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Ship central to live export furore cleared

The Awassi Express is expected to load livestock again later this week.The ship that sparked calls for a ban of live exports to the Middle East has been cleared by a regulator to leave Fremantle port after completing ventilation improvements.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority imposed the condition on Emanuel Exports’ Awassi Express after footage of 2400 sheep dying in filth and struggling to breathe in extreme heat was broadcast earlier this month.

But the ship must still be approved for clearance by the federal Department of Agriculture.

If that’s received, livestock are expected to be loaded onto the ship later this week, AMSA says.

The footage prompted federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud to launch an inquiry into the summer live export trade to the Middle East.

Animals Australia said the inquiry lacked independence as it was being solely done by a vet who works for the industry.

Mr Littleproud is also investigating his own department, which reviewed the deaths, but found no breaches of export regulations.

The Awassi Express may leave Fremantle with more sheep once it gets final approval from Canberra.

Other conditions include a 17.5 per cent reduction in sheep numbers and the presence of a federal government observer who will send back daily videos.

Nationally, there’s legislation before parliament to double penalties for companies that breach animal welfare laws, but Mr Littleproud also wants directors to face jail time.

Federal Liberal MP Sussan Ley is pressing ahead with laws to ban live animal exports altogether, despite efforts by farming groups to convince her against it.

Meanwhile, the industry has clashed with WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan, who is disappointed Mr Littleproud ruled out a summer ban and is trying to use the full extent of state animal welfare laws to enforce standards on livestock ships.

WA represents 85 per cent of Australia’s live sheep trade.

Ms MacTiernan said it was “highly unlikely” any work would have been ordered on the Awassi Express if the footage had not been aired.

“I think this really supports our proposition that the industry has not been operating up to standard and with this exposure, they are now being made to,” Ms MacTiernan told 6PR radio.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Tony Seabrook took aim at the minister, saying she was “whipping up” the furore and had an avowed policy to abolish the industry.

Australian Associated Press

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