House debates

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Resolutions of the Senate

Live Animal Exports; Consideration of Senate Message

10:10 am

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I also rise to speak on the motion on live sheep exports. The MP for New England is quite correct when he says to dispense with the myths and the lies. What we hear from the member for Denison is a whole lot of emotive speech, a whole lot of myths and a whole lot of mistruths in many ways. The first thing he says is that we are not representing 25 million people. The member for Denison in no way represents 25 million people, although he makes out that he knows what 25 million people think. The member for Denison is probably lucky to have 70,000 voters in his electorate. He might represent 100,000 voters. There are 150 MPs in this place, Member for Denison. I heard the member for Mayo raise this. I couldn't help but come in here from my office and speak on this motion, given the mistruths that the member for Denison has just raised.

In 2011, I was holidaying with my family around Australia. I took six months off to spend time with my kids. When I was in Western Australia, one of the things that struck me was that the Labor government had just shut down the cattle industry. It was one of the things that prompted me to run for parliament, because when I was in Western Australia I saw the pain and the hurt that was being inflicted on Western Australian farmers at that time. They were crying out to get income in through their gates. They were asking people like me, who were travelling with their family in a small caravan, to stay on their property, because they had no income because the Labor government had shut down the industry overnight on a whim.

The member for New England is also right when he says to the opposition shadow minister that the goal of the member for Denison is to shut down the cattle industry as well. He wants all live exports shut down. That's what he said. That's what he said a few moments ago. I've visited the live cattle ships in Darwin. I've been up there and had a look at the holding yards. I did a speech in this parliament a few years ago about it, despite the fact that, outside of fishing, I don't have farming in my own electorate. People are interested in this topic and they want to hear the truth. They don't want to hear the emotion from the member for Denison and others. They look forward to hearing the truth, and we'll hear that from the minister, the member for Maranoa, shortly. I look forward to listening to him.

The fact is that the Australian government has acted. It has been acting. We are one of the only countries in the world that sets high standards when it comes to exporting animals. We have the ASEL transport system and then ESCAS at the other end, where our customers take possession of the sheep or the cattle. Certain standards have to be maintained once that product is sold. No other country does that. We have Independents, like the member for Denison, saying, 'Well, get out of it altogether.' The demand will still be there for animals if we get out of it altogether. What will that mean? It will mean that the industry overall will go down further. So you will see a decline in the welfare of animals if Australia exits the market. That's what you will see. Are the member for Denison and others saying, 'We're only concerned about Australian animals,' or is he concerned about other animals overseas? I love animals. I have a pet Doberman and guinea pigs. I have even got a reptile licence. I've got a pet turtle as well. I love animals and I like to see them treated well. If you are concerned about animals, like I am, then Australia being in this industry with our high standards is important. It's very important.

We want to be really careful in this space. When we were debating the Modern Slavery Bill the other day, which I supported—and I'm sure the Independents on the cross bench supported it—I heard the story of a fisherman who had been enslaved on a fishing boat in our region, in Asia. Do you know how long he had been enslaved on a fishing boat? Seventeen years. Those opposite are quick to want to shut down the Australian commercial fishing industry as well, but I say that we want to be careful because when you exit an industry, it goes to other countries that don't have the same high standards that we have. Our Australian commercial fishing men and women have standards, get paid award wages and are not enslaved on fishing boats for 17 years. If we get out of this live animal export industry, we will see other countries take it up and the high standards fall. So we want to be really careful.

I've said to the people in my electorate and to the minister that I intend to go and look at live sheep exports from Western Australia to see how the ships are operating, how the sheep are being handled and what is in place, because I very much care about animal welfare. All 25 million Australians need to know that the Australian government has acted. We have high standards. The fact is that a lot is being done. If we get out of this area, not only will the market share be taken up by other countries that don't have the high standards that we have but we will also see an impact on a few thousand farmers. The member for Denison quickly flicked that away and said: 'Don't worry about them. There are a few thousand farmers and a few exporters. Stuff them. Don't worry about that'—I withdraw that; the language wasn't appropriate. That's what the member for Denison said—'Forget about their jobs. They're not important.' Every Australian job is important, Member for Denison. Our government wants to see jobs continue to grow.

As the member for Kennedy said a few minutes ago, we can't compete in the chilled boxed market. Our abattoirs are much more expensive—and rightly so—because we have high award wages. So we'd be exiting that market and we'd lose market share at a time when our farmers are already struggling under drought conditions. What is much more important is that Australia remains in this industry and that the high standard the minister for agriculture has put in place is policed. That would be the way to go.

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