Senator FARUQI: My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Senator McKenzie. Minister, the Moss review was highly critical of the Department of Agriculture as the regulator of live exports, and there is immense public concern about the cruelty of live animal exports. Despite this, your department has recently refused a freedom-of-information request from RSPCA Australia for footage taken aboard the 2018 voyage of MW Al Shuwaikh on which 609 sheep died, including many from smothering. Does the minister consider it appropriate for this footage to be hidden from the public?
Senator McKENZIE: Thank you, Senator Faruqi. The Department of Agriculture are the regulator of live animal exports in this country, as you know, and they take that role incredibly seriously. We as a nation can be confident that the system we've put in place in response to the Moss review and the McCarthy review, which were instigated as a result of the horrific voyage last year on the Awassi Express, has been a very, very strong action and has resulted in significant changes in behaviour by many animal exporters. We have seen voyage mortality rates go down to 0.1 per cent, which is astounding given the trigger for investigation is at one per cent. That's as a result of changes in stocking density and making sure the animals have—
The PRESIDENT: Senator Faruqi, on a point of order?
Senator FARUQI: My point of order is on direct relevance. Half the time has passed. I asked about a specific voyage and about specific footage that the department has refused to release. I'm asking the minister if she thinks it's appropriate for that footage to be hidden from the public.
The PRESIDENT: Senator Faruqi, you have reminded the minister of the question. I'll continue listening very carefully. Senator McKenzie.
Senator McKENZIE: Senator Faruqi, I'll take on notice the details of that particular voyage and footage, and get back to you as soon as I can. With respect to the decrease in mortality, as a result of the tough action taken by this government last year, we've seen a significant improvement, and that has been the change to stocking densities. Animals are able to have more room and air around them, but they're also able to access food and water whenever they need, rather than in a restricted manner. That, as we've seen, has led to not only lower mortality rates but also, indeed, higher animal welfare outcomes. Our government is absolutely committed to ensuring that Australians can have confidence that both the live sheep industry and the live cattle industry are conducted with appropriate animal welfare standards and can continue to employ the thousands of Australians that they do.
The PRESIDENT: Senator Faruqi, a supplementary question?
Senator FARUQI: Minister, I might enlighten you: your department rejected the request for footage, and one of the reasons they gave was that it might lead to criticism of the live animal export industry. Minister, have you or your staff discussed this FOI request with the Department of Agriculture; and, if so, what was the nature of those discussions or correspondence?
Senator McKENZIE: As the department is the independent regulator, it would not be appropriate for me or my office to discuss an independent investigation. T
he PRESIDENT: Senator Faruqi, a final supplementary question?
Senator FARUQI: Minister, more than 600 sheep have died, and thousands more actually fought for space as they suffered in extreme heat. The independent observer noted that she could barely breathe for eight long hours. Could the minister rule out that there has been any involvement from her office or from her in preventing the footage from being released?
Senator McKENZIE: Again, Senator Faruqi—not from me. The department is the independent regulator, and, as such, decisions around how the trade is regulated and investigated are within its purview.