Monday, 25 June 2012
Private Members' Business
Live Animal Exports
In rising to speak on this motion it certainly does not give me any great pleasure at all in having to raise this issue again. If you go back to last year when decisions were made by the minister with regard to live cattle export, the process that was used by the minister and the decisions that he made showed quite clearly that he had no understanding whatsoever of that portion of the industry of which he was charged with the responsibility of representing. As a direct consequence of that, the decisions that he made had a profound negative impact on many producers, large and small, and many of those in my region in Far North Queensland.
I think the minister recognised that he had made some grave mistakes in the way in which he had handled the issue. That manifested itself in that he was prepared to offer a $25,000 support package to assist those that had been negatively impacted by that decision. We all welcomed the decision that he was prepared to recognise that he had made an error and that that money was going to be made available, certainly not to compensate, but to at least assist those producers, who had been negatively affected, to survive another season and deal with their problems.
I have to say that I received a number of letters at that time. One was from Mary and Vic Inverardi who said that they had read that Bos indicus were suited for the climate in North Queensland and the breed was preferred by the export market—we all know that. In June they sold off steers as a direct result of the live export ban. Because they were worried about their future cash flow, they have now obtained agistment for the steers and heifers that they kept on supplements. Of course, that is an additional cost because they have gone over the weight for the live export because of the delays, and, of course, that is another drain on their resources. It also meant an impact on their natural grasses. This year's weaners that are coming along are now too light for the weight limit and they have to hold them over until next season. That, in itself, basically cuts off the cash flow for the Inverardis.
We had a similar letter from Troy and Erica D'Addona from Lakeland. They had been forced to sell off a large number of their weaner steers. The export ban had prevented them from selling older cattle earlier this year and now they are overstocked and have a shortage of grass. They have had to feed older steers and have had to put some on agistment, again, at significant additional cost.
There were also Kieran and Tracy Lucey from Mount Garnet. They put it even better when they said they were affected by Yasi. They were unable to sell cattle through their normal turnoff period. That put a huge financial pressure on them and they had to extend their overdraft. They then had four decks of cattle booked for the live export boat which was due to leave the week surrounding the export ban. Again, it was another huge financial blow for their business and they were already at their limits in relation to their overdraft. They have had to subsequently have their loan repayments deferred.
These are the sorts of things that are seriously impacting people. I thought at the time that the $25,000 would assist these people or at least carry them over to the next year. I wrote with all the best of attentions to the minister suggesting that we needed some help in this area. Centrelink had been charged with the responsibility of managing this particular program and that is where the problem lies. These people, the Inverardis, the D'Addonas and the Luceys, were busy fixing up problems. Much of it was associated with damage that was done from cyclone Yasi and they realised they were going to have shortfalls.
They heard in advertisements that they may be entitled to an opportunity in relation to financial assistance, and they all did the same thing—they contacted Centrelink—and that is where the problem was because they were told by Centrelink staff, who like the minister had absolutely no understanding, whatsoever, of the program they were administering that they had no entitlement to. So, they went about their business, disappointed, repairing fences and other damage by cyclone Yasi. It was only later they realised, when they spoke to others outside the district, that they may well have been entitled to that $25,000. Unfortunately, the time allocated for applying finished in September last year and they were told that they were they were outside the time frame, even though on review they were entitled to the payment. It was on that basis I wrote to the minister expressing my concerns and urging him to reconsider his position.
I got a letter back from the minister recently and in that letter he said that he was not going to extend those grants. He also went on to say that his department had provided Centrelink with scripts for use by the Australian government assistance line call centre staff. Clearly, given he did not understand what he was administering, the scripts he provided to Centrelink staff obviously reflected that. They were telling people, who clearly qualified, that they had no entitlement. As he said in his letter, he used mobile servicing units and rural and remote newspapers and community meetings. They circulated facts sheets on the business assistance package to a large number of stakeholders including farming and representative groups. That is true, but the problem was that, when he provided that information, the people who were administering it—the people working at Centrelink—had the script sheets provided by his department and they were wrong. This is no reflection on the Centrelink staff. They were only providing advice on what they were being told.
There were many, many people who missed out on this application. I spoke to AgForce on this matter to see how broad this problem was. The response I got was:
AgForce North regional staff, elected councillors and Cattle Council Australia's northern representatives have received numerous calls from a wide cross section of producers and many in the Yasi impact area, all raised their concerns that Centrelink paperwork for eligibility was very misleading and consequently no applications prepared.
Unfortunately, they go on to say:
The 3 month claim period was far too short considering the state of this regional following Yasi,—
and at it appears that the Northern Territory and Western Australia did not have this same problem over there because they did not have to deal with the impact of cyclone Yasi on top of this. Given the impact it has had in my region in Far North Queensland having a double whammy of Yasi and a minister who does not understand those sections of industry that he is responsible for in his portfolio, providing misleading and ambiguous information to Centrelink call staff which saw many producers—particularly smaller producers, who least could afford to—lose that $25,000, it is profoundly disappointing that that minister does not at least concede that not only did he make a mistake in the initial decisions in relation to the live export debacle but he also continued to make mistakes which have compounded the problems for these particular individuals. He should open it up to allow those who have been so badly affected by this to give them an opportunity to recover something of the losses that they are continuing to suffer even to this day because of very, very bad decisions by a minister who clearly does not understand much of the portfolio that he is charged with the responsibility of administering. I believe that, in that case, where the minister continues to allow these problems to be ongoing, he should be condemned for the way in which he has handled this whole debacle.
I would like to bring a bit of balance to the comments made by the member for . In May last year the federal government was provided with evidence of systemic animal cruelty in facilities across Indonesia. Who will forget the small section of this evidence shown on the ABC's Four Corners report? For nearly every viewer, it was disgraceful. As many MPs like me know full well, the public outcry was deafening from both the wider community and from cattle producers. Indeed, this report generated some of the most numerous amounts of correspondence on an issue I have received in all my time in the parliament since 1998.
It is true to say that many people in this place and in the wider community hold firm views on the issue of animal welfare. Where deliberate and unregulated cruelty is exposed, there is a moral, let alone administrative or regulatory, imperative to act. In the instances captured on the ABC's Four Corners program, the industry charged with the responsibility for ensuring an ethical regulatory process had failed. In essence, it had failed to adequately ensure the community's expectations of the livestock exporters were maintained. Clearly, industry self-regulation had failed. It was clear that for a legitimate industry to continue, decisive government intervention would be required.
I remember speaking in this chamber on the issue just over 12 months ago. I acknowledged, as all members of the government did, that the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Joe Ludwig, made a difficult but important decision to temporarily suspend the export of livestock to Indonesia. Make no mistake: the minister's decision was not easy and was not taken lightly. Indeed, the conflicting nature of the interests at stake guaranteed massive tension whichever decision was made. However, the minister's decision to briefly suspend the trade enabled the government to put in place a once-in-a-generation reform for the livestock export industry and undertake an independent review of the broader livestock export issues. As I said, the suspension decision was difficult to make but, contrary to the beliefs of the critics of the minister's actions, it was the right decision to make.
To the naysayers of the industry let me say that the livestock export industry is an important industry. It supports numerous jobs across Northern and Western Australia. It is a significant employer of Indigenous peoples and it is the main market for the cattle producers in Northern Australia. Indeed, in 2009, the live export sector earned nearly $1 billion and underpinned the employment of around 10,000 people in rural and regional Australia. Suggestions by critics of this trade that it could and can be completely replaced by chilled and frozen meat fail to take into account the requirements of the overseas market. The lack of refrigeration and cold chain facilities as well as strong cultural preferences for professionally slaughtered meat preclude Australia from servicing all of its export markets with processed meat products. No, the live animal export trade is a mutually beneficial trade between Australia and our trading partners who seek our product. What we had to do, upon the temporary suspension of the live export trade to Indonesia that took practical effect on 8 June 2011, was devise and implement a new regulatory framework requiring exporters to establish an exporter supply chain assurance system, or ESCAS, in offshore markets.
The live animal export trade is a legitimate industry that can continue, but the industry must be held accountable for the outcomes it provides. This is why the minister announced on 8 June 2011 the temporary suspension of export to Indonesia of all livestock for the purpose of slaughter. During the suspension the Australian government together with industry developed a new regulatory framework for the export of livestock to Indonesia, and on 7 July 2011 the suspension was lifted. From this date supply chain assurance principles were implemented to ensure internationally agreed animal welfare outcomes in Indonesian supply chains. Importantly, these principles underpinning ESCAS are being progressively implemented during 2012 to all feeder and slaughter livestock export markets such as Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Turkey. Phased in was 75 per cent of trade covered as of 1 March 2012, and 99 per cent is expected to be covered by 1 September this year, with all markets covered by the end of the year.
As of 1 March this year the new regulatory framework also applies to all new markets, so no amount of negative commentary can deny that the reforms this government has put in place ensure the future of the industry and the future of the jobs it supports. Indeed, industry should be encouraged by the recent report by the agricultural banking specialists Rabo Bank that the long-term outlook for the live cattle trade to Indonesia remains strong. The report indicates Australia is well placed to supply the Indonesian market into the future with low-cost, disease-free beef to complement domestic production.
The reforms mean that exporters must show they have a supply chain assurance system that delivers on internationally agreed animal welfare requirements along the supply chain to the point of processing, control of animals throughout the supply chain, tracking and accountability of animals throughout the supply chain itself and independent auditing and reporting. These reforms put animal welfare at the heart of the trade, an expectation of both producers and the public alike. The essential principle behind the reforms is that if you cannot show you will ensure animal welfare, you will not export.
Members might remember that the new system faced a significant test earlier this year when additional footage was provided to the government of further serious malpractice. Many critics claimed that this was evidence of a system that had failed. However, what they did not say was that because of the new system—not in spite of it but because of it—the regulator was able to hold those who were found to be in breach accountable for their practices and failure to abide by the reform processes. The new framework allowed a detailed analysis of the evidence provided and allowed those parties who were found not to have complied with the regulations to be penalised for this.
I want to touch on the issue of credibility. I notice on 7 July last year the member for Leichhardt issued a press release welcoming the Gillard government's move to lift the temporary suspension of livestock exports. In the same press release, the member stated:
The trade did not need to be suspended for a month, immediate measures could have been put in place when the inhumane treatment in certain abattoirs was exposed.
However, the facts speak very differently. The investigation earlier this year showed that even the exporters who claimed their systems were the best, that their facilities have no problems, were found to have significant issues. The member for Leichhardt seemed to have bought the propaganda from the industry. This is not the first time the member for Leichhardt has been out on a limb when it comes to livestock exports. I do not need to remind many of those opposite about the atrocious handling of the MV Cormo Express by the former Howard government. Remember?
Over 50,000 sheep were stranded at sea when the importing country refused to take delivery. It took the Howard government over 70 days to get the sheep disembarked. But this is no surprise, as his own backbench was refusing the then minister for agriculture, Warren Truss, to do the right thing for animal welfare and bring the sheep home. Mr Entsch and another Liberal backbencher, the former member for O'Connor, my friend Wilson Tuckey, even attempted to refuse the vessel return to Australia for fear of biosecurity risks. This shows that the member for Leichhardt really has little credibility when it comes to ensuring animal welfare. Just like we have each state and territory policing their own animal welfare, we now have a cop on the beat for livestock exports, no matter how much the other side want to poo-ha what I am saying.
This transition has been a difficult time for many. There is no doubt about that. The decision to temporarily suspend the trade was not taken lightly and, indeed, I know that Minister Ludwig found the decision personally difficult in the knowledge that families and enterprises would experience difficulties. That is why the government provided a range of domestic assistance measures to assist producers transition through the suspension of trade with Indonesia. The government made available an income recovery subsidy of up to 13 weeks of income support for individuals, priority access to employment assistance through Job Services Australia for individuals retrenched as a result of the temporary suspension, a business assistance package comprising a business assistance payment of $5,000 and a business hardship payment of up to $20,000, as well as a system of grants and a subsidised interest rate scheme on new business loans of $300,000 over two years. (Time expired)
I rise to support my colleague the honourable member for Leichhardt on what is an incredibly important motion. The motion outlines the profound impact on our northern cattle industry due to the live export ban and condemns this government's pathetic effort to repair the massive damage to the industry and communities caused by an inept decision.
Live cattle export is a vitally important Australian industry. It is one of the few success stories in northern Australia and it has stood the test of time. In the first two weeks of this month, I was in the north of Western Australia and in Queensland. I will be discussing this issue with the cattle industry in the Northern Territory in the coming weeks. It is fair to say that the industry is being shattered by the ban that took place just over a year ago. In fact, the member for Durack and I were in Broome just a couple of weeks ago. It is fair to say that the industry is incredibly nervous about its future. Wherever the member for Durack and I were, the question people kept asking us was: what is our government doing to repair relations with the government that we totally ignored in making a political decision that we thought would gain us credence with a section of the Australian population?
The cattle industry in northern Australia is dynamic. It has great potential to increase production and provide protein to the Asian market. It has evolved over last 20 years. The reason it has evolved is that 17 abattoirs closed in that time in northern Australia because they went broke, they were unviable and they could not get people to work in them. Although this government does not seem to realise it, this is not an industry that can continue for 12 months of the year. These are incredibly hard-working Australians just trying to get on with their lives. They care for their cattle. I am a cattleman, and we do. Some people spend their whole life trying to improve a herd, and of course they care about the way the cattle are treated. Nobody wants better treatment for cattle than they do. They wanted this issue fixed but the government ignored them. It also ignored one of our nearest neighbours, certainly our biggest and most important neighbour of over a quarter of a billion people, who also wanted the issue dealt with. The government was paralysed by its own incompetence. It overreacted, shut down a $360 million industry and created more welfare issues for cattle than it solved. No decision by this government or any other government has frightened Australian businesses as much as this unilateral decision to shut down the live export trade overnight without warning, let alone talking to our trading partners and customers in Indonesia.
The decision has also introduced sovereign risk as a factor for those trading with Australia. Indonesia is now looking for alternative markets right around the world because we have shown ourselves to be unreliable because of government interference. Our quotas have been cut for boxed meat. To all those who protested that the only way to solve this was to slaughter the animals in Australia and send out the processed meat: hello? Not only have we had our quotas cut for live cattle; the quotas for processed and boxed meat have been cut as well.
This immature action devastated our industry, and narrow guidelines and a poorly administered assistance package, mentioned very specifically and very articulately by the member for Leichhardt, have meant that worthy recipients have missed out on vital assistance funding and are struggling to recover. This was a panic decision in which they ignored, even though they had a pseudo-assistance package for the industry— (Time expired)
I rise to oppose the motion by the member for Leichhardt regarding the government's decision to suspend live cattle exports. I am pleased that this motion gives me the opportunity to speak in the House on the Gillard government's significant reforms that firmly position animal welfare as the solid platform on which our live export trade rests. I do so without an abattoir in my electorate and with only one herd of cattle in my electorate, but with a long background in the meat industry I do know a little about it.
As Australian politicians, if we had our druthers, we would want all our cattle slaughtered in Australia and then we would have the value-adding. That is not the reality. I know that Northern Territory and Western Australian cattle are a lot closer to Indonesia. After seeing the Four Corners footage I also know that whenever people see footage of animals being killed it can be shocking. The reality is that you do not get to have a wonderful agricultural industry—our graziers are some of the best in the world and are turning out some of the best cattle in the world, be it the fat cattle of the south, the leaner cattle of the north and everything in between.
When they tried to bomb her, I think the IRA said about Margaret Thatcher's security that the security people have to get it right all the time. The IRA said, 'We can get lucky every now and then.' With our scheme, we responded to a failure in a self-regulated industry. Let us remind people of that. We do not have to go back that far to see it has happened in the past, to when then agriculture minister McGauran was watching a 60 Minutes episode and, bang, before the show was over, he had banned the live export of sheep. It has happened in the past. In the past, those opposite saw that show and we saw a government decision implemented before the show was even over. This situation was not like that.
Obviously, we need to continue to support this important trade. There are a lot of jobs in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and North Queensland connected to the industry, particularly Indigenous jobs and all the other families and communities who rely on this important industry. We need a system that provides checks and balances through which the Australian community and graziers will know that the live export trade can continue. Suspending the trade for a short term was the only way to secure the trade in the long term. Obviously it was not an easy decision by Minister Ludwig; but he does know a lot about meat with his background in that industry and growing up in Charleville and Roma. The decision was the right one, and the only one, and those opposite know it. It was the only one that could actually be made in that circumstance. As I said, it echoed the decision of Minister McGauran from years before, especially when we have a self-regulated industry.
This new system requires Australian exporters to meet international animal welfare standards—hard to argue against. It also allows the regulator to investigate when those standards are not met and to take the appropriate action. The fact that some exporters do not meet the standards we require should not overshadow the progress that many in the industry have made to date; and I do know that it has been tough and that they are considering actions against the minister—it is their legal right to so do. But we also know that the ESCAS system will be the envy of other nations in being able to show individual supply chains: trace the animals, identify the exporters and the abattoirs, and the way that the animals are treated. Obviously some breeding cattle do not fit into that, but I think that any measure of common sense would accept that.
Also, if there are some systemic failings, rather than the hiccups that do occur in any abattoir—having worked in an abattoir, and I know that the member for Lyons has worked in an abattoir a lot more than I have, you do occasionally have some hiccups—now the abattoir will face the consequences. And that is what every grazier would want. As we heard from the previous speaker, graziers love their cattle and they love the welfare of their cattle. So suspending trade in the short term was the only way to implement a system that would give the trade, the jobs and the communities that rely on it a future—a sustainable, dependable and defendable future, and a proud future. Obviously the decision was not taken lightly, but anyone who saw the ABC Four Corners episode knows that the minister weighed up the situation and made the right decision.
I rise to support the member for Leichhardt on his motion on live cattle exports. The motion shows the profound financial impact on graziers and associated businesses by the government's decision to ban live cattle exports to Indonesia on 7 June 2011. The $1 billion live cattle export industry is very important to the national economy as well as to family businesses and entire communities across regional Northern Australia.
Indonesia takes 60 per cent of Australian live cattle, which is worth over $320 million to the economy. Indonesia also imported five per cent of our boxed meat. In all, some 13,000 direct jobs depend on this sector. Had the minister stuck to his original plan to ban the 11 abattoirs mentioned in the Four Corners report it would not have been such a problem. But you cannot stop an industry for one month, because it soon extends to six months: you just cannot stop an industry like turning a tap on and turning a tap off. I am very suspicious of the Four Corners report: if it was such a big problem, why did they not bring it to the authority's attention immediately instead of getting all their ducks lined up and then delivering a whammy? I think that it is very wrong of Four Corners and any other associated people who helped put that program together.
Eighty-two Indigenous cattle properties alone are directly affected, supporting some 700 Indigenous jobs and, indirectly, a further 17,000 jobs across Northern Australia. It has impacted very much on these people. It has also impacted on our southern beef producers; the absence of meat works in the north because of seasonal conditions, workforce and other types of industry pressure means that there is a cartage fee of $200 to bring one head down from the north to the south, to our southern meat works. This also puts pressure on the southern beef prices.
The blanket Indonesian ban required $100 million of taxpayers' money to assist with the package to compensate the cattle producers for the government's ineptitude. It is a massive increase from the original $5 million the government offered in the first place—$5 million was just treated as a laugh. It just goes to show how out of step the government was with the industry. In the 2008 budget, the government pulled $16 million worth of research and development funding out of Australian agriculture but gave $484 million to overseas countries for their research.
Indonesia, a country of nearly 250 million, has cut quotas for our live cattle since the export ban. They took it hard and were offended by our actions. Indonesia has also cut their imports of Australian boxed meat significantly since the ban. Some of these remote areas of Indonesia do not have the luxury of electricity or cold rooms and rely on daily fresh supplies of red meat. This we denied them for a month—or longer—until we got the industry back on its feet. There was a trickle-down impact on Australian industries such as real estate, transport, trucking and shipping. Indigenous employment, stock agencies, feed producers, rural contractors, local town suppliers and government departments all suffered during this period of time.
The motion also seeks to acknowledge that, due to the government's maladministration, the business assistance program offered very little to graziers. The Centrelink staff were ill-advised. They did not understand what the system's rules were. There was a lack of training—it was rushed through. Some applicants missed the deadline because they were misinformed about their eligibility and how to fill out the paperwork—once again, red tape.
This motion condemns the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry for refusing to extend the business assistance program to farmers who suffered financial losses as a direct result of the export ban and for his poor handling of the issue leading to financial losses in the cattle industry.
I have heard a fair few debates during my 20 years in parliament, but this one on the motion by the member for Leichhardt about the ban on live cattle exports is pretty ordinary. The other side have not presented one systematic explanation—with a (1), (2) and (3) and then an (a), (b) and (c)—of what they would have done in these circumstances. We just had the last member blame the messenger—the ABC got a burn. So the basis of democracy in this country, an open press, is in question because something was highlighted the member did not like. They just blame the messenger.
What nonsense we have heard in this debate. I remember what the other side did when they were in government. Remember how, under the Howard government and its minister, there were sheep at sea for 70 days? They were denied entry at the intended destination and sent back to sea—and they were left at sea for 70 days. The incompetence of that regime in leaving those sheep at sea speaks for itself.
They come in here and talk about people missing out. Maybe it was up to those members from the Northern Territory who represent those people to do something about it. Nobody stood up. Why did you not stand up? Where were the members representing these people? They failed the test and then they come in here with a motion criticising Centrelink and criticising the minister—criticising anybody but themselves. They should look at themselves; they are the ones who failed to give representation.
Of course one feels for people who lose income from their businesses. So maybe one should look at those who were making the decisions at the time and at what decisions they were making. Were they looking at the future of the meat industry—based on the future of Indonesia, the growth in their supermarket trade, the growth in packaged meats and the changes in the way the Indonesians are organising their supply and trying to keep things chilled? I can remember my grandparents' house in a country town in Tasmania—they did not have a fridge either. They used to buy from the butcher's shop down the road every two or three days. On the farm I grew up on, there was no fridge either. The animals were cut up under a tree and put in the meat safe. So you do not have to be limited to these simplistic solutions being put by the opposition, these arguments that you cannot do anything else. The opposition do not look to the future. In Indonesia there are 200 million people. It is one of our closest neighbours, a great country that we have great relationships with. We should be looking at the future and how we trade with them in chilled and frozen projects. So I think that Meat and Livestock Australia should have been looking at the future a little bit more than it was. We all know that in this place, but some people will not face it and they will not give other reasons or what they would have done either. They just come in here with this very poor motion.
We need to be looking for the future. We need to be making sure that animals are not treated badly. I had many farmers in my office after this event saying that something had to be done. They are people that really look after their stock, and some of them have gone out on new regimes in animal husbandry to do that. They were very concerned that they were going to cop the bad press on this. So we need to make sure that we look after our stock the right way so that we have a future industry.
I remember the Howard government introducing the National Livestock Identification System, with the tags. It is very important to have a system so that you can react if there is a disease in stock anywhere in the country. But what did the Howard government do? They exempted the export trade in Northern Australia. They said, 'You don't have to have the tags.' I suppose that was pretty good for some people's taxation records as well, wasn't it? So you have all that nonsense, and then you have to pick up on that so you can have supply chain recognition and a proper auditing process, which this government has put in place.
I think we have done extremely well with this. I feel sorry for those that have lost income and had some hardship from it, but simplistic motions like this will do nothing. I believe the industry should consider diversification, looking for local processing and the export of higher value chilled beef into South-East Asia. If we go down that track, I believe we can really find some solutions. (Time expired)
Of course, I rise this evening to vehemently support this motion put by the member for Leichhardt. I am one of those referred to in the rhetorical question from the member for Lyons. I am a supporter of the Northern Australian cattle industry, and I vehemently deny his charge that my cattlemen do not respect, look after and value their cattle as his constituents do. Apparently they came into his office declaring their love for their cattle. Well, there is no greater love for cattle than that exhibited by my northern cattlemen, who raise cattle in very harsh conditions, not the lush, green countryside of Tasmania, where growing anything is pretty easy—and the member for Lyons is fine testament to that! The cattle industry in Northern Australia relies on Bos indicus cattle. Bos indicus cattle are originally an Indian breed of cattle, and they survive in extremely harsh conditions. They sweat, basically, and they therefore feed in daylight hours, because in daylight hours they can put on weight, where poor old English breeds are hiding under a tree somewhere in the shade and they do not eat, do not put on weight and do not as well. It is these same Bos indicus cattle that are the only cattle acceptable to the Indonesians, because they can improve their weight and condition in Indonesia in similar very high-temperature areas.
That is why we that know what is going on in Northern Australia and what the industry is all about are so horrified to believe that an agricultural minister, through a stroke of the pen, as a result of the push from comparatively ignorant members from southern Australian Labor electorates, would declare that the industry is off, leaving hundreds of thousands of cattle stranded in export yards right across Northern Australia with no provision for food or transportation and no answer to the question as to who owns them, who is going to pay for them, who is going to pay for feed and who is going to pay for replacement transport. None of that was answered. There was a stroke of a pen by a maladministrator in the ministry, who said, 'The export industry is off.' This is why we are so vehemently stating that there has been maladministration. There has been an oversimplification by Centrelink staff, who were not prepared in any way—there was no satisfactory briefing whatsoever—as to how applicants could meet the criteria and prove their financial loss as a result of that stroke of the pen by the minister.
That is why we say that the government have to accept responsibility when by that stroke of the pen they virtually laid siege to our nearest neighbour—a quarter of a billion people who were supposedly to accept that a good friend was well intentioned when it said, 'By the way, we're going to starve you of beef.' They do have a wet market. They do have an industry that is not provided with modern refrigeration, not provided with electricity, and the wet market is the way. It is the more and the custom of Indonesian people. The wet market is well understood by the producers in Northern Australia, and that is why it was unacceptable for a government as a knee-jerk reaction, not informed by knowledge but motivated by ignorance, to simply say, 'Well, we've got to stop that.'
Consider that the footage was held by the ABC. It was produced by Animals Australia. At the time of the viewing in the first instance, the witnessing by Animals Australia, it was news. By the time it went to air on Four Corners it was not news; it was a cold, calculated attempt to bring down an industry because PETA, Animals Australia, RSPCA and Pew, all intended to destroy the live market out of Australia to overseas. It is the only industry in Northern Australia that will be sustainable commercially. If we lose that market because of the actions of the Greens in league with arrogant, ignorant, ill-informed Labor members from south-eastern Australia, it will be to their eternal shame.