IN THE NEWS: On NOV 6, 2018
The former head of the Australian Crime Commission will investigate allegations that staff in the federal Department of Agriculture were told to keep quiet over their concerns about the live animal export trade.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has asked the former head of the Australian Crime Commission, John Lawler, to investigate seven allegations made by staff who previously worked in the animal welfare branch.
A recently-released independent review of the trade found that staff were not reporting their concerns because of a culture of fear within the department.
Mr Littleproud said the allegations related to senior officers warning staff against taking action.
"There are seven (staff) that have made allegations that they wished to bring forward evidence of wrongdoing by export companies but were advised by their senior officers not to raise them because there could be repercussions. That is not a culture I will ever accept," he said.
Mr Littleproud said nobody will be "beyond reproach" in Mr Lawler's investigation.
"I don't care what part of the department they're from or where they are now," he said.
"The reality is everybody needs to be held to account if we're going to reset this industry — I'm determined to do that."
The Minister announced the Moss review of the trade earlier this year, after revelations that more than 2,000 sheep died from heat stress aboard the Awassi Express.
It found there had been a catastrophic failure to regulate the industry, which former agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce presided over at the time of the incident.
The review also found that the removal of the Department's Animal Welfare Branch in 2013 was responsible for many of the regulatory failures.
But Mr Littleproud said his predecessor should not carry any blame.
"Barnaby Joyce was given information provided by the department on what was the best course of action," he said.
"His only fault was he trusted the industry and the industry didn't step up.
"A good industry culture is one that does the right thing, even when no-one's looking."
Mr Lawler has no special powers as a former Crime Commission boss, and the investigation announced by the Government today is internal.