OPD: Animal welfare incident reports


I move:

That the Senate take note of the documents.

I rise to take note of the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry's letter about OPD No. 1304, which was a Senate order to release animal welfare incident reports relating to export registered abattoirs. I requested these documents after a distressing story was published in the Age detailing horrific animal cruelty at abattoirs. Many really disturbing incidents of animal cruelty were described. It was reported that vets employed by the federal agriculture department and stationed at export abattoirs spoke privately of feeling pressure from meat processors when raising animal welfare concerns.

My request that these reports be tabled was agreed to by the Senate on 9 February this year. But on 17 February, when the documents were due, Senator Bridget McKenzie told us that they were unable to comply and intended to respond at the earliest possible opportunity. On 29 March these excuses were echoed again by the Morrison government. Well—surprise, surprise!—that opportunity never came. Days became weeks and weeks became months, until, very conveniently for the coalition, the election arrived. It was, frankly, disgraceful to have run down the clock before an election to avoid producing documents that the Senate had ordered the government to produce. I am thankful that the Morrison government is no longer, but we still live with the consequences of their inaction. We are still waiting for those documents.

I do appreciate that the new minister for agriculture, Senator Watt, has now responded to my request and to the OPD, and I welcome with optimism his assurance that he will table the documents within this parliamentary sitting fortnight. If the new government are serious about transparency, they now have an opportunity to act like it. Every day that goes by without answers is another day that animals continue to suffer.