IN THE NEWS: On NOV 6, 2018
Agriculture minister asks former corruption head to investigate claims raised in Moss review.
The agriculture minister, David Littleproud, is sending in a former head of the Australian Crime Commission (ACC) to investigate allegations that departmental staff were dissuaded from reporting animal welfare issues in the live sheep trade.
The recent Moss review, which found extensive deficiencies with regulation of the crisis-prone industry, highlighted instances where former staff members in the animal welfare branch of the agriculture department allegedly had their reports "revised or redrafted to dilute or expunge findings which adversely reflected on the regulatory framework".
The former agriculture minister and Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce in 2013 abolished the animal welfare branch – which monitored the live sheep trade – as a red tape reduction measure.
Former staff members provided an in-confidence submission to the Moss review outlining incidences where they allege "recommendations by investigating officers were dismissed" when they did not align with reform measures being undertaken.
The report also mentions one incident related to heat stress on a shipment. "The investigating officer recommended that the heat-stress risk assessment output be checked by a departmental veterinary officer on loading, however the recommendation was declined by a more senior staff member.
"It was said that the heat stress risk assessment output was a not-core document under approved arrangements."
Littleproud said on Tuesday he was deeply concerned by the allegations referenced in the Moss review.
"I plead with anyone who has been in the animal welfare branch to come forward and give evidence so I can clean this culture up," the minister said.
He said he had asked a former ACC head, John Lawler, to investigate what had gone on in the department in the period covered by the Moss review.
"There will be no one beyond reproach," the minister said. "Everybody needs to be held to account if we are going to reset this industry".
Littleproud said he would not preside over a department where senior officials dissuaded colleagues from coming forward. "That is not a culture I will ever accept."
He said the industry would be in peril if conditions were not cleaned up.
The government has promised to overhaul the agriculture department and establish a new inspector general of animal welfare in response to the Moss review.
Liberal MPs Sussan Ley and Sarah Henderson and lower house crossbenchers have vowed to keep up pressure on the government to ban live sheep exports after the damning findings of the review.