The Dept of Ag's dual role as facilitator of trade and regulator of animal welfare has never been more clearly put to the test than now.
Its now too late for any ship to leave by Jun 1. Will the 56,000 sheep currently being held in feedlots after the COVID-19 outbreak on the Al Kuwait be processed here in Australia in keeping with the government moratorium?
Or will the Dept prefer to expose the sheep to increased suffering and mortality to ensure that one export company and its workers in the Middle East benefit from the business of processing them rather than Australian workers?
The decision will be a test of the government's priorities.
It is also a test of the importance of the overwhelming public outcry that occurred with the release of whistleblower footage from the Awassi Express. The moratorium is in place because the public demanded that sheep should never again suffer and die like sheep in that footage, unable to escape the heat, unable to access water and bogged in faeces.
The Minister for Agriculture has backed away from taking responsibility for the decision already deferring to an unnamed Independent Regulator (and who knows who that is....surely not the Dept?). Will the "independent regulator" put an “independent observer” on board if they do breach the moratorium? If not, the Australian public will have to rely on whistleblowers to police the industry - again.