Monday, 3 June 2013
Voice for Animals (Independent Office of Animal Welfare) Bill 2013; Second Reading
I rise to speak on the Voice for Animals (Independent Office of Animal Welfare) Bill 2013 introduced by the member for Melbourne. Unfortunately, I was not able to hear all of the debate prior to rising to speak, apart from hearing the last bit of the member for Riverina's contribution. I would not have thought there would be many cattle exported live overseas from Riverina electorate, but I hope to stand corrected. I would have thought they would not be viable at all. I know, as a Queenslander and someone connected with this topic, that there is only a certain market.
I want to go on the record early and say that, if I had my way, I would like all cattle from production in Australia to be slaughtered in Australian abattoirs. That would be my wish because that would be value-adding and protecting Australian jobs, and we would have control over the standards. I recognise the contribution of the meat industry, employees and the cattle industry through having great standards. The reality is that it is not economically viable for cattle in north-west Australia to be slaughtered in a Melbourne abattoirs or in a Queensland abattoirs. Even if there were sufficient labour in north-west Australia there would not be a viable industry. If I had my wish, all cattle produced in Australia would be slaughtered in Australia, but the economic reality is that that is not viable.
This bill put forward by the member for Melbourne seeks to establish the Independent Office of Animal Welfare with the appointment of a CEO by the minister, and sets out a range of reporting and monitoring functions around Commonwealth legislation and standard-setting principally associated with the export of livestock. This is a classic opportunity of putting attention on the member for Melbourne's concerns through an issue that is already taking place.
I have a prop here, which I will refer to briefly, Deputy Speaker, and it is the Constitution. The reality is that the Constitution does not provide for Minister Ludwig to make such a decision. In terms of authority over what is exported we do have a head of power where the minister can have some say. In terms of an Independent Office of Animal Welfare, in terms of looking at what goes on in Australia, the reality is that we are a Federation and we need the state ministers, the state premiers, to come together to refer powers to any federal department. I commend the member for Melbourne for some aspects of this legislation, but it is ignoring the fact that we are a Federation and it is also ignoring the economic reality of cattle in north-west Australia, even cattle in some northern parts of Queensland and certainly in the Northern Territory. As well, I should particularly mention the significant Indigenous population who rely on jobs in this industry. It will never be economically viable to put those cattle on a truck and send them to Dinmore, in Brisbane. I am sorry; I wish that were not the case. Those days are gone. I know that we are taking steps to establish abattoirs in the Northern Territory, which might facilitate more cattle being slaughtered in Australian abattoirs, but even then we will never be able to slaughter in Australia all the cattle being turned off.
I understand the complex legal, constitutional and policy issues associated with an independent office of animal welfare. I think we will soon have an announcement from the Labor government about something that will go some way to that. But it would always have to be a cooperative arrangement. The sort of knee-jerk populism of saying, 'This should be banned,' whenever one animal is shown to be slaughtered is not realistic. One of my first jobs was working in a butcher shop, and we had a little abattoir in my hometown. I have always known that occasionally things go wrong, even in abattoirs with the best standards. But this banning would not work in the long run at all, because the reality is that cattle in north-west Australia will always need to be exported. (Time expired)