Tasmanian Times

Economy

‘Lack of public information on polo pony deaths after Tasmanian event worries vet, horse breeder’

First published July 17

Almost six months on from the mysterious deaths of 16 polo ponies, a senior equine veterinarian is baffled by the “unacceptable” lack of information, while an industry veteran is warning that without any answers the impact will continue.

The ponies died on a truck on the Spirit of Tasmania on the way to Melbourne after competing in Tasmania’s premier polo event at Barnbougle.

Veterinarian Michael Morris said there had been “ample time” since the deaths for all of the necessary tests and autopsies to be completed.

“Six months after the event the horse-owning public are entitled to know something about what may have contributed to the deaths of these ponies,” he said.

“Under normal circumstances you would get autopsy results within well under a month. Admittedly we are dealing with 16 cases here, and I can understand that sometimes results are inconclusive.

“But I think it is stretching the imagination to suggest they are going to be inconclusive in 16 carcasses.

“The fact that there was a lot of [dead ponies] would certainly take the relevant authorities a bit more time than usual. But six months is just extraordinary … ”

Read more here

ABC: Polo pony deaths still under the spotlight, pressure grows for answers

ABC: Minister refuses to release details of probe into polo pony deaths

ABC: Polo pony deaths: Animal welfare expert to quit over delays in Tasmanian investigations

Animal Justice Party: Animal Justice Party calls for transparency and accountability with investigations

Courtney doges question on mass salman escape and seal deaths

Cassy O’Connor: New Minister Walks Away From Predecessor’s Commitment on Animal Welfare

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22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Lyndall

    March 21, 2019 at 8:12 am

    I’m shocked; but why am I not surprised about this latest revelation? Two ABC News articles reveal DPIPWE’s state of transparency and how it operates (still) – this time in regard to the process of ‘investigation’ into the polo pony deaths:

    “Documents revealed under right to information (RTI) laws show the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment’s Biosecurity general manager Lloyd Klumpp emailed the RSPCA’s Andrew Byrne on April 17 last year with a list of five talking points.”
    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-20/biosecurity-gave-rpca-boss-talking-points-after-pony-deaths-rti/10920746

    “Tasmania’s Ombudsman has criticised the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment for “ignoring” requests to provide information relating to the deaths of 16 polo ponies, ultimately directing the department to produce documents or risk referral to the Director of Public Prosecutions.”
    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-03-20/dept-reprimanded-over-handling-of-media-request-into-pony-deaths/10916812

    I’m afraid I don’t have any confidence in Tasmania’s governance in general. (That includes the DPP e.g. re S N-F case and the TIC e.g. re DPIPWE’s FEP). Thank goodness at least for the Ombudsman Richard Connock. He’s operating in a very difficult environment.

  2. TORREN

    March 7, 2019 at 1:15 am

    Once again this issue is being covered up. These polo ponies died back in January of 2018. Just recently, I spoke to the owner of a beautiful dog that passed away due to carbon monoxide poisoning on this ship. Authorities constantly tell us it is an isolated incident but we know this is not true….several dogs, horses, birds and my own workmates have passed away because of this toxic work environment…I have raised this issue since 2010, as a former employee and because it is government owned and also known as the Bass Strait highway, I am constantly ignored and ridiculed…It makes me sick to my core that no one is prepared to stand up for our basic human rights, especially my dirty rotten grubby union officials….must be something in it for them

    • Clive Stott

      March 7, 2019 at 11:40 am

      From: Ruth Bannon [mailto:rmb@spiritoftasmania.com.au]
      Sent: Tuesday, 11 December 2018 10:24 AM
      To: cleanairtas
      Subject: Spirit of Tasmania – Email via website
      Dear Clive
      Last month, we received the below enquiry.
      Please accept our apology for the late reply.
      Sent: Thursday, November 15, 2018 4:35 PM
      To: contactus@spiritoftasmania.com.au
      Subject: Email via website
      Enquiry type: Vessel Facilities Enquiry
      Your message: Belinda Adams Exec. Officer for the Minister for Health Michael Ferguson DPAC has referred me to you for answers.
      Can you please advise if there is an air monitoring program undertaken on-board the two Tasmanian vessels Spirit of Tasmania I and Spirit of Tasmania II and if so, when did it commence, who does it and how often? Thank you.
      TT-Line does complete periodic air monitoring on board Spirit of Tasmania I & II via an independent third party. TT-Line vessels remain compliant with all applicable legislation and marine convention requirements.
      Kind regards
      Ruth Bannon, Customer Contact Centre Manager

      From: cleanairtas
      Sent: Tuesday, 11 December 2018 11:30 PM
      To: ‘Ruth Bannon’ rmb@spiritoftasmania.com.au
      Subject: RE: Spirit of Tasmania – Email via website
      Dear Ruth,
      Thank you for your email.
      With respect your reply is very brief and does not entirely answer my questions.
      When did the air monitoring program commence on-board these vessels?
      Who does the air monitoring? You say an independent third party. Who is this independent third party? Name?
      How often? You say periodic. How often is periodic?
      Further, you now raise the point that, “TT-Line vessels remain compliant with all applicable legislation and marine convention requirements.”
      Can you please be specific. What is the applicable legislation and marine convention requirements you refer to?
      Thank you. Kind regards, Clive S.

      To: rmb@spiritoftasmania.com.au
      Date: Sun 20/01/2019 1:30 PM
      From: cleanairtas
      Nothing heard, sending again…
      Thanks Ruth. Rgds, Clive S.

      To: rmb@spiritoftasmania.com.au; ‘contactus@spiritoftasmania.com.au’
      Date: 7/3/2019
      From: cleanairtas
      Sent again

      • Torren McMaster

        March 7, 2019 at 8:30 pm

        Clive, These ships were modified to take more freight without any inclusion of additional fans. They were not suppose to be modified as they are passenger ferries. Although I cannot tell you specially when monitoring started, I know I first raised the issue about the fumes in 2009-2010. The monitoring is performed by Bereau Veritas. Tests were usually carried out when there was minimal freight boarding. There have been times when the gap between monitoring has been over two years. Most ships have a monitor onboard but not the SPIRITS, even after the deaths of the polo ponies. There is a reason for this and also a reason as to why passengers cannot access their pets during the voyage, its because it is deadly on these decks. TT Line are not at all compliant. I can forward you on an open letter I wrote that will explain that a bit more…Regards

        • Clive Stott

          March 9, 2019 at 2:39 pm

          Thank you Torren,
          Cleanairtas is interested in any air quality issues, in particular Tasmanian air quality issues.
          When you can’t breathe nothing else matters!
          Contact details can be found at https://cleanairtas.com/
          Cheers….

    • MJF

      March 7, 2019 at 12:43 pm

      Torren
      There’s a person hereabouts who contributes by the name of max. Max is across all things political and environmental naturally enough and normally has a ready fix for all situations. That person is a very passionate union devotee and won’t hear a word spoken against the movement. Perhaps max might offer his/her support to your cause and help work toward gaining a supportive union ear. An ear which cant be spoken of highly enough. According to max that is.

      • Torren McMaster

        March 9, 2019 at 11:02 am

        MJF,
        I don’t think Max would like to hear what I have to say in the way I have been treated by my union for standing up for not only myself but my fellow workers. They will not even respond to me at this point in time.
        Regards

  3. Kevin Moylan

    August 7, 2018 at 3:20 pm

    These seven articles and 40 odd comments have been emailed to Michael O’Connor, National Secretary, CFMEU – FFPD – MUA, for his information and consideration.

    We are hoping he (Mr O’Connor) will meet with TT Line stevedore Torren McMaster, to receive his Whistleblowing witness and evidence.

    The CFMEU is our final hope in trusting unions.

    An Open Letter to all TT Line workers is in the pipeline .. if our unions continue to ignore and deny Torren’s plight. “Fight One Fight All” Comrades!

  4. Torren

    August 6, 2018 at 1:29 pm

    Garry, I would just like to thank you for all your input into our issues at hand that are seemingly being ignored by those who have the power to attend to them. If only there were more people like you that weren’t afraid to voice their opinion, we would not feel so isolated. Kudos to you.

  5. Kevin Moylan

    August 4, 2018 at 7:01 pm

    Letter to Shane Broad. Shadow Primary Industries Minister, Wilson St Burnie …

    Shane

    Rebecca White has been duly informed of these toxic ships. No reply, means two things.

    Doesn’t care? Or another orchestrated TasMANIA cover up of serious neglect of public health has been set in motion.

    Torren is not satisfied you pressed these matters to Minister Courtney with utmost diligence and tenacity.

    In fact, he challenges all political parties and unions, to “please prove me wrong.” THEY can’t and won’t!

    Don’t forget, he suffered death threats and his home (castle) was shot at by some sociopathic thugs

    who must have much at stake, or need to hide their illegal and unsafe activities – at any cost to others.

    ACTU Sally Mc Manus delegate has been in touch. “MUA are on notice.” Whatever that may mean?

    Kev Moylan Involuntary Whistleblower (thanks to your Peter Patmore) Spencer Psychiatric Clinic Burnie.

    p.s. Why don’t you investigate and help fix Tasmania’s cruel and archaic mental health system?

  6. Ian Rist

    August 4, 2018 at 1:54 pm

    The DPIPWE are the ‘experts’ at keeping things quiet. Secret Squirrel business is their specialty. Look at the way they have been able to keep the Fox Farce under wraps since 2001! The classic was the budget’s estimates hearing, 2017.

    DPIPWE Secretary John Whittington promised full cooperation with the British Ecological Society over the Sarre claim that ‘Foxes are now widespread in Tasmania’. What happened? Sweet Fanny Adams.

    Budget estimates hearing are another sick Tasmanian joke because nothing is ever followed up. “Business as usual” .. with most of it conducted in the Parliamentary dining room.

  7. Kevin Moylan

    August 4, 2018 at 11:35 am

    Wonderful writing Garry. Thank you very much for your feedback and support. Pass my book on please, and spread the good word; there is some hope.

    Kookaburra Karma is also happening here beside Fraser Island, with a thick fog over Sandy Straits and it’s dead calm and quite eerie. The Kookaburras are going off, as they were in Hobart when I bravely (at grave risk) returned to confront my assailants and persecutors, then finish my book, which I did.

    It’s two-years since my first book launch in my home town of Shepparton (Little Chicago 1970s). Another six were held in Richmond and Newstead Vic, Hobart, Somerset and Wynyard Tas, Fraser Coast Qld.

    My 85 year-old editor, Nick Hudson, a Coventry English gentleman, recently passed away. Nick published ‘SPYCATCHER’ – Heinemen, expected to sell five thousand copies … until Maggie Thatcher and Australia banned it!

    It went on to sell 8 million copies and Malcolm Turnbull rose to legal stardom, overnight. HEINEMEN Vs HOUSE of LORDS. 1984-85. By coincidence, I was backpacking and purchased my ‘illegal’ copy of Spycatcher in downtown New York.

    Unfortunately, the authorities never banned ‘One Flew Over the Kookaburra’s Nest’, highlighting what shocking psychopathology (mental torture) and systemic methods are used to break the humanity, will and spirit of ethical ‘involuntary’ Whistleblowers.

    Beware of The Unrecognised Socialised Sociopaths! THEY will become your downfall and despair.

    What hope is there for Tasmanians seeking justice into horses and human deaths on TT Line, when a Whistleblowing nurse can’t get an inquiry into assaults, threats to kill and attempted murder, using a motor vehicle? Currently TAS registered: 1989 Red Holden Apollo SLX sedan .. CS0034 … Who owns and drove this car?

    CHAPTER 13 KOOKABURRA. “Who let the dog’s out? Who? Who gave the orders? Who?” And still we don’t know, yet. Justice delayed is justice denied.

  8. garrystannus@hotmail.com

    August 2, 2018 at 5:35 pm

    …/
    Once I was at a daytime concert being given at La Trobe University. If you know that place, you might know that next to it was Larundel (forgive me if my memory gets some of this wrong). For anyone else happening to read my comment, Larundel was a ‘Mental Institution’ – not just an asylum, but more like a hospital. In those years, we had friends who had mental health issues. Lynton was a big, strong friendly bloke who’d been through the mill. Margie (a school-years continuing friend of ours) had ECT there at Larundel. Margie’s dead now, I’m sorry to say. You could look at it (‘life’) as a pack of cards. We all have such a pack, and in the pack is one card that we don’t (most of the time) want to see: the death card. Well, Margie’s death card came up too soon. I am so pleased that the nuns in Fitzroy ensured she had a funeral service.

    That lunchtime (?) concert at La Trobe, next to Larundel? Well, I remember being surprised to see that a carer had brought in a group of people from ‘next door’ (the mental hospital) and they were having a whale of a time … up there near the musicians, dancing without inhibition in the space between ‘the audience’ and the musos. I didn’t know how to take it, you see, because in those times people with mental health issues were simply (as you have noted, Kevin) locked away. But here someone was ‘breaking the rules’. Some carer was bringing these people into the outside world and was treating them as people should be treated: with respect and care. Me? I was way too scared to get up and dance, as were others around me. To be ‘cool’ you had (I thought) to appear to stay detached from what other people were doing .. show some reserve …

    In recalling this, a band called ‘Old 55’ comes to mind. I saw them somewhere once at La Trobe. Maybe it wasn’t at this daytime concert, yet maybe it was. They did “Roll over Beethoven ” and the lead guitarist (on the day), a Chinese bloke, really gave it a good going over. Maybe it wasn’t ‘Old 55’. Actually, I once saw Chuck Berry playing at Festival Hall … he even did the ‘Duck Walk’ … but that’s another story. Look, for anyone who wants to know about Rock n Roll, see Chuck Berry perform here [Here].

    Well, reading your book Kevin, I thought of you as similar to whoever that carer was who brought the group into the concert at the Uni. You were respecting your people as people. It comes out in your book, so ‘good cess to ye’.

    Finally, back to Torren: You’d remember Peter Wreith and John Howard’s attempt to kill the MUA? Patricks, Corrigan, Coombs. It was an intense period. At the height of it, when they were going to use the police to get the scabs into the Melbourne Docks (Victoria Docks?) I, like many others around Australia, felt I had to do something to support the workers. I drove to Burnie Docks where we gathered on the wharf, and stayed in groups during that night, listening to the radio updates of the Melbourne people coming down to the docks to support the MUA, of the police bussed in and lurking, of the train carrying scabs/Patrick equipment trying to enter with the crowd massing around it, the train driver finally declaring he was overcome by stress and couldn’t take the train in through the blockade. So it never got through. That was a night to remember.

    So it is not good to think that your union, Torren, has let you down, and that its members are scared to speak up for themselves. Many of the general public supported the MUA in that time and came out to support it on the streets/at the docks. But we weren’t supporting union intimidation of its own members. I don’t know what the truth of it all is. The Tasmanian Government doesn’t seem to want to let us know what’s going on. Thank you if you were patient enough, Kevin and Torren, to get to the end of this comment.

    PS: I just heard the Kookaburra laughing again … fair dinkum, in the middle of Lonnie!

  9. garrystannus@hotmail.com

    August 2, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    And thank you, too, Kevin for your comments. I don’t know what to suggest to sort this thing out. ‘It’ began with the startling news of the deaths of the horses on the Spirit of Tasmania. But now the issue is wider: the health of workers on the Spirit … it is now a wider issue. I would suggest contacting Matthew Denholm, The Australian’s Tasmanian journalist. In his articles, you can see that he ‘does his homework’. Anyway, I always respect what he writes and take his articles seriously. Also, would Four Corners be interested in doing a program on the unanswered questions?

    The Spirit of Tasmania is a GBE (government business enterprise). There have been the unexplained deaths of the ponies and there are also Torren’s claims of a cluster of deaths of maritime workers. The ‘owner’ of this GBE is the government … and (as I understand it) the government is refusing to allow the report on the ponies’ deaths to be published. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to wonder if the Minister is covering up for this GBE (the Spirit) to avoid damage to the Spirit’s reputation and thus to its operating margins/profit line.

    I am dismayed to think that MUA members might fear to speak out about these health issues as raised by Torren. This should never be the case that the rank and file must fear its own leadership. I believe in the cause of Labour (‘the worker’) and I am a rank and file unionist.

    Years ago, I was a bottom rung member of the Trades Hall Council of Victoria. I remember one night the then secretary (I think he was Jack Nicholls) of the Painters and Dockers getting up (we were in a protracted campaign against the State Liberal Govt’s moves to restrict what would come under Workers Compensation). This bloke stood up and told we other delegates that his fellas would sort things out (physically) if we delegates didn’t join them in full-on protest against the proposed changes. I had the feeling that night that it was we delegates who he was threatening, but maybe I was wrong. Anyway, the THC executive sold out and the delegates bought the executive’s ‘We have finally won … sign on the dotted line’ motion. That Painters and Docker bloke was found shot dead in his car on the Hume Highway. Reported as ‘suicide’ it was generally believed to have been an execution by elements connected with his union’s criminal activities and a factional war within it. [I’m not putting this as well as I might … it’s quite a while ago … 45 years or so.] Things have changed so much … like, when we turned up for the weekly THC Council meeting, the minutes/meeting agenda would be printed on coarse gsm quality foolscap (remember that?) and run off on a Gaestetner machine. (gawd, I hope I spelt that right!)] Check out the Royal Commission into the painters and Dockers [Here] to see how documents were published in those days.

    Kevin, I’m sitting here with a laptop on my knees, in the middle of Launceston. It’s Friday and I don’t work on Fridays. As I was just typing the last paragraph, I became aware of a bird calling out from a 100-200 metres away. It was a kookaburra! So I should tell you that: Yes, I have read your book ‘One flew over the Kookaburra’s Nest’ and I thank you for it. Kookaburras are not native to Tasmania as they were introduced, as I understand, in the 1920s or so. They’ve spread through the bush but I can’t say that I’ve ever seen one in the CBD of Launceston. However … I just heard one! Maybe it’s having a day in town, to catch up on some shopping or whatever (smile!)

    I’m sorry that things went so horribly wrong for you here in Tas, when, through others’ publication of some of your material – my memory’s getting a bit rusty here – you inadvertently/without choosing to … became a whistle-blower, and suffered for it.

    I wish you still had your dream property in the north-west. I wish you still had your horse (?memory is going wobbly again). I actually wish – for your own sake – that you hadn’t fought it. It’s obvious that you were a lovely bloke who loved the people in your care. Some of your book’s contents brought back some memories of mine …
    /…

  10. Torren

    August 2, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    The Member for Braddon has responded to my inquiry as follows:

    [i]Hi Torren

    Sorry but I didn’t get far.

    I sought to ask questions about the Spirits and in particular the death of the polo ponies, but the Minister would not answer based on the issue being subject to current court action.

    From what we now understand the issue with the ponies was likely to be due to heat stress rather than carbon monoxide. Hopefully we will get a better insight when the case comes to court as the Government is unlikely to give any further updates beforehand.

    Regards
    Shane
    Shane Broad
    Member for Braddon
    Shadow Minister for Primary Industries and Water
    Shadow Minister for Resources
    Shadow Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services[/i]

  11. Kevin Moylan

    July 30, 2018 at 11:05 am

    Thanks Garry (#4) for your astute research and care and concern for the health and safety of 70 odd workers, passengers and livestock on The Spirit of Tasmania vessels.

    We have sadly progressed from horse deaths to human deaths, and the ‘ongoing’ unexplained and under-investigated exposure and risks to public and animal health and welfare.

    TEN deaths in seven years .. is a cluster! When is a cluster not a cluster? When the government owns and operates those dodgy ships – protected by ‘do nothing’ Unions and their side-kicks who must do their dirty work … or it’s back on the chain.

    #4 … Garry states. Examiner 14 Feb, 2018. Jason Campbell, MUA Tasmania Branch Secretary “Called for a full and thorough investigation” (into the horse deaths). Without Torren McMaster we would virtually know nothing at all.

    The Maritime Union Australia has ostracised and banished, dismissed and excluded, and denied Torren natural justice and a fair hearing before the law, for seven unemployed and anguished years.

    The ACTU states “This is way-out of our league.” The ACTU and MUA refuse, point-blank, to meet with and receive Torren’s witness and evidence; the same ‘toxic’ evidence any diligent or competent employer or union should have thoroughly investigated, discovered and then disclosed for public scrutiny to find some solutions.

    Someone fired shots at Torren’s home, castle, refuge, somewhere to find peace! This is serious criminal payback for doing the right thing in the public interest .. (to be continued)

  12. Kevin Moylan

    July 26, 2018 at 11:14 am

    ABC News Hobart, April 2018. Hon Senator Andrew Wilkie states .. “I’m staggered. A cloud hangs over The Spirit and whether or not it is safe (two Spirits), over the department (DPIPWE) and whether or not it is effective, and indeed over the integrity of the government.”

    Mr Wilkie: Will you help and support these 60 – 70 MUA Spirit of Tasmania stevedores undergo full health screenings? They are too afraid to speak out for fear of Union and employer reprisals. They have been warned to never mention ‘those horses’ or make comments on Facebook in regard to their health status and causes of – or instant dismissal … (to be continued)

  13. Kevin Moylan

    July 21, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    #2 … Garry. “It would be most useful to know the sources of information regarding these claims.”

    Torren tracked me down via Facebook after I posted (from ABC investigations) my horse loving hurt and disgust at the horrific asphyxiation of 16 to 18 exquisitely bred horses.

    Only then did Torren confide and enlighten me about his seven year battle, and his role and function in alerting and informing his legally and ethically responsible superiors and ‘closed shop’ union delegates. A cluster of deaths and chronic illness has been established from DIESEL PARTICULATE MATTER from working in confined space.

    WE have much in common. We both suffer from some terrible afflictions, namely PTSD. Depression. ‘Involuntary’ Whistleblower Syndrome. Victim of Serious Crimes Syndrome. Denied Natural Justice Syndrome. Legal and Political Bastardisation Syndrome.

    Treated like Outlaws with those citizens refused and denied protection by the law. Both of us have suffered the loss of our careers and homes and been subjected to ‘payback’ reprisals, including physical and psychological assaults, death threats and attempted murder(s). Mine included a motor vehicle that tried to run me over, and the other that Torren’s home was shot at! We were terrorised and traumatised for speaking out in the public interest. Both crimes have never been investigated. Who gave the orders? Who?

    The ACTU and Maritime Union have failed to meet with Torren to receive and acknowledge his witness and evidence. I believe THEY don’t want to know.

    The impotent ACTU stated “This is way-out of our league. We usually don’t get involved in matters like these.” Mind blowing stuff! Hawke, Kelty, Ferguson and Kearney, would be mortified.

    Garry, be assured, when and if the time is right, and we are granted a Judicial Inquiry will full whistle-blower protections, then our (at current risk) sources will be subpoenaed to blow the whistle on these toxic ships.

    Our Honourable Senator, Whistleblower Wilkie, needs to lead the way by taking charge. The rest of the swamp is in total neglect and denial of its sworn duty. Those who challenge them are targeted and attacked unto submission, illness or death! The Van Diemen Syndrome. It almost got me … (to be continued)

  14. garrystannus@hotmail.com

    July 20, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    Thank you, Torren (#3) for your detailed account of conditions on the vehicle deck/s of the Spirit of Tasmania.

    Your comment about buck-passing brings to mind the business that remains unfinished regarding the former Fox Task Force, a parliamentary Committee, the Integrity Commission of Tasmania, DPIPWE, the Journal of Applied Ecology and Tasmania Police. Somehow, things seemed to go round in circles yet now appear to have reached a ‘dead end’. Police investigation … Parliamentary accounts committee inquiry … Police investigation … Integrity Commission investigation … Journal of Applied Ecology investigation … expression of concern regarding provenance of scats used by Professor Stephen Sarre … waiting on DPIPWE investigation … waiting for 14 months by my reckoning – or have I missed something?

    I can’t help but agree that there is a likelihood that the vehicle decks on the Spirit are hazardous to the health of those who work in them. I checked on Torren’s claim that there was a delay into the second week of February before the media got hold of the story. The story broke on 8 Feb 2018 and reported that the Spirit of Tasmania had left on Devonport on 28 Jan 2018 and arrived at Melbourne on 29 Jan 2018. A Mercury report on 8 Feb (‘Polo ponies death shock’) notes that 2 champion herding rottweiler dogs had died on board the Spirit of Tasmania in 2011, “with tests indicating the deaths were caused by carbon monoxide poisoning from the exhaust fumes of cars on board.”

    As recently as yesterday, with the investigation ‘still ongoing’, interstate endurance riders are being assured that “it’s OK to bring horses over on Spirit of Tasmania” and that DPIPWE has advised that “no ongoing concerns have been identified in relation to the ongoing movement of horses or other livestock across Bass Strait.”

    The operative word in that surely being ‘ongoing’. It seems to suggest that certain changes have been made since the death of the 16 ponies. I wonder whether the Government, the DPIPWE and the Government Business Enterprise known as the Spirit of Tasmania are keeping quiet on the matter lest any details they release might be later used against them in court. Furthermore, there is a business to protect, and it wouldn’t do to have earnings drop by letting people know what really happened … better to wait a few years until all the fuss has died down, then release a report, perhaps a day or so before Christmas, reassuring us of course that everything is OK, and so forth. Indeed, Tasmanian MUA branch secretary Jason Campbell (Examiner 14Feb2018) described the Spirit of Tasmania as “vital to our state’s agriculture and tourism” and called for a full and thorough investigation. The SMH article reported that some of the horses were valued at “well over $100,000 each”. Combine those losses with subsequent loss of income, legal fees and what-have-you, and we’d have to wonder whether the $1 m or so operating profit line of the Spirit will dip into the red.

    Andrew Williams, owner of some of the ponies that died (and manager for others belonging to Johnny Kahlbetzer – agribusiness, property, venture capital, resource operations and owner of Jemalong Polo Club at Forbes) has told the SMH 9 Feb 2018:

    “I have asked for answers, but have received nothing.

    “What I know is I saw 18 healthy horses on my truck just before departure in Tasmania, and an hour after leaving the boat in Melbourne I discovered 16 of them were dead and cold. I am a farmer, a polo player and a breeder of ponies. They are the reason I can feed my family. To have that taken away is gut-wrenching.

    “It is with the legal team now, and hopefully they will receive the answers I deserve.”

    But of course, it’s not OK, is it? At least, not until all stakeholders – and that includes we Tasmanians – know and understand what happened, and what the health conditions are for animals and for those people who work and travel on the vessel.

    A stone wall has gone up around this matter. We cannot see in, and the media don’t seem to have been able to crack it. And inside, those who know aren’t saying much. Without Torren McMaster, we’d know virtually nothing at all.

  15. Torren

    July 19, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    Garry Stannus, In response to your comment I will do my best to answer but hopefully you can understand that I cannot release my sources of information just now.

    I first raised issues about the air quality on the Spirit of Tasmania in 2010 because a number of workers were feeling the full effects of working in Diesel particulate emissions.The Spirit of Tasmania was classed as a passenger ferry, but over the last few years freight had doubled and the ship’s back door had a roller door put on which stopped air flow.

    Any window openings in the vehicle deck were fitted with perspex, thus making it a confined space with nowhere for these toxic substances to escape except stick to the deck-heads and bulkheads of the ship .. not to mention the amount of particles floating in the air.

    The amount of lost-time injuries was the highest in the land due to working in these conditions, and I have constantly asked why there has been no coronial inquests into the deaths of 10 of my former workmates I have not received an answer to that question.

    With regard to refrigerated containers: the number running on a diesel cycle is two on the port side and two on the starboard side, but due to constant problems with electrical plug ins such as water damage, short circuiting, and being run over by trucks etc, the diesel cycle would automatically kick in, and it was not uncommon to have 6-8 running on either side. As I am still in contact with a number of my former workmates I was told on the night the horses passed away that there was 10 on a diesel cycle and 2 of those were right next to the horse float.

    As I have stated I cannot release my sources, but I have had confirmation that the horses died of asphyxiation, and it was definitely around 2 am .. which meant they were in the middle of Bass Strait.

    The company completely disregard safety first, which was proven in this instance as the horses died on the 29th January but it did not release any of this news to their staff until the 7th or 8th of February when it was brought out in the media.

    How the authorities investigating the incident can come out and say the company has complied with all regulations is beyond me considering that they carried out that investigation on an empty vessel yet still won’t release any results to prove that workers or livestock aren’t facing any imminent danger on a daily basis.

    The fact that livestock owners cannot attend to their animals during the voyage speaks volumes. It is a toxic balloon where the animals are trapped for the whole voyage.

    With regard to the investigation: TT Line is saying it is run by AMSA. AMSA is saying it is DPIPWE and Freedom of Information can’t give you any. So 16 horses died and not one person in authority can tell anyone what happened to them, whilst men and women have to work in these conditions without any interruption to the Bass Strait Highway. As the company’ s motto states … Zero Tolerance.

    There is only one reason why they are not releasing the results …

  16. garrystannus@hotmail.com

    July 17, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    So we have widening claims involving the Spirit of Tasmania:
    1. In the last TT article on this topic
    [“Death of horses still being investigated”: Here] Kevin Moylan (in the comment thread) suggested that “16 horses were gassed to death at 2.00 am. In the middle of Bass Strait!” and seemed to have suggested that the deaths of these horses may have been to do with the (unconfirmed) presence of “10 diesel powered containers” that may have been in use “very near to the horses”. Kevin also wrote, in relation to such refrigerated containers, that “Regulations state – TWO is absolute MAXIMUM”.

    2. Kevin in that comment thread also suggested that Torren (here at #1) had information which seems to suggest that 10 MUA workers/seamen on “toxic boats” such as the Spirit of Tasmania had died in the last seven years and in relation to that mentioned “foreign toxic and readily identifiable synthetic mineral fibres, asbestos and carcinogens”

    It would be useful to know the sources of information regarding these claims. An interesting letter was published recently (Mercury 16July2018):

    Answers on horse deaths
    IT defies belief that some six months after the event we still have no answers as to the causes of the Bass Strait horse deaths. Where is the outrage at this farce, because that is what it is when we continue to be told “it is under investigation and results will be available in due course”. In the meantime, horses continue to be sent across Bass Strait in increasing numbers and owners must simply hope there is no repeat. The delay inevitably invites speculation. My own view is that truck design has a role to play. Almost all trucks rely on a passive ventilation system that requires truck movement for air flow. This is absent with a stationary truck in the hold of a ship. Combine this with a truck capable of holding 20-odd horses (only a recent phenomenon) and the potential for build-up of noxious gas is compounded. Regardless of the causes, the public have a right to know, particularly if it has ramifications for future truck design because horses continue to be sent in the same old trucks. When will the next tragedy occur? Is there anywhere in Australia where there would be a transport death of some 16 high-value horses and seemingly such little concern.

    Michael Morris Equine veterinarian, Longford

    Members of the public, such as myself, must surely be wondering why there are yet no answers from DPIPWE, nor from its Minister, Sarah Courtney.

    And why, we might well ask, did newly appointed RSPCA CEO Dr Andrew Byrne – who originally called for the release of information “as soon as possible” later tell ABC radio

    “Now that I know the complexity of the investigation, and having been involved in very complex investigations myself in the past, it can take a couple of years before you finally get that information all tied together and in a position where you could tell people about it”?

    And why, we might also ask, has Malcolm Caufield (Animals Australia’s representative on Tasmania’s Animal Welfare Advisory Committee recently resigned from that position? ABC reports that his resignation is over what he says is a “completely disappointing” lack of progress and deep-seated problems with the way [the Govt/DPIPWE] handles investigations.

    Why did Treasurer Peter Gutwein advise [us] that “they should have faith in TT Line”? Are the answers ultimately ‘commercial-in-confidence’?

    The autopsies were apparently completed in February – why can’t we know the results?
    The pathology reports were released to DPIPWE “months ago” – why can’t we know the results?

    What a wonderful quinella: Minister Sarah Courtney and DPIPWE…

  17. Torren

    July 17, 2018 at 1:26 am

    As a former worker on the Spirit of Tasmania I cannot believe some of the statements these authorities are making.

    The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment says it has provided the RSPCA with information and tells the Equine Industry there are no ongoing concerns. I would like to know how they came to this conclusion when they investigated an empty ship and what if any samples were taken.

    I have an Industrial Chemist report that states otherwise. I have been delving into this issue for over 7 years for the benefit and health and safety of current employees. The results to this investigation needs to be released immediately because someone is accountable for covering it up. This issue has been ignored for years and as Dr Morris says, we are being kept in the dark .. and that is not acceptable but its not only livestock that are at risk here..

    Of all the Authorities I contacted, I have not been able to obtain one bit of information about the investigation. They included (DPIPWE), AMSA-Australian Maritime Safety Authority, Freedom of Information, Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner and the Spirit of Tasmania Right to Information..

    The Autopsy was completed within three weeks of the event. The withholding of information is an absolute disgrace when there is so much at stake here.

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