House debates

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Resolutions of the Senate

Live Animal Exports; Consideration of Senate Message

9:39 am

Photo of Andrew WilkieAndrew Wilkie (Denison, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

Thank you, Speaker. The reason I'm going into such detail during this debate is to impress upon the House how dire the situation is and how urgent the need is to act on this. We can't wait until sometime early next year in the hope that it will be debated then. There are ships afloat as we speak. There are vessels around this country, right now, being readied for the next voyage. It would be a shockingly irresponsible act for this House to put off this matter until next year, in the full knowledge that putting it off will result directly in cruelty continuing and more Australian cattle and sheep dying.

That's why we really must deal with this today. The community expects us to deal with it today. Surely all the members in this House—certainly we are on the crossbench—are being inundated with written letters, phone calls, emails and petitions. The country is demanding urgent action. The country is demanding that we deal with this today—not in February or March or sometime. That's too late. Too much cruelty will occur between now and then. Too many animals will suffer shocking experiences and death between now and then. That's why we must deal with this today. And it's not just the cruelty; there's also the impact on this country in so many other ways between now and next year—the fact that this trade costs thousands of Australian jobs, the fact that this trade greatly diminishes this country's reputation as an ethical food producer and the fact that this country has lost faith in governance and our democratic institutions and is losing faith, or has lost faith, in this place and us and what we do. We're just going to throw fuel on the fire. We're going to provide further proof to the community that we're letting them down if we put this off.

We can't put it off. We must deal with it immediately. If the government are sure of their position and their numbers, they should be happy to have the debate, to have the battle of ideas, for the government to stand up here today and try to defend this vile trade. And, sure enough, a lot of us will stand here and put the government in their place and remind the government today of those shocking scenes of cruelty on the Awassi Express, remind the government today of those Australian sheep that were buried alive in Pakistan—and probably no-one's been held to account—and remind the government of the scenes we've seen of Australian sheep being shoved into boots in illegal marketplaces in any number of countries. How on earth the government could think it would be appropriate to not deal with this today beggars belief; it absolutely beggars belief. The government cannot put this off today and argue that the Moss review has solved the problem, that there's no need to debate this today—because that wonderful Moss review has addressed the issue!

But of course the Moss review was a whitewash. It is no reason for us to put this debate off today. All the Moss review did was make some interesting observations, make some recommendations about some safeguards, some tougher penalties. But at the end of the day the Moss review came down fairly and squarely in support of the trade and in support of the trade continuing. So it is no defence for the government today to say that we do not need to debate this motion from the Senate today, because the matter has been dealt with. That would be grossly misleading by the government. So I make the point in the strongest possible terms: we have a moral responsibility—and I would say a professional responsibility—to represent the Australian community and to debate this today, because the Australian community hates the live animal export trade. It hates it with a passion, is sick of all the exposes on the TV, is sick of the inaction and the half-measures, is sick of the whitewashes, is sick of the excuses, is sick of the myths and the lies that surround this and of claims that the Middle East won't buy frozen or chilled meat, when they're already buying three times the value of live exports from Australia in sheepmeat.

We have to address this today. This parliament has to start representing the community. This parliament has to stand up for animal welfare. This parliament has to take positive steps to stop the cruelty by shutting down the trade. So, in the strongest possible terms, I urge the government: step back from your intention to put this off to next year, and understand that the public interest will be served by debating this motion from the Senate today. If you're confident of your position, then stand up at the despatch box and make your case, and we'll stand up here and we'll respond to it. And let's have a battle of ideas, because you've lost the argument. The community hates it with a passion, hates that we would continue this cruelty to prop up several thousand workers, a couple of hundred farmers and a few dodgy exporters. Why don't we start thinking about the 25 million Australians in this country and not the few thousand in the live animal export trade? Why don't we start representing them? Why don't we do that? Then, come the next election, maybe people won't be so cynical about politicians. You might even improve your stocks. I say to the minister: if you're wondering why your stocks are at rock bottom, why you're bumbling along at 45 per cent, it is because you don't represent the community. This is another example. But you will be representing the community, if only by allowing this motion from the Senate to be debated and letting the people's voices be heard through the members of the crossbench and the other sensible people who oppose the live trade. (Time expired)

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