Monday, 3 June 2013
Voice for Animals (Independent Office of Animal Welfare) Bill 2013; Second Reading
This policy is typical of the Greens, who love red tape. Moreover, they love the green tape. They love bureaucracy, they love regulation, but they do not love farmers. It is designed to make farming more costly, and haven't we seen how much more expensive farming is with the carbon tax that the Greens also supported. It is designed to shut down the industry of live cattle exports, live animal exports, but it does nothing to improve animal welfare.
With me in the chamber is the shadow minister for agriculture and perhaps more importantly food security. North of Australia is Indonesia, 240 or so million people who are going to lack protein, going to lack Australian meat, if you shut down our live cattle exports. The shadow minister knows that. I have heard him talking ad nauseam about the importance of the live cattle export industry. He and I were in Rockhampton just recently where one cattle farmer bemoaned the fact that steers were selling for just $20 a head in Longreach, and that is shameful. It is because of the ban brought about by a knee-jerk reaction by Prime Minister more intent on just keeping her job than on good public policy. The Four Corners program shut down the entire live cattle export industry, and what did we see? We saw so many Aboriginal stockman put out of work. They walked off from their jobs. Who knows whether they will ever get their jobs back again? We saw cattle which were then too old and too heavy to be exported and in some cases were being shot. Talk about animal welfare. That goes against the whole meaning of any sort of animal welfare. Farmers do not want to have to shoot their animals but they want to survive. They need livelihoods. The shadow minister knows that. He knows how important it is to keep our live cattle export industry going.
Nobody likes animal cruelty, least of all the shadow minister, least of all the Nationals, but we do care for regional Australia. We want our farmers to get a fair price for their livestock. We also want to see those livestock treated properly. We do not want them to be sent to abattoirs which are going to treat them inhumanely, and that is why we have provisions in place. That is why the cattle industry's Alison Penfold, a person who is absolutely mindful of the importance of making sure that our exports remain viable, told me only on Friday of the importance of Australia making sure that we have good welfare standards. But this bill does nothing for that. As John Cobb said to me, this bill is an affront to our live exporters and to our beef industry, which is the only industry out of 109 countries which support live exports which invests in animal welfare in destination countries. We need to build to provide our meat to those countries, whether it is Indonesia, whether it is the Middle East—wherever it is we need to make sure that we keep those markets open. The situation we have at the moment is that the price for cattle has gone down right throughout the country, certainly in the Riverina where one of the businesses, Byrne Trailers, has lost a lot of money, tens of thousands of dollars, because the orders have stopped for their stock crates. This is an affront to farmers.
I notice that the member for Page was on the speaking list, but I cannot see her in the chamber. She wanted to phase out, stop, the live cattle export trade. I am just glad that the Nationals have a candidate in Page, Kevin Hogan, who understands the cattle industry—indeed, he is a cattle farmer himself. I am sure that if he is lucky enough to be elected as the next member for Page, and I hope that is the case, he will bring common sense and reason to this debate.
This bill is about supporting the extremist element, the people who want to shut down animal production. We had a party who failed to ban live exports because it was bad public policy. I heard the member for Melbourne last week, in an adjournment debate, talk about the number of helicopters flying over his electorate at night and during the day. Talk about a first world problem! We have people in the electorates of Calare and Riverina who do not know where their next profit is going to come from, who do not know where their next pay packet is going to come from, because the live cattle trade export ban—that absolute fiasco—has caused them much financial stress and caused their farm profitability much harm.
I do not recommend this bill, and I hope it gets rejected as it should.