IN THE NEWS: Sheep exporter's licence cancellation a federal decision, says WA premier

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IN THE NEWS: On JUN 23, 2018

Mark McGowan says that if the farming lobby has any concerns, it should take this up with Canberra.

The Western Australia premier, Mark McGowan, says farmers in the state concerned about the decision to suspend the licence of Australia's largest sheep exporter should "take it up with the federal government".

The federal agriculture department announced on Friday it had suspended the live export licence of Perth-based Emanuel Exports pending the outcome of a review into the company's response to a show cause notice, issued as part of a broader investigation into its animal welfare record.

The Emanuel Exports director, Nicholas Daws, has said the company will "cooperate fully with the department in its review".

Depending on the outcome of that review, it is likely that the two biggest live sheep exporters in Australia will not be operating over the Middle Eastern summer.

Livestock Shipping Services (LSS) announced this week that it had suspended its Australian sheep export business during the high summer — from July to September — because new animal welfare requirements imposed by the federal government following the McCarthy review meant fewer sheep could be exported on each ship, which made the trade uneconomic.

The WA Farmers Federation said it supported the investigation into Emanuel but that the cumulative impact of the licence suspension and LSS's decision would be felt by farmers.

Speaking to reporters in Perth on Saturday, McGowan said he supported moves by regulators to enforce high standards of animal welfare in the live export system but emphasised that the licence cancellation was a federal government decision.

Asked if he was aware of concerns raised by the farming lobby, McGowan said: "I am, they should make sure that they work to put in place high standards and if they have any concerns take them up with the federal government."

The WA government is also conducting a separate investigation into Emanuel under its own animal welfare laws and this week executed a search warrant to obtain the conditions of its export licence, among other documents.

The federal agriculture minister, David Littleproud, has criticised WA's decision to pursue its investigation while a federal investigation is under way, saying "it would be deeply, deeply disappointing if an active federal investigation was compromised by a political stunt".

The WA agriculture minister, Alannah MacTiernan, has repeatedly said that the state investigation, which began in February, was not a stunt but an attempt to enforce animal welfare standards in the absence of federal government action.

She has also consistently maintained that WA has capacity in its sheep meat abattoirs to process animals that would otherwise have been exported. About 600,000 sheep were exported from Australia, primarily WA, from June to September last year.

In a statement on Saturday, MacTiernan said she welcomed the suspension of Emanuel's export licence and that it "vindicates the work we have been doing to find alternative markets to supply during the Middle Eastern high summer."

"It was always going to be unsustainable to allow ships to go to the Middle East in the northern high summer months," she said. "The federal government's decision reflects that reality.

"We again extend our offer to work cooperatively with the federal government in our respective investigations into animal welfare issues relating to live sheep exports as well as in finding other ways of providing sheep meat to the Middle East".

Emanuel has been subject to public criticism since the release of footage of showing apparent animal welfare violations. The footage was centred around a voyage of the Awassi Express in August 2017, on which 2,400 sheep died.

The company has been subject to a number of reportable mortality investigations — mandatory public reviews by the federal department that are conducted on any live export voyage on which more than 2% of sheep died — in the past decade.

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