Prime minister’s senior farm adviser an ex-campaigner for GetUp who called for end to ‘cruel’ live animal exports
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s chief adviser on agriculture policy previously condemned mainstream animal farming as “inherently cruel” and campaigned to end live exports.
Skye Laris, a senior policy adviser to the prime minister, is a former GetUp campaigner who worked with Animals Australia and the RSPCA calling for a ban to live exports.
According to Ms Laris’s LinkedIn, she has been a senior environment, agriculture, industry, and employment policy adviser in parliament since June 2019, working in the prime minister’s office as a senior adviser since May.
“Animal cruelty is a day-to-day part of farming practices,” she wrote for website Mamma Mia in 2016.
“The uncomfortable truth is that whether it’s live exports or long-haul domestic transportation on trucks without food and water, or the killing of calves in the dairy industry, or factory farming pigs, or chooks living in space the size of an A4 piece of paper … it’s improved over the years, but mainstream animal farming is inherently cruel.
“From paddock to plate, there is almost always a part of an animal’s journey that wouldn’t stack up if we as consumers were prepared to know what had really happened.”
Ms Laris previously worked in the office of then-agriculture minister Tony Burke, whom she later married.
Ms Laris used the Mamma Mia piece to criticise conventional farming practices across the livestock, egg, dairy and pork industries, after vision released by Animals Australia showed what appeared to be Australian cattle being mistreated at a Vietnamese meatworks.
“I don’t think addressing animal welfare it’s as simple as banning live exports [sic],” Ms Laris wrote.
“If we’re upset by live exports we really ought to be looking at what happens here at home too.”
The prime minister’s office would not comment on Ms Laris’s appointment, or whether she still holds these opinions.
In May, Labor made a pre-election commitment to ban live sheep exports.
It was criticised by farm groups when, during the election campaign, its plan to end the $92 million a year live sheep trade was first announced publicly by an animal rights group.
The government has said it won’t ban live cattle exports, and the live sheep ban won’t be introduced in this term of parliament.
Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said any decision relating to live animal exports was the responsibility of ministers, not advisers.
“I’ve only just heard about these reports myself,” Senator Watt told the ABC when asked about Ms Laris’s opinion piece.
“But the important thing here is that the people who make these decisions ultimately around live exports or anything else are the elected ministers like myself. I generally don’t get into issues about what different staff do, staff generally are pretty off limits in politics, and it’s more about ministers.
“I’ve certainly never expressed any views like that one way or another on the issue and I’ll be certainly taking what I think will be a responsible approach on matters involving live exports.
“I’ve had some very productive conversations with all players, whether it be members of the industry [or] activist groups, the approach that we’re taking to all issues as a government is that everyone gets a say, but then we make the decisions as the elected government.”
In 2020, a senior Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade bureaucrat, Julie Delforce, who is also the mother of a well-known animal rights activist, resigned following an investigation into her links to the animal activist website Aussie Farms.
Ms Laris did not respond to the ABC’s written request for comment.