Monday, 21 March 2011
Private Members’ Business
Live Animal Exports
This motion could be an opportunity to celebrate the advancements that have been made in this industry, a chance to recognise that chilled and frozen products alongside live exports are a complementary characteristic of this sector. Instead we seem to be hearing an argument that is having a go at the Gillard government’s trade minister, Dr Emerson, for not taking this matter seriously enough and not working hard enough to expand opportunities for chilled and frozen meats. And then we venture off into a trade barrier conversation, again completely within the domain of the government to address, but again here is a Labor backbencher seemingly being critical of the inactivity of the trade minister. And then we start talking about the animal welfare issues, which are very important and very concerning for my electorate. I have a very active community of concerned citizens wanting to make sure that the welfare of the animals involved in the live export trade are properly cared for. And I am pleased to be able to reassure them that there were considerable gains made under the former Howard government, putting in place the architecture through industry collaboration and proper and targeted inspection and regulatory regimes, the inclusion of vets on these journeys, the arrival infrastructure and handling arrangements that Australian taxpayers have invested in to make sure that the proper care and the welfare of animals is a high consideration even at those destination ports.
We could have talked about those things. Instead, this has been reduced it seems to an argument about chilled and frozen meat versus live exports. The reality is that we need both and we should support both. But we should also recognise in the decision here, however inspired—whether by the meat processors union, as some have suggested, or by animal welfare concerns; whatever the motivation for this motion today—that much has been gained. It is a chance to celebrate those advancements. Both the frozen and chilled export market and the live meat export markets are important to our nation’s future. We have a role to play in nurturing and supporting both.
To come in here and say only one is better than the other ignores some really sensible arguments that I thought the member for Durack and others have put forward. It is a very east coast chat, this one, isn’t it—where all the meat-processing facilities are? ‘Gee, we’d like more’, says the member for Capricornia. Of course we would like more, but where they are and where the sheep and the cattle are growing are not always neatly coincidentally beside each other. If we are interested in sustainability, the proposition that says that on pastoral land in the Northern Territory and Western Australia we should mandate or in some way engineer a requirement to put those beasts on road trains to freight them hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of kilometres so that they can be processed in meatworks, where we have had to import 30 per cent of the workforce through 457 visas, is somehow in our long-term best interests ignores the reality within the marketplace. There is an international appetite and demand for live meat exports, and we should hold up our head proud in saying that we are at least 50 per cent bigger than any country in that space. Through our advocacy and concern for animal welfare, we have lifted the standard of all those involved in that trade. We have put our money where our mouth is to support the trade and to recognise that animal welfare matters. We have dispelled this myth that somehow activity out of sight is not a concern for us by putting people and resources in place in these destination markets to make sure that our expectations—dare I say, our cultural expectations—about the proper care of livestock is respected right throughout the supply chain.
Some of these destination markets do not have fridges, they do not have Safeways and Woolies down on the corner, they do not have the neat supply chains and a convenient collocation of stock and processing facilities that might be on the east coast, that we might wish was replicated right across our continent, and that we might hope would actually be in all the destination markets as well. That is not reality. So do we turn our back on this trade? I say no, because our leadership role in raising the standards of all those involved in this trade should be something that is celebrated and advanced. I am worried the current government has not advanced it quite as vigorously as the former Howard government. Minister McGauran has run rings around his successors in making sure that right throughout the supply chain, wherever we have an opportunity for influence, we exercise that influence in the interests of a sustainable industry that has both chilled and frozen products and live exports.
The value-add argument is a good argument and I would like to see more of it, but it needs a market. It needs realistic assessment of the economics involved. We should not be talking about the aberration of the odd Ethiopian sheep; we should be talking about what is the reality of a much enhanced industry through the work of the previous government. (Time expired)