PM wants export fines action

By Country News

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has urged Labor to stop playing games, with a push to slap harsher penalties on dodgy live animal exporters.

The Federal Government wants new penalties of up to 10 years’ jail and multi-million-dollar fines for individuals and companies guilty of wrongdoing in the under-fire trade.

A handful of rogue Liberal MPs have threatened to support Labor’s move to amend the penalties legislation, effectively ending live sheep exports in five years.

In response the government has parked the bill, which was introduced after the industry came under heavy pressure when footage showing thousands of sheep dying on a Middle East-bound ship emerged.

‘‘What we’re calling on is for Labor to stop playing games with this legislation, support it in the form it’s presented,’’ Mr Turnbull said in Canberra last week.

‘‘The bill should be passed in its current form without this political tactical exercise of seeking to amend it.’’

The RSPCA, which has called for an end to live sheep exports, wants the legislation passed immediately.

National Farmers’ Federation is also calling for the political stalemate to end and immediate passage of the new penalties, while reiterating ongoing support for a reformed trade.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said Labor had deliberately stalled bigger penalties with a political stunt.

‘‘Punt the political games and let’s get a result for animal welfare and the people on both sides of this debate,’’ he said.

It comes as Labor revives plans for an independent watchdog to oversee the live export regulator.

Opposition agriculture spokesman Joel Fitzgibbon introduced a bill to parliament on Monday last week to reinstate the role, which was disbanded after Labor lost power in 2013.

Meanwhile in the Senate, independent Derryn Hinch presented separate legislation to end live sheep exports over five years.

Senator Hinch, who is a long-time anti-live-exports campaigner, dismissed ‘‘crap’’ arguments defending the trade, such as claims Australia had better animal welfare standards than other live export countries.

Labor’s amendment mirrors Liberal MP Sussan Ley’s private member’s bill to phase out live sheep exports and end the Northern Hemisphere trade.