The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Joe Ludwig, announced on 8 June 2011 that the Government had suspended the export of live cattle to Indonesia until new safeguards are established for the trade. The six month ban followed a public backlash in Australia over footage aired on national television on 30 May 2011 showing the inhumane treatment of live cattle destined for slaughter in Indonesia.  

Within two days of the Four Corners program going to air, an Order was made under section 17 of the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act 1997 prohibiting the holder of a livestock export licence from exporting livestock to 12 listed places in the Republic of Indonesia. Section 17 authorises the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to make orders to be complied with by the holders of export licences under the Act.

The initial limited ban was followed by a blanket prohibition on the export of livestock to Indonesia. The legislative basis for the ban was twofold:

  • an Order under regulation 3 of the Export Control (Orders) Regulations 1982 – the Export Control (Export of Live-stock to the Republic of Indonesia) Order 2011  
  • an Order made under section section 17 of the Act - the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry (Export of Live-stock to the Republic of Indonesia) Order 2011.  

These Orders operated to suspend the export of livestock to the Republic of Indonesia (other than for breeding purposes) for a period of 6 months. The stated purpose was to enable the Australian Government to develop a robust regulatory and compliance regime to address concerns regarding slaughter of livestock (particularly cattle) in Indonesia.  

The Minister said at the time “this suspension will be in place until the Government establishes sufficient safeguards to ensure there is verifiable and transparent supply chain assurance up to and including the point of slaughter for every consignment that leaves Australia.”

On 7 July 2011 both of these orders were repealed by the Export Control Repeal Order 2011 and the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry (Export of Live-stock to the Republic of Indonesia) Order 2011 (No. 2). The second order provides that an exporter of animals for slaughter to Indonesia must obtain approval from the Secretary, who will only allow the continued export if satisfied that the holder of the livestock export licence has in place arrangements to ensure that the consignment of livestock exported under the approval will be the subject of transport, handling, slaughter and related operations which are in accordance with relevant World Organisation for Animal Health recommendations.

An independent enquiry into the live export of animals is currently being undertaken by Mr Bill Farmer AO. The enquiry is designed to ensure that exporters of live cattle meet the animal welfare standards expected by the Australian and Indonesian governments.

The terms of reference for the independent review will include:

  • consideration of facilities, treatment, handling and slaughter of livestock exported from Australia  
  • the preparation and export of livestock including responsibility for compliance and enforcement of relevant standards  
  • the adequacy and effectiveness of current Australian regulatory arrangements for the live export trade.  

Furthermore, a Senate Committee is currently investigating animal welfare standards in Australia’s live export markets. The committee is investigating and reporting into the role and effectiveness of Government, Meat and Livestock Australia, Livecorp and relevant industry bodies in improving animal welfare standards in Australia’s live export markets.