Tasmanian Times


‘Spirit of Tasmania owners sued over the deaths of 16 polo ponies amid claim they died on board’

The Spirit of Tasmania operator TT-Line is being sued for negligence over the death of 16 prized polo ponies that crossed Bass Strait in January.

Former captain of the Australian polo team and national polo identity Andrew Williams lodged the writ in the Victorian Supreme Court on Friday against TT-Line Company and logistics company QUBE Holdings Limited.

The ponies died on a horse float that had been driven by Mr Williams and had crossed Bass Strait after competing at Tasmania’s premier polo event at Barnbougle, in the state’s north-east.

The civil claim, seen by the ABC, alleges the ponies died between boarding the ferry at Devonport for the 7:30pm departure to Melbourne and about 2:00am.

Mr Williams alleges TT-Line and QUBE Holdings caused the death of the ponies by failing to provide a safe environment, adequate checks and airflow for the animals while on the ship.

Mr Williams, his partner Rebecca Ann Williams, Twynam Agricultural Group and Willo Polo pony mangers are seeking $639,000 for loss of the horses and $100,000 for loss of profits and wages.

The writ claims TT-Line was negligent as they failed in their duty of care over the horses whilst aboard the Spirit of Tasmania …

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  1. O'Brien

    October 8, 2019 at 11:16 pm

    It’s all so the rich can ride around in circles pretending they’re a cross between Prince Charles and Genghis Khan.

    What a pack of twits!

  2. Garry Stannus

    October 7, 2019 at 12:51 pm


    Men face court over pony death

    “Two men have pleaded not guilty to charges relating to the death of 16 polo ponies being transported across Bass Strait to Melbourne on the Spirit of Tasmania last year.
    Andrew Williams rides on a horse.
    Photo: Andrew Williams has spoken of his distress over the ponies’ deaths. (Supplied: Willo Polo)

    The ponies had competed at Barnbougle Polo and were found dead in the truck about an hour after arriving in Victoria.

    Former Australian polo captain Andrew Williams, who was the driver of one of the pony transport trucks used, is accused of using a method of management reasonably likely to cause unreasonable and unjustifiable pain and suffering, and failing to ensure the horses were individually stalled.

    Thomas Martin, who was driving another pony transport truck on the crossing, has pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of transporting horses that were not individually stalled. No horses died on that truck.”

    • Simon Warriner

      October 7, 2019 at 8:57 pm

      Perhaps the discovery process will allow the report into the cause of death of the ponies to finally see the light of day.

    • Lyndall

      October 8, 2019 at 10:51 am

      The charges against TT Line are yet to be heard.

      Interesting though, that we (I at least) still don’t know exactly what the Spirit of Tasmania operator is charged with. I assumed it would have something to do with the air quality on board due to the diesel emissions, as perhaps exacerbated by poor fresh air flow in the ship’s transport holding area where the horses were. If so, when combined with the sardine-style packing of the horses on the trucks, then the two factors might explain the deadly outcome.

      “Two of the defendants charged in relation to the deaths of 16 horses aboard the Spirit of Tasmania in early 2018 have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

      Both cases have been adjourned until November 7 at 9.45am in the Devonport Magistrates Court.

      Spirit of Tasmania operator TT Line was also charged in relation to the deaths but that matter has been adjourned without plea, also until November 7 at 9.45am in the Devonport Magistrates Court.

      The charges were brought against the three parties after an investigation undertaken by the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment.”


      Simon, I hope that the report to which you refer does see the light of day. Perhaps this may be some time after November 7.

  3. Mike Seabrook

    January 20, 2019 at 7:51 pm

    Why is the Tassie government running ferries? Why have they not been sold off to commercial operators?

    What is insurance for?



    Poor grammar is not welcome here. The responsibility for getting everything right rests with the author. Neither carelessness nor laziness are admired.

    Please format your contributions in conventional English. You can capitalise a letter with the SHIFT key.

    Moderators can delete unconventional Comments, or those difficult to comprehend.


  4. garrystannus@hotmail.com

    January 20, 2019 at 8:21 am

    π‘΅π’π’˜ 𝒐𝒏𝒆 π’šπ’†π’‚π’“ 𝒐𝒏 𝒂𝒏𝒅 π’˜π’† π’”π’•π’Šπ’π’ 𝒅𝒐𝒏’𝒕 π’Œπ’π’π’˜:

    See ABC Report at ( https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-19/polo-pony-deaths-spirit-of-tasmania-one-year-on-analysis/10722226 ).
    The Tasmanian state government has a vested interest in its GBE, the π˜›π˜› π˜“π˜ͺ𝘯𝘦.

    To set up another of its organisations (π·π‘ƒπΌπ‘ƒπ‘ŠπΈ) to investigate the deaths of those horses was perhaps not ‘the best of moves’ though I suppose there may have been no alternative.

    But, speaking personally, DPIPWE has long lost my respect. That began when it supported the (then) proposed Long Reach pulp mill, and it did so though its failure to properly oversee the FEP / Fox Taskforce.

    I wish the investigation report was released. It seems contrary to the principle of open-government not to do so.

  5. Torren

    September 2, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    The truck obviously passed some sort of standard to carry livestock, and the horses in a similar truck on the other side of the ship all survived. Working in these conditions for a number of years caused serious health concerns and neither the company QUBE or the transporter did anything to deal with the issues that were put forward, and in fact they made them worse.

    The autopsy results show that the horses died at 2 am, which means they were in the middle of Bass Strait. How the company can say there has been no deaths in the past 12 months shows that they are going to deny or confront the issue with Diesel Particulate Emissions

    Simple solution here: Ask for the monitoring that took place that night and the Master’s report on the morning of the 29th January.

  6. Kevin Moylan

    September 2, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    Be warned mainlanders and foreigners! #15 .. “We do things a little differently here in Tasmania and we do not like being told what to do by mainlanders.” Welcome to Tassie, outsiders.

    What a xenophobic ‘boys club’ and incestuous culture TasMANIA is! Exactly what ruined my health and career, forced to flee that scurrilous and tainted island, back to the mainland, sick, sad and destitute. Next patient/sucker please!

    It can and will be argued, the impotent Maritime Union Australia, Vic and Tas branches, were alerted from 2010 to 2018 that exposure to diesel fume emissions and diesel particulate matter and ‘hazardous substances’ in ‘enclosed spaces’ exceeded national minimum standards of 400 ppm to 1,000 ppm.

    The trouble is, The ACTU, CFMEU-FFPD-MUA will not accept and recognise, then act upon, Mr McMaster’s witness and evidence; not only to safe livestock travel, but the public health cluster of 10 deaths in 7 years, and chronic illness and premature death to TT LINE and QUBE stevedores.

    Conflict of interest(s) Unions and Government Business Enterprises (a shipping company) means the sick and dying workers have no-one to fight for their health and welfare.

    Zero Tolerance! Those ships must sail, no matter what. We do things differently in ‘our’ Tasmania where human decency and the rule of law counts for nothing; and who’s going to stop them and search for and discover some Spirit of Tasmania truths?

    Unions are obsolete if they can’t, or won’t, do the right thing for their workers who are too afraid of their union delegates to ‘stand up and speak out’! Then you will suffer death threats and your home will be targeted, shot at!

    Cement boots or free (public interest) speech, which one do you prefer? Democracy is not happening!

  7. Rob

    September 1, 2018 at 11:39 pm

    #9 … Yes, I agree that the ventilation of the horse truck itself seems very inadequate for several horses. It’s probably all OK when the truck is on the move, but it looks very poor for a stationary situation, let alone within the hold of a ship.

  8. The Insider

    September 1, 2018 at 11:22 am

    Working in Tas I remember clearly a discussion with my supervisor re a serious WHS breach of an Australian Standard.

    I was told we do things a little differently here in Tasmania and we do not like being told what to do by mainlanders. I left that employer!

  9. William Boeder

    August 31, 2018 at 10:17 pm

    #13 … Fair go, Russell, how about the dogs and the pigeons, then the unrecorded deaths nobody is any the wiser of?
    I don’t feel comfortable when persons are speaking in the defence of the cause of the unwarranted deaths.
    Though the comment from John Bignell warrants some level of consideration, even though the atmospheres below decks have been demonstrated to be a serious health danger to humans then quite lethal to animals being transported below decks.
    For those who think otherwise the integrity of justice is a word that has no real standing in the State of Tasmania’s Just-us Department.

    Yes, I am able to provide validated case examples, however, my advice about the word ‘justice’ is just to let people know the odds that the State’s Exclusives will set and direct against the people who dare to think otherwise.
    Tasmania is still being governed by the decrees of the 1830s.

  10. Russell

    August 31, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    You’d have to admit that not checking your animals being the very first thing you do when you go down to your vehicle is pretty weird, and not the normal thing any responsible person would do.

    And who says they didn’t die somewhere between leaving the ship and stopping an hour later to check them?

    I think Williams might have a problem proving in Court that they actually died on the ship.

  11. John Bignell

    August 31, 2018 at 3:20 am

    #11 … Reading other media you’ll see TT Line is stating “we have no record of any animal deaths on our vessels in the last 12 months.” (sic)

    In other words, they are not going to roll over and pay compo to Williams in some secret deal. There would seem to be no proof the horses died on the ship because he failed to check the welfare of the animals before driving off the ship.

    Apparently he didn’t discover them dead until an hour up the road.

    As for claiming negligence by TT Line !

    You can buy remote sensing gear (eg cameras) for a few hundred bucks. These are standard rig on many livestock transporters.

  12. john hayward

    August 30, 2018 at 6:20 pm

    Sure enough. Yesterday the Tas government announced that it would not comment on the issue until all potential adjudication had been completed. In other words, probably until the horse owners had signed the confidentiality agreement on the payout.

    John Hayward

  13. Kevin Moylan

    August 30, 2018 at 11:25 am

    #8 … Foreigners and mainlanders visiting or migrating to TasMANIA must be warned and alerted beforehand about what happens to ethical locals and outsiders who dare question or challenge bureaucrats, public-servants, police, lawyers and politicians.

    Your life and future will be systemically dismantled and decimated, piece by piece, until you surrender, perish, flee the island, or commit suicide – The Van Diemen Syndrome, and there is no cure or remedy. Only a geographical one.

    I was an ‘Involuntary’ Mental Health Whistleblower acting in the public interest, and one who could not, and would not, submit and subjugate to tyranny and evil by seeing and speaking ‘no evil’. Already suffering from PTSD Depression, exhaustion and State Sponsored fear and persecution, they set their slimy Spooks onto me, which led to my enforced escape and exile back to mainland Australia. I was ‘driven’ out!

    Extract: “One Flew Over the Kookaburra’s Nest.” 2nd edition 2017. CHAPTER 13 “Who Let the Dog’s Out?” Who? Who Gave the Orders? Who?

    My Spook messenger of evil intent delivered my final warning (I know who he is, and who he worked for). “If you don’t back off now you’ll disappear, six-foot under!”

    Then I was bashed, terrorised and further traumatised when a hired-gun-Spook tried to run me over in a 1989 Red Holden Apollo SLX Sedan, TAS Registration CS0034 currently reg.

    Thanks Emanuelle, if only someone had warned and alerted me, that TasMANIA is rotten to its core, and always has been. Why did this blind fool bother fighting for (sham) justice? I was duped!

    Jan 1990: My first day of nursing in Wynyard, Tasmania. I was given a salient warning that now haunts me … “Don’t Rock the Boat and you’ll be alright.”

    That’s why I support Torren. He’s been shot at, he knows what deliberate trauma and harm is inflicted upon those (naive souls) who stand up and speak out. It’s cruel, mean and sick! UN-AUSTRALIAN, mate!

    In the meantime, 18 dead horses, and more systemic colonial Van Diemen grief and trauma, is dished out to those who dare challenge or seek the truth.

  14. John Bignell Thorpe Farm

    August 30, 2018 at 11:10 am

    Irrespective of the suggested issues of carbon monoxide poisoning from diesel powered refrigeration units running in the vehicle deck (or other factors we’ve not been told about) I make the following observations …

    Assuming the images I’ve seen in the media is the actual horse transporter used by Mr. Williams, then I would suggest the ventilation on that vehicle is totally inappropriate and inadequate unless there is mechanical ventilation on the truck or provided by the ship – and very close by. Inadequate because of the placement and size of the ” air holes” in the sides of the horse box containing 11 very large animals sitting overnight in an even larger steel box with none of the air flow present when the truck is being driven along the highway.

    From the image, there were just half a dozen slots on each side, about half a meter down from the ceiling. Each slot was probably only 10 cm wide and 50 cm long. Given the two fundamental laws of physics, namely that carbon dioxide is heavier than air and hot air rises, the ventilation holes should be right up at ceiling height to release heat generated by the animals, and there should be additional holes at floor level to allow the carbon dioxide from respiration to drain away. If this much ventilation is excessive once on the open road, then make it adjustable.

    Irrespective of its location, I’d suggest the air holes are way too small for so many big animals. The tops and bottoms of the walls should be totally open while the truck is locked below deck on a ship. The latest design semi-trailers for transporting sheep and cattle now have solid sides rather than rails, but are totally open around the top and bottom of the side walls above animal eye level.

    Like #7, I can’t fathom why the hell the driver didn’t first check his animals before even getting in to the cab to drive off the boat. Surely he must have wondered at the total lack of noise or movement from the back of the truck.

  15. Emmanuel Goldstein

    August 30, 2018 at 4:36 am

    #4 … From memory the current ferries were purchased by Brian Green who agreed to pay almost 30% over market value for two rusty second hand Greek boats. Now why would he do that?

    #4 takes a valid and principled stand, has listed concerns and approached a political player for help. Be careful. A short search of TT pages will show example after example of the type of bastardry anything that calls organisational corruption to account can elicit, particularly from DPIPWE/EPA. In one case the whistle-blower was forced to leave Tasmania after being set up by bent cops, bent DPIPWE management and politicians more than willing to look the other way, just like Senator Lisa Singh.

    #4 may be labouring under the illusion there is some higher authority willing to put a stop to illegal activity by public servants, police or politicians. Forget it. Document everything. Have a witness present during meetings and beware of politicians. These bastards have a lot to lose, a lot to hide, and a capacity to do just about anything to silence opposition. Tasmania has been run by rotten corrupt bastards since the British sent their genetic and moral rejects to rot on these antipodean shores. Nothing changes.

  16. Brad Roberts

    August 29, 2018 at 8:39 pm

    What surprises me is why he waited until an hour after he got off the ship to check the horses.

    I take a trailer boat over regularly and as soon as I get down to the car deck I check that everything is OK, tied down tight etc. You would think that with live animals you would at least have a look straight away.

  17. Russell

    August 29, 2018 at 12:49 pm

    Re #4 … That’s incredibly disturbing and may explain why one of my dogs contracted lung cancer.

    We did quite a few trips on the Spirits over the years. I couldn’t work out why a dog which ate good food and lived, played and worked in a rural area, would get lung cancer.

  18. Kevin Moylan

    August 29, 2018 at 11:45 am

    Mr Williams lodged his negligence writ in the Victorian Supreme Court. If it proceeds to hearing, will it be heard in Victoria or TasMANIA?

    Be warned, Mr Williams! You will not be afforded a fair hearing and natural justice in Van Diemens’ Land. THEY (Government Business Enterprise fraternity) will make sure of that.

    ‘Their legal system’ is tainted and corrupted, riddled with incestuous and crony relationships, deceit, fear, and never-to-be-trusted pathological liars hell bent on denying or accepting the truth.

    Mr Williams, you must have your evidence heard and tested in a real Victorian court of law.

    This monumental breach of animal safety requires a full public hearing/inquiry so we can learn some truths, and prevent it from happening again.

    We owe it to those 16 – 18 magnificent fifth-generation horses who needlessly suffered horrific and agonising deaths. Trapped, there was no escape.

    Horses and now human health. Why don’t humans matter? Deny liability at all costs, until they die or kill themselves! (to be continued)

  19. Torren McMaster

    August 29, 2018 at 3:57 am

    I wrote the following email to Andrew Wilkie 5 years ago and contacted him again recently about conditions on the Spirit of Tasmania. If he really wants the results of the autopsies then maybe at least a response would suffice.

    [i]Dear Andrew,

    We felt that we had to write this letter to you as we think that you might be able to help us out with your standing in the community.

    Recently there were a number of sacking at Station Pier (Spirit of Tasmania) and we feel it has a lot to do with raising safety issues. There have been numerous issues raised and most of them were never attended to.

    The main issue that we have had at Station Pier has been dealing with the fumes on board Spirit of Tasmania 1 & 2. For several years we have told management that employees would like to have proper breathing apparatus added to the PPE. We were told that they would not support this as it would scare the passengers (what about our safety?).

    The next point we asked for was independent testing and we were told that they have their own tests carried out, so we said that we would like to have the results taken away and checked by an independent person to which the reply was “The results do not leave the TT line offices”. Why are they being so suspicious about these results?

    Approximately 2 years ago I was confronted by our SHE Manager, Brett Harwood and he relayed to me that all the fumes testing had been carried out and all levels of toxicity met with standards. What he did not tell me was that these tests were carried out whilst there was minimal freight onboard and virtually no passenger vehicles. On this particular day I had brought my own fume testing device and placed it on deck 6 of Spirit of Tasmania 1. This device tells you that if it turns black that the levels are dangerous. Within 2 hours the device turned black, I returned to the office and handed it to Mr Harwood and I told him that I though his results were fabricated. I gave the device to him and he said he had never seen one like that. I asked if he could have it checked out and never heard about it again, even after questioning him on numerous occasions.

    The next point I wanted to touch on was that most of the time the fume levels were so high due to the face that there were a number of containers running on a diesel cycle. We have been told that ,by Health & Safety standards, there should only ever be 4 refrigerated containers running on a diesel cycle at any one time. However we know that there had been at least 20 At one time running on diesel on several occasions. This happened to be the case on November 21st, 2011 when a passenger returned to her car to find her two prize winning Rottweiler dogs had been overcome by diesel fumes and had passed away.

    The fumes on the Spirit of Tasmania 1 & 2 leave a purple haze floating in the air and employees are working in these conditions everyday. IN 2013 we should not let employers be getting away with this. The employees I have worked with all have the same symptoms when finishing shifts – sensations like burning lips, dizziness & headaches. Two of our workmates passed away in their sleep, the had no pre existing medical conditions, who is to say this wasn’t a factor in their deaths.

    We have many workmates at other docks that work on other ships that travel to Tasmania (Toll & SeaRoad) and they cannot believe the conditions that we are working under. We have video footage and proof of the diesel exhaust fumes and the conditions workers face every day on this ship. It is also a known fact that every employee is entitled to wear a mask in hazardous conditionsÂ…Â….every employee except the ones who work on the Spirit of Tasmania!

    In this day and age all we are asking for are better working conditions, which is what all companies should strive for. Looking after the ones that matter – their employees.[/i]

    I would love to have the opportunity to discuss this with you further. I am available at your convenience and can be contacted on the number below or by return email.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this email.

    Kind regards,

    Torren Mcmaster

  20. Mjf

    August 28, 2018 at 8:49 pm

    Good on Andrew Williams for lodging his writ. We might see some progress in this whole sordid affair. Courtney is slowly but surely ensuring a repeat of the Basslink fiasco by stalling the release of any relevant information.

    I don’t like your chances of banning all livestock movements, Kevin. This transporter has no issues in using TT Line: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-08-29/bass-strait-pony-deaths-call-for-calm-after-legal-action/10177130

    What is going on here ? I reckon William’s shot himself in the foot already.

    From the ABC … “Mr Williams has said he only realised they had died an hour after he drove the truck off the Spirit of Tasmania ferry in Melbourne.”

    Obviously TT Line and QUBE will argue what could have happened in that hour after the trucks were driven off.

    You can watch Williams & Co get hung out to dry here by the best of the justice system that this GBE & QUBE can afford. The autopsy will need to be irrefutable from a timeline view.

  21. Kevin Moylan

    August 28, 2018 at 2:58 pm

    ABC NEWS April 17, Senator Wilkie states. “I’m staggered. A cloud hangs over the Spirit and whether or not it is safe, over the department (DPIPWE) and whether or not it is effective, and indeed over the integrity of the government.”

    The deaths of animals on the TT LINE is not an isolated incident. The owners of 3 prized rottweilers, and 830 elite racing pigeons that also perished on those diesel-fumed-filled toxic ships, have disclosed they too were victims of neglect and denied natural justice and the truth.

    Extensive engineering modifications to Spirits 1 & 2 resulted in those ships becoming ‘confined spaces’ cargo ships, also accommodating passengers. These ships were not designed to carry heavy freight. That’s where the buck stops!

    Maritime Union Australia and TT LINE workers’ health and safety has been avoided and neglected since 2010.

    Stevedore and ‘Involuntary’ Whistleblower, Torren McMaster, alerted and demanded that his Union and employer investigate and remedy the toxic effects of exposure to DIESEL PARTICULATE MATTER DPM (dust), Diesel fume emissions, synthetic industrial fibres and asbestos.

    DPM is a known Group 1 carcinogen (cancer-causing agent) with 20 types of.

    Ten known deaths of MUA and TT LINE workers in seven years is a shocking, and ignored, serious public health cluster. Why won’t their Union care?

    Spirit of Tasmania stevedores have the highest sick leave and lost time in the nation.

    I urge and implore all MUA and QUBE workers to seek (independent from unions) full health screenings, including blood and hair samples, chest Xrays and neurological testing.

    All MUA TT LINE members will soon receive an ‘open letter’ from your brave advocate and fair dinkum comrade, Torren McMaster, who suffered being sacked and his home being shot at, for representing you, the (sick?) worker.

    The CFMEU website states “Stand up and speak out!” It’s your moral and legal duty to do so.

    MUA motto is: “ZERO TOLERANCE!” Those toxic ships MUST sail on time .. no matter who or what tries to desist or alert those responsible otherwise.

    Senator Wilkie: A full independent inquiry will unravel some truth and serious neglect about which you have been previously well informed.

    BAN all livestock movement across Bass Strait until Minister Courtney releases the ‘top secret’ autopsy report. Democracy is not happening!

  22. Christine Simons

    August 28, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    Most of the time animals on the ferry must be OK, but I remember news items about dogs that have died on the trip. However, why they died has publicly remained a mystery.

    The weather had been hot when the horses died. How do they make sure there is adequate ventilation? No access is allowed while the ferry is travelling. I have no animals, but it is cruel if animals are suffocating in this way if the reason is inadequate ventilation. That shouldn’t be too big a problem to avoid.

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