Labor understands that animal welfare is important to most Australians including consumers, farmers and exporters. It’s also an economic issue; consumers and investors alike are demanding strong animal welfare standards and it is in Australia’s economic interest to deliver them.
More broadly, achieving the best animal welfare policy requires a strong national framework.
That is why at the 2015 National Labor Conference, we made a commitment to establish an independent Office of Animal Welfare, and to harmonise relevant federal, state and territory laws and codes. Labor’s approach will be good for producers, consumers and our economy.
Labor has also recently announced our policy to ban animal testing for cosmetics in Australia. Our policy will put an end to animal testing in Australia for cosmetic purposes and ban the sale in Australia of cosmetics and cosmetic ingredients that have been tested on animals.
Labor has conducted an extensive consultation process that has included the input of animal groups, industry, regulators, lawyers and 13,000 ordinary Australians who wanted their voices heard.
The vast majority of Australians told us that they do not believe animals should have to suffer for better cosmetics and we have listened.
It’s important that the Government allow debate on this Bill so that community views are heard and act in the interest of Australians by joining with us in passing it. We’re willing to work alongside the Government to ensure that animal testing ends in Australia.
The previous Labor Government took strong action on live exports, particularly after it suspended trade while it undertook a comprehensive safeguards review and implemented world’s-best processes to investigate and help prevent any cruelty to animals exported from Australia.
In addition, the former Government took the decision that no new markets could be established in the live export trade without a formal Memorandum of Understanding between Australia and the importing country.
Labor supports the live export trade as an important part of Australia’s meat industry, one which annually earns Australia around $1.5 billion in foreign exchange and exports to 26 countries.
However, Labor believes Governments should be able to provide all Australians with confidence in the management and regulation of our live export industry.
When in office, Labor put in place what is the best animal welfare system in the world, the Export Supply Chain Assurance Scheme (ESCAS). This regulatory regime forces exporters to show they have a plan to treat the animals humanely and provides a monitoring and auditing regime all the way from port to abattoir. The industry has trained over 7,500 people in Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe in approved animal welfare practices. Labor is proud that the ESCAS regime has dramatically improved animal welfare standards within the live export industry both in Australia and across the globe.
Labor believes Governments should be able to provide all Australians with confidence in the management and regulation of our live export industry. Heavy sanctions and penalties can be applied for breaches of ESCAS. They range from the suspension of an export licence, the cancellation of a licence, or indeed imprisonment. It also provides exporters with incentives to do the right thing because minor breaches should bring more oversight, regulatory burden, more regulatory delays, and more costs. Labor supports the appropriate and timely application of these penalties and believes that ESCAS regulators must be able to demonstrate in a transparent way, that exporters are paying a price for any demonstrated breaches.
Labor is highly critical of the Abbott-Turnbull Government’s failure to increase ESCAS resources to keep pace with growth in trade. To this end Labor has called on the Government to appoint an independent Inspector General for Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports. Labor has also moved a motion in the Parliament calling on the Minister for Agriculture to provide quarterly reports to the Parliament on the live export market, including details of any allegations of breaches of animal welfare standards, investigations undertaken and sanctions arising from found breaches.
Labor is committed to strengthening ESCAS to provide a regulatory system is good for animal welfare, good for farmers and good for exporters.