well, if you can improve on those why shouldn't you be able to? If you can get a better environmental outcome somehow without jeopardising social and economic, don't you want to do it? If you can reach the same environmental thresholds by using water more efficiently, wouldn't you want to do that?
So everyone has started to line up of the view that we want a mechanism of this nature. Now, our advice is that it would be permissible under the Act at present but there are no procedures in the Act at the moment which would have the tabling of documents in Parliament, automatic updates, things like that.
So the advice is they can already do it. Their recommendations from state ministers have been that they should do it and this legislation we give a guarantee – it would make it ironclad – that they could but also introduce some of the transparency features that I think are important.
QUESTION: Are you expecting any backlash from the states? In particular South Australia?
TONY BURKE: No, no, absolutely not. All state ministers and the South Australian Premier are aware of this path.
QUESTION: Back on the trawler, Minister, when this issue first came up the principle concern – and I think the concern of rec fishers particularly – is about localised depletion of fish stocks rather than by–catching them, and at some point it became an issue of by–catch.
Can you just tell us are you concerned, are you still concerned, about localised depletion of fish stocks as well?
TONY BURKE: The depletion of fish stocks argument goes to two things, one the target catch themselves but also the other species that then rely on the target catch. I don't think there's a whole lot of rec fishers who actually go out fishing for these particular small pelagic species. I think you'd find very few on that.
QUESTION: They're after the
TONY BURKE: Yeah, they're after the ones that eat them. So the knock–on impact on other species, my legal powers as environment minister go quite squarely to very specific species. They go to the Commonwealth marine environment generally but the targeted approach here and what I've referenced is very much – because that's where my legal powers lie, that's the ones that are activated by international conventions and therefore form part of national environmental law.
JOE LUDWIG: I think also to be fair, the original groups that came and lobbied and brought their submissions to me included both the Rec Fishing, particularly TARFish and others, but also included a range of ENGOs that had an interest in both by–catch, interest in particular local area depletion, right through to a range of other matters. I'm sure you could obtain their press releases from the time.
QUESTION: Mr Ludwig, after Four Corners you suspended the live cattle export, changed the rules for people that affected a lot of businesses. What you're doing today is going to affect a business which has been in negotiation with your department now, as I understand it, for some years. Do you think that it's reasonable that people see you as a sovereign risk when they're doing business with this government?
JOE LUDWIG: I'm confident that people will continue to invest in fisheries. We have one of the best managed fisheries in the world. We'll continue to have that. I think you look at the live animal export issue, one of the things we were missing from that is that self–regulation failed to work. There was no regulator regulating the area. What I did there was make sure we did put a regulator in place.
What we have is AFMA which is the regulator. What we found, which is a different circumstance, is that there still remains a level of uncertainty about how that legislation works, about how the regulator works within its framework.
TONY BURKE: In terms of the sovereign issue, can I just also flag there have been many countries around the world that wanted to take a highly precautionary approach to this particular vessel. Australia is not alone in this. We found out a week ago that we weren't able to be as cautious under current law as we wanted to be.
QUESTION: Can you give us an actual size that this will apply to, to the next vessel, or will it be just you two ministers deciding that this is a risk?
TONY BURKE: When you have uncertainty – you rarely have uncertainty because you rarely have a fishing vessel of a particular type that is fundamentally different in its operation to what you've dealt with before. It's unusual to have uncertainty. Fisheries Management goes through a fair bit of detail and you'll find neither of us being critical of the general principles of Fisheries Management.
But there were new issues this time around that they weren't able yet to be able to properly take into account.
QUESTION: There'll be nothing in what you're doing that will designate a size of the kind of the boat? It will be decided between the two of you as to whether or not it's a threat? Is that correct?
TONY BURKE: That's correct.
JOE LUDWIG: That's why I've also announced a review of the legislation, to go through and have a look at both community expectations, how the Fisheries Management Authority operates to look at all of those issues which have – for the last 20 years we've relied on but we do need to continue that, have another look at it to make sure that we continue to operate one of the best managed fisheries in the world.
TONY BURKE: But I should just add before Chris goes down this path of saying just two people, any declaration of this nature would be disallowable within the Parliament. So there's a parliamentary oversight of it as well.
QUESTION: Unless something hoves over the horizon in the future, you two ministers or two other ministers like you will make the choice about whether or not it's acceptable? There'll be no limit, there'll be size limit, there'll be nothing that business will be able to say, well, that's exactly what fits in within the rules and that's what doesn't.
TONY BURKE: Oh look, that's the case under Part 10 already. The difference is that you can't use uncertainty, you need to actually have the information about how much damage you're sure will be caused.
Now, when you deal with something new, that's information that's harder to find. So the concept of the legislation specifying, oh, we'll only apply it for something of this nature, if we'd written something like that when the legislation was first put in place this vessel wouldn't have been contemplated anyway.
So I think what you're describing there, in the sense if you look at the rest of the Act, is actually quite unremarkable. The challenge has been we haven't previously been able to act on uncertainty.
QUESTION: Minister, on forests in Tasmania, the forestry industry associations are expected to walk away from the talks today for a number of weeks. Is that the end of the road or can the talks proceed?
TONY BURKE: There are different views within industry as to what they should do and they are working that out now but there are a number of players, in a number of significant industry bodies within Tasmania that have very different views as to what they should do at the moment.
The challenge for them at the moment is actually something that is quite a separate issue to what has been being negotiated around the table. It goes to the nature and the structure of Forestry Tasmania into the future. So they'll work that out but the key next stage to unlock the talks will be for the Tasmanian Government to commence the buyback round and we certainly encourage the Tasmanian Government to get moving on the sawlog buyback round. They have the money from us, it's ready to go, we want it to be initiated and I do believe that will create the certainty as to how far industry can and cannot negotiate on behalf of their members.
QUESTION: With the super trawler, do you think – is the Labor Party completely, totally united on this issue or are there going to be people concerned with the decision you've made today?
TONY BURKE: Well, after a Caucus meeting we're always completely united. You'd be well aware of that. Look, I'm – certainly there were a lot of questions asked during the Caucus committee this morning but there were no speeches against it in Caucus today. So you know – and I don't want that to be a dare for someone to come up and say, oh I'm not incredibly happy. Can I answer that every Caucus member would have done this the exact same way? I've got no evidence to be able to tell you that everybody would but in terms of a deeply divisive issue within the Caucus I think you'd have to go looking elsewhere.
QUESTION: Given cattle producers are now taking legal action against what you – the ban last year, are, have you contemplated legal action in this plan?
TONY BURKE: Well as I said, in the question to Paul there is no quota currently assigned to this vessel.
QUESTION: Minster Ludwig, the Wheat Export Marketing Bill is listed and it can potentially be put to a vote in the House of Representatives at any time and potentially split the Coalition, given that WA wheat growers have expressed a pretty clear view on their agreement with the Bill and the Nats are opposing and the Coalition position apparently is to oppose it, while industry seeks amendments to take care of their concerns.
Are you thinking or planning on putting that Bill into the House…
JOE LUDWIG: I think that was a good summary of the circumstances which we face. I leave it to [unclear] to manage the arrangements in the House. The Wheat Export Marketing Bill is one which clearly Labor supports. We want it passed. There is industry concern, I recognise that. It is high time we moved past and allow the wheat industry to be deregulated. We've come a long way since the AWB and I'd expect the industry to continue that path of deregulation. It certainly provided good outcomes for them.
QUESTION: You spoke more about the AWB scandal yesterday, in the House yesterday, than you actually did about industry concerns. Is that where your focus is at this point in time?
JOE LUDWIG: I'm in the Senate, by the way, but I didn't speak yesterday about the AWB but – or the Wheat Exporting Marketing Bill. What I can say, and what I continue to say, is that it is important that industry recognise the need to move away from a regulated environment to a deregulated environment. They've recognise that domestically since the 1980s and they're now I think ready to embrace a deregulated environment.
Certainly, I was in WA last week and the PGA made strong representations to ensure that the Bill would pass. They look forward to a completely deregulated market and so do I.
QUESTION: But are you hearing similar concerns or that division within the Coalition around wheat marketing that it's similar to what's going on with foreign investment and the approval for the conditions of the sale of Cubbie Station?
JOE LUDWIG: It would be nice to have a clear picture from the Opposition in relation to this Bill, the Wheat Export Marketing Bill. They haven't to date been very clear. You've got Mr Cobb saying one thing, you've got those in the Senate saying other things. I think it would be nice if they joined at least on this issue about deregulation. One would have expected them to be clear about supporting a deregulated wheat market.
QUESTION: Minister Ludwig, just on live animal exports, can I ask why you rushed through the supply chain assurance accreditation for Pakistan after a boatload of sheep got stranded?
JOE LUDWIG: There was no rush at all. We have a tranche system. There's been tranche one, tranche two. We've been rolling out what's called ESCAS, to use an acronym, which is supply chain assurance. That's where the exporter has control of the animals as they move through the supply chains.
Where those markets can meet the requirements of ESCAS, that is where they can convince the regulator that they have a control of their animals right up to the point of slaughter and that they're independently audited, then the regulator will give that market access to those animals from our shores.
That's the way the system works. It's not I, it is the independent regulator that makes those independent decisions. What I put in place was a system which made sure that animal welfare was at the heart of the trade.
QUESTION: But isn't your system failing, given that there was a second investigation into a breach which was discovered by a third party, not by the system, it wasn't picked up by that?
JOE LUDWIG: And what…
QUESTION: Picked up by video footage of it.
JOE LUDWIG: And what I said right at the beginning when I first implemented the supply chain assurance, I said there would be mistakes that would be issues that arise. There would be compliance problems. I said that right upfront because this system by and large has demonstrated over thousands of thousands of animals have been – and we know and we can see how they move through the system and that the animal welfare issue was put right at the very heart of the trade, that we ensure that the exporters have full control of the supply chain right up to the point of slaughter and that it's independently audited.
And yes, like in any system we welcome those people who raised breaches with us. We will investigate every single breach. We will then use the compliance framework to go back to those individual exporters because now we can identify the individual exporter. We can ask them to guarantee that the issues that have arose they will fix and of course the regulator can then also bring our compliance framework to bear, like we have in the past. We also then have a history of compliance issues that arise with each particular exporter and of course the compliance framework is designed to escalate.
QUESTION: Minister, rather than demonising Australia's treatment of animals do you think that moves like ESCAS and the live export trade actually demonstrates that we're world leaders in terms of animal welfare and it helps to improve the standards? And that ending the live trade is a contradiction around animal welfare?
JOE LUDWIG: I support the live animal export industry. That's why we moved from a system where there was no regulation so you did not know what the fate of individual animals were. That left me with little confidence from overseas markets in what happens with animal welfare, little confidence with the community. What I said to them at the time they lost their social licence. It was very important that they rebuild that.
They demonstrated not only to the community but to the markets which we sent animals into that they can control the animals right through the supply chain. They can control them from the time they leave the, their shore – our shores right from the boat journey to the point of disembarkation and to the point of slaughter and then ensure that that is also independently audited so we can demonstrate this is a valuable trade, it's an important trade. It supports jobs and employment and commerce in rural and regional Australia, which is does need.
All of that relies on demonstrating to the community and I think to the world that we have a very good system in place which regulates and ensures animal welfare.
QUESTION: Are we world leaders, though, or are we just demonising our own people who support…
JOE LUDWIG: My…
QUESTION: Activists who want to close it down?
JOE LUDWIG: My view is it is a system that was long overdue.
TONY BURKE: Okay, thank you very much.
JOE LUDWIG: Thanks.