IN THE NEWS: On JUN 1, 2018
The nation's biggest exporter of sheep faces a criminal investigation after the Federal Department of Agriculture revealed it had opened a fresh probe into Perth-based exporter Emanuel Exports over a disastrous series of voyages to the Middle East.
The West Australian has confirmed the department has issued the company with a "show-cause" notice — asking Emanuel to justify why it should be allowed to hold an export licence.
The Federal Government was yesterday forced to pull a Bill designed to impose more conditions on the live sheep trade amid fears Labor might have the numbers to ban the trade.
In a statement, the Department of Agriculture said it was conducting a criminal investigation into vision released by activist group Animals Australia that showed sheep dying in horrific circumstances in a series of voyages from Fremantle aboard the Awassi Express.
"This includes investigating allegations of overstocking of the vessel, failing to have sufficient food and water available, injury and illness not being treated and accredited veterinarians and stockmen leaving the vessel prior to completion of unloading," a department spokesman said.
The department said a "range of administrative processes" were under way as to whether other action could be taken.
Lawyers acting on behalf of Emanuel are understood to have made lengthy submissions to the department in regards to the show-cause notice on why the company should be allowed to continue to export.
Emanuel managing director Graham Daws had no comment when contacted yesterday.
Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud promised that exporters found doing the wrong thing would be held to account.
"I expect and hope the independent regulator is using the full extent of its powers," he said.
The Government withdrew its Bill that would have given regulators more power against rogue operators after Labor signalled it could amend the legislation to ban live exports.
It was feared Liberal MP Sussan Ley might cross the floor to vote with Labor.
Mr Littleproud said he was disappointed the Bill was pulled, saying Labor was playing politics.
The West Australian revealed this year Emanuel had been involved in two voyages to the Middle East two years in a row in which thousands of animals died of heat stress.
Those reports prompted the State Government to launch an animal cruelty investigation.
In April, 60 Minutes aired footage of sheep dying in terrible conditions aboard the the Awassi Express — kickstarting a debate about live exports.
A criminal investigation could also focus on the owner of the ship, as the shipping group takes responsibility for the animals when they are boarded.