House debates

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Resolutions of the Senate

Live Animal Exports; Consideration of Senate Message

10:17 am

Photo of Joel FitzgibbonJoel Fitzgibbon (Hunter, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | Hansard source

There is a reason we are having this debate today—the member for New England, who was sitting just over there and is about to return to his seat. The sad part is that, when the member for New England took a wrecking ball to this sector by giving it a free leave pass—encouraging it to not only ignore the rules but show contempt for the rules—he did so with the full support and authority of Prime Minister Abbott and later Prime Minister Turnbull. If they hadn't allowed the member for New England to give a free leave pass to the exporters, we might not be having this debate today. That is the truth of it.

We have a new minister, and I give credit to him. When the Awassi Express incident was exposed on the ABC, he acted. He might not have acted to the extent we would have liked, but he acted. The irony is that I suspect that he hasn't acted to the extent we would like and to the extent which the majority of the Australian community would like because the current Prime Minister won't allow it. They have a brake on the minister. He expressed his anger at the Awassi incident and associated events. He told us that he was going to increase penalties and he told us that he was going to put new rules in place, but he's not allowed to move at 100 per cent, because he has a big brake on him, and that brake is the Prime Minister of this nation.

The House should today be allowed to express its will. The Senate has done so by majority. It's expressed the view that the live sheep export trade should be phased out. It's now asking the House of Representatives to concur with it, and the House of Representatives should be given the opportunity to do so. Ministers on the other side and those on the backbench are speaking on behalf of the government—that is the government position. But I remind those opposite that this is a minority government. The people's house should be allowed to have its say, and it should be allowed to have its say this morning, because there is no doubt in my mind—I'm happy to be proven wrong by a vote—that the majority of members in this House are in support of this motion. I think that has been reinforced by the contribution of the crossbench this morning.

The House now has four propositions before it on the live sheep export trade: the Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018, sponsored by the members for Farrer and Corangamite; the Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018 (No. 2), sponsored by the member for Mayo and other members of the crossbench; my own amendments to the Export Legislation Amendment (Live-stock) Bill 2018 to increase penalties for breaches of animal welfare standards; and now this Senate resolution. I will just go through a couple of them.

The members for Corangamite and Farrer have made it clear: they oppose the ongoing operation of the live sheep export trade. They made commitments in this place that they would oppose the live sheep export trade in this House. They should be given the opportunity to come good on those commitments, and they should be given that opportunity this morning.

When introducing the Export Legislation Amendment (Live-stock) Bill 2018 to increase penalties for animal welfare standards, the minister said it was the centrepiece of their response to the McCarthy review. It was important and urgent. It had to be done straightaway. We couldn't allow the trade to go on without these increased penalties for individuals in breach of animal welfare standards. But here we are, months on, and the bill is still parked, the minister unprepared to bring the bill to the parliament. Why? Because I proposed an amendment to phase out the live sheep trade. I've given a guarantee that, if my amendments fail, we'll allow the bill passage through the House. So there can only be one conclusion: the minister, or more likely his Prime Minister, knows that, if my amendment goes before the House seeking a simple majority, it will pass this House. That's the only conclusion you can come to. So now we have a proposition which tells us: not only do I believe the majority of this House is in support of the orderly phase-out of the live sheep export trade but also the Prime Minister—through his unwillingness to bring that bill back to the House; that urgent bill, as it was—now believes the majority of people in this House believe this motion should pass. Why is this government—this minority government—spitting in the face of the broader Australian community? Why won't it allow them, through us in this place, to express their will on this issue? It's for the Prime Minister to explain; maybe when he gets to his feet the minister will attempt to explain it.

I was somewhat amused to hear the member for Petrie making his contribution, and I was sitting there asking myself, 'Well, I wonder what his constituents think about his contribution this morning?' And I wonder what his constituents think about this issue—what is the majority view in his electorate? And I ask the same thing of the member for La Trobe, the member for Brisbane, the member for Forde and, indeed, the member for Sturt. I've no doubt that they know that the majority of people in their electorates believe this motion should not only be considered by the parliament this morning but should be voted upon by the parliament this morning.

The Awassi incident occurred in August 2017 and was exposed in a 60 Minutes report in April 2018—six months ago. Yet we are still waiting. The member for Kennedy says we should wait. Well, I think the Australian community has waited long enough. The member for New England completely misses the point—quite deliberately, of course. He's no fool, the member for New England; he's a smart guy. This is not what he really believes. He's blaming the whistleblower: it's all the whistleblower's fault! We need another inquiry. We've had the Moss review and the McCarthy review, the ASEL review is still going, and now we need an inquiry into the whistleblower! What a ridiculous proposition. He's missed the key point. The science is very clear. Yesterday the Australian Livestock Exporters' Council, no less, concurred. They imposed upon themselves a moratorium on the northern summer trade.

Mr Rick Wilson interjecting

I appreciate the intervention from the member for O'Connor—for three months. And why? Because they accept that the standards aren't good enough. They accept that the science is true and that at this point animal welfare standards and the summer live trade are incompatible. They're hoping that within three months—by some miracle, I must say—they might be able to find something that fixes that. I doubt they will. But I give full credit to ALEC for acknowledging that the science says that, with current technology, animal welfare standards and the live sheep trade in the northern summer are incompatible; it just can't be done. That's the live exporters council. And the member for New England stands up and says: 'There's nothing to see. It's only the whistleblower. It was a plant by someone with an economic interest who's now living in the Philippines'—or something like that, he told us—


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