Thursday, 16 June 2011
Live Animal Exports
) ( ): I move:
That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Kennedy moving immediately—
That this House urgently agrees to bring on the motion standing in the name of the Member for Kennedy to establish an immediate inquiry into the circumstances leading up to the Minister for Agriculture's decision to suspend the live cattle trade to Indonesia.
I thank my seconder, the honourable member for Denison.
At the present moment we are informed—I cannot say reliably because in this issue there has been no reliability whatsoever—that in the abattoirs there are still tens of thousands of cattle that are going to be subject to the same cruel method of execution, if you want to use that term, that has been used previously. If we continue to do nothing then what you saw on Four Corners will continue. We are getting assurances from the government of a general nature but I have been reliably—or, again, perhaps questionably—informed that not a single stun gun has gone from Australia to Indonesia. There is no way that this matter can be fixed up unless the stun guns are up there to do the job. The most elementary thing was to send the stun guns. That has not been done. Not one single knocking gun has gone to Indonesia, not one single abattoir has been inspected and licensed. What I am saying is: whatever badness that you saw there is continuing as we talk now.
We are acting conjointly. Our opinions do not entirely agree, but we are acting conjointly today on something that all of us in this parliament agree upon, which is that what we saw on the Four Corners program should not continue for another day. At this point of talking we need an inquiry, and not an inquiry run by the government. That is not going to happen. That by definition is not an inquiry. Nobody has been punished. The country stands to lose $350 million a year. Meat and Livestock Australia has been taking $5 for every sale of an ox in Australia, which I am reliably told amounts to $70 million to $100 million. They do not have a lot of jobs to do, but one of them is to ensure that this sort of thing does not take place. I have been advised reliably that they knew about this for nine years. They have known about this for nine years and done nothing, yet they have taken off the people of Australia, specifically the meat producers of Australia, $70 million to $100 million a year. No-one has been punished—someone has been punished actually; someone has been punished very severely. No-one at MLA has been punished. No-one in the government department has been punished. No-one in any of the organisations or instrumentalities associated with this has been punished. Not a single one of them has accepted responsibility. If you are the person responsible then you accept responsibility. I do not notice many of us in Australia doing that and it does not reflect well upon us. When something goes wrong the Japanese bosses say: 'It's my fault. I tender my resignation.' I have been caught in that situation myself on a number of occasions and have had to tender my resignation. It is not very nice. No-one has accepted responsibility. No-one has been punished. It is nobody's fault. I will tell you who has been punished: the cattlemen of Australia, our frontiersmen.
Opposition members: Hear, hear!
I would not be too hasty, you blokes on my right here, because you knew about it for six years and you did not do anything about it at all. So I would not be too hasty in shooting my mouth off.
If we are to honour a group of people in Australia, we should honour that group of people who live in the northern third of Australia west of the coastal ranges, our cattlemen. They are our frontiersmen. They do it very hard indeed. If you fall off a horse or you get sick, too bad for you. There is nobody there to fix you up. You just hope like hell it is not raining so you can get the flying doctor in if he is available. My daughter had a terrible accident some years ago and the flying doctor was not available for nearly 24 hours. A friend of mine fell off a horse and broke his leg, and the flying doctor was not available for 48 hours.
I might add that I estimate that a third of our cattlemen in northern Australia are of first Australian descent—Aboriginal Australian descent, if you like. These people have been there for all of this time. They have tried to do the right thing. They have done nothing wrong. They sell a beast to a live-meat exporter who sells it into a feedlot in Indonesia. They have absolutely no way of knowing what was going on. The people who first rang me up were in fact those people. They said they were quite horrified. I have been in the yards working and I have seen men knocked down for doing a hundredth of what I saw on the television the other night. If you work with cattle, you love your cattle and you look after them. If you do not, you will not be a successful cattleman. So they were the first people to be horrified.
A lot of us are brought up in an outfit called Christianity and we are told to love our neighbour. Our neighbour happens to be Indonesia and we are supposed to love them—maybe you do not like them, but you are supposed to love them. There are other people who do not believe in this Christian business. They believe that, when you get a hit, you return the hit and return it really hard. I do not know what attitude the people in Indonesia take, but either way we do not come out this looking good. Here is a country where 80 million people out of 240 million people are going to bed hungry at night. Are we going to cold-bloodedly deprive three million people of protein? If you say, 'Well they can get it from somewhere else,' I will tell you they cannot buy meat from somewhere else. People have said, 'Why don't we process it here in Australia?' I would be the first one here to go with that solution if we could. The problem for us is that it costs us almost $200 to send a beast down to the meatworks. We cannot afford to send it down there. If you say, 'Well build some meatworks up there,' because it only rains for three months of the year and we are not allowed to have any irrigation in northern Australia, we simply cannot keep meatworks open. We have constantly opened them and they have constantly closed again soon afterwards.
Some people say, 'If we were to process them in Australia, they could buy processed meat off us.' If we sell an ox that is processed into leather, meat and chicken feed or fertiliser, it costs about $7,000 or $8,000 to buy that off Australia. If we sell an ox to the Indonesians, they pay somewhere around $650 and they can turn that beast into those three extremely valuable products for probably under $1,000. They cannot afford to buy it from us processed, but they can afford to take the live beast and turn into these very valuable products.
As a young man of 17 or 18, I was handed a rifle and I had to hand three telephone numbers in because we were at war with a country north of us, which will remain unnamed. I was fighting to keep the oil supply line to Australia open. The cynics would say we were fighting for Royal Dutch Shell. If we are fighting a war now to protect our oil supply line—many people here have said that continuously, and you probably do have to fight wars to protect your oil supply line—think about what happens if someone cuts off your food supply line. (Time expired)