Secretary Fennessy addresses the Bahijah saga – 11 am today

The Federal Department of Ag Secretary, Adam Fennessy addressed the media at 11 am WST/Fremantle time today 4 February 2024, about the latest situation with and on the MV Bahijah.

Sounds like the lawyers for everyone concerned are working overtime to make a ‘lawful decision’, whatever that may be.

Here’s what Mr Hennessy had to say.

Good afternoon everyone, thank you for coming.

I’ve invited you here today to give you an update on the welfare of the livestock on board the MV Bahijah that is currently off the coast of Fremantle, Western Australia. I will update you on those animals that disembarked the vessel on Friday, and I will invite any additional questions from you on the issue.

I am pleased to advise that daily reports from the veterinarian on board the vessel continue to indicate there are no significant health or welfare concerns with the livestock that remain on board the vessel.

In respect of the livestock that were successfully discharged from the vessel on Friday night at the request of the exporter, these animals are being held under strict biosecurity controls at appropriate premises. Veterinarians visited the livestock yesterday and the Australian Chief Veterinary Officer, Dr Beth Cookson, is in regular contact with the Western Australian Chief Veterinary Officer in respect of the livestock.

At this time no final decision has been made by my department officials with respect to the livestock on the MV Bahijah. The department continues to assess the application to re-export the livestock provided by the exporter as a matter of priority. I want to emphasise that my department makes decisions on the basis of the application of the commercial exporter, taking into account all legislative requirements and relevant information.

We understand the strong interest in the issue – both from a biosecurity and from an animal health and welfare perspective. My department must make complex decisions for this unique situation that balance export legislation, biosecurity requirements, animal welfare considerations and the requirements of our international trading partners.

Right now, the ship is currently off the West Australian coast and is undertaking some routine cleaning. It is adequately provisioned for the livestock on board.

We have been asked about why the decision is taking so long?

The legislation that our department is responsible for is very clear as to what the decision maker must consider and the process by which it must be considered.

The legislation sets out what the decision-maker must consider and be satisfied of in order to approve an application for export, including:

* The legislative requirements have been met, including those in the Export Control Act and Animals Rules.
* That importing country requirements have been or will be met before the livestock are imported into the importing country, for example, if an import permit is required and has or will be been obtained.
* Arrangements for the voyage are appropriate to ensure the health and welfare of the livestock.

The process for making the decision requires the decision-maker to:

* Carefully consider all relevant information to the decision, which can involve substantial amounts of information from a variety of sources and must be updated as circumstances change, especially information submitted to us by the commercial exporter.
* Provide the commercial exporter with procedural fairness, including giving the exporter time to consider and respond to certain types of information.
* Ensure that the department’s decision maker has satisfied any procedural and other requirements in the legislation in order to make a lawful decision, such as providing a notice of decision in writing.

There’s been a report that the animals that have been unloaded will be processed in Victoria – is this correct?

No, we have no information to support that proposition at this time. Any movement of the animals on Australian soil will be subject to appropriate biosecurity requirements to safeguard Australia’s biosecurity.

Watch this space.


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