The government's failure to do anything of any substance in relation to systematic violations of its own animal welfare standards in relation to live sheep exports is consistent with its actions since 2013. As Agriculture Minister from 2013 to late last year, Barnaby Joyce worked assiduously to give the live export industry a freer hand in its abuse of animals, after Labor had toughened standards following the revelations of appalling treatment of cattle by the ABC in 2011.

Joyce's first step was to kill off a process that had been commenced under Labor to review the Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock. One of the issues on which the ASEL review team -- composed of a wide range of bureaucrats, industry representatives and some animal welfare representatives -- couldn't agree on in its 2013 report was on reducing the stocking densities on board export vessels -- one of the issues contributing to the high mortality rate and sickening conditions in which sheep are being exported to the Middle East. Rather than allow the issue to go forward for public consultation and risk pressure to reduce the maximum stocking density, Joyce killed off the entire ASEL review process when the Coalition entered government.