Ms O'CONNOR - Minister, have you been updated by the TT-Line in relation to the suffocation deaths of 16 polo ponies in January 2018? I understand that this is a matter that's subject to legal action, but it is worth reminding the committee that the TT-Line could not convince Chief Justice Blow that it shouldn't be held criminally responsible for those pony deaths.
We have had exchanges with the chair of the TT-Line in relation to these pony deaths and it struck us at the time, in the previous GBE Estimates, that TT-Line management wasn't going to accept responsibility for their conditions of carriage and the deaths of those polo ponies. Many Tasmanians would like to think that there has been a change at some level in TT-Line's practices.
Mr FERGUSON - I hear where you are coming from and thank you for question. I will give you an answer that won't surprise you. As the legal process is now under way, I am not able to comment further on this matter.
Ms O'CONNOR - This is about animal welfare standards on the ships. That is not a matter for a legal process.
Mr FERGUSON - I am going to make some other comments and make it very clear that the Government supports the best possible safety and welfare of animals policies. We expect the Spirit of Tasmania operator TT-Line to also support this. They do, I am assured by the company management, that it takes it very seriously.
Ms O'CONNOR - It actually has paperwork that says it will not be held liable for anything that happens to the animals.
Mr FERGUSON - That's a condition of carriage?
Ms O'CONNOR - Yes, which no other freight companies we can find have in place, including Virgin, Qantas.
Mr FERGUSON - That is a question you will be welcome to put to -
Ms O'CONNOR - Don't worry, we'll do it again.
Mr FERGUSON - Can I answer the question? That will be a question that you are entitled to and welcome to present at the GBE scrutiny hearing, which is a House hearing this year. That may be an appropriate question to ask at that time and management can respond accordingly.
The Government must observe the process which is now under way without public commentary.
Ms O'CONNOR - With respect minister, you have avoided answering the question, which did not invite you to comment on the legal matters. Now I will have to restate the question as my second question, which happens regularly at this table, but there we are.
The question was, have you been briefed by the TT-Line about any changes that have been made to their carriage policies, their freight policies, in response to the suffocation deaths of 16 polo ponies in 2018? Has TT-Line made any changes at all that they have advised you on that improve animal welfare in freight on those vessels?
Mr FERGUSON - That is two different questions in one. I am not advised. I meet regularly with TT-Line. They are an excellent company with excellent management and I am not aware of any changes to the terms of carriage.
Ms O'CONNOR - Have you asked?
CHAIR - Order.
Mr FERGUSON - Can I answer the question? I am aware that separate to the terms of carriage of service, TT-Line regularly ensures that it is compliant with animal safety and welfare standards. In relation to the legal matter, I am not going to comment.