The Turnbull government will not announce a summer ban on live sheep exports when it releases a report into the live export trade on Thursday.
The planned release of the report by livestock veterinarian Dr Michael McCarthy was abruptly cancelled on Wednesday after cabinet deliberations.
A government spokesman has confirmed the report is now scheduled for release on Thursday morning, and a second confidential briefing for stakeholders has been arranged after the initial briefing, slated for Wednesday morning, was put off.
The details of the report are not yet known but Guardian Australia understands the government is not likely to recommend banning the live sheep export trade between May and October, despite a recommendation from the Australian Veterinary Authority.
Government response will instead focus on the requirements for greater ventilation and air conditioning on ships, and a reduced stocking density. Both of those issues were terms of reference for McCarthy’s inquiry.
The federal opposition and the Western Australian state government have both called for a summer ban.
There are conflicting accounts about the surprising 11th-hour decision to delay the report on Wednesday.
Nationals sources say it was a unanimous decision by the five Nationals in cabinet to delay the report, and that they presented their argument to their cabinet colleagues on Tuesday and it was accepted.
Separate reports suggest the agriculture minister and Nationals MP David Littleproud was rolled by Liberals in cabinet and the delay was imposed over his head.
McCarthy was appointed by Littleproud to conduct the review of the live cattle trade on 10 April, two days after 60 Minutes aired footage of sheep suffering extreme distress on the Emanuel Exports stocked ship Awassi Express, which left Fremantle on 1 August 2017 and lost 2,400 sheep to heat stress.
The report contains a “very complex formula” that people will need time to think about. It is understood the Nationals wanted to receive more scientific advice about the formula before releasing the report.
Matt Canavan, the resources minister, said the government simply wanted to properly consider the review before responding to it.
“The key thing we would like to avoid is making the same mistake as has been made in the past, as has been made by the former Labor government and seemingly repeated by the Labor opposition today, and that is not to make a knee-jerk response here,” he told ABC radio on Wednesday.
“This is an industry that employs thousands of people. Their livelihoods and jobs are reliant on governments that make well-informed and considered decisions and I’m confident that Minister Littleproud is doing exactly that.”
Animal welfare organisations raised concerns last month about McCarthy’s appointment to conduct the review into conditions experienced by sheep on live export ships, saying there was a perceived conflict of interest.
McCarthy has more than 30 years experience as a livestock veterinarian and has worked most of his career in the live export trade.
He has acted as shipboard veterinarian on 65 live export voyages for eight major Australian exporters, including Emanuel Exports; conducted industry-funded research for Meat and Livestock Australia and LiveCorp; and acted as an expert consultant for Murdoch University and the University of Queensland.
But animal welfare groups say McCarthy’s extensive working history as a paid contractor to the live export industry created a perceived conflict of interest.
Source: The Guardian