House debates

Monday, 10 September 2018


Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018; Second Reading

11:53 am

Photo of Lisa ChestersLisa Chesters (Bendigo, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

I am pleased to rise to speak on the Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018. Many on the Labor side of the House have had our names on this bill for quite some time. When it was first tabled in the parliament, we welcomed that we were finally seeing an individual put forward a private member's bill to phase out long-haul live sheep exports.

I have to say, at the beginning of my contribution, that I'm not quite sure whether the member who moved this motion, and her seconder, still wish to proceed. If we take the media reports, it is our understanding that the member for Farrer has actually said she's going to abandon this bill, which would see the orderly phase-out and ban of live sheep exports. The member for Corangamite, who originally seconded this bill, has also said that, given her elevation, she is going to abandon this bill. Those two members need to come into the chamber to clarify their position on this bill that is before us. Are they going to proceed with what they said back on 21 May that they'd do, which is to cross the floor on legislation that would see the phase-out of live sheep exports? Are they going to continue to support their own private member's bill, which is before us and which we are debating right now, that would see the phase-out of live sheep exports?

Labor do support the bill that is before us because we believe that this cruel trade must come to an end. This bill would immediately suspend the trade during the northern summer months, which are between 1 June and 30 September. We are still in the midst of this period. Like many in this place, my inbox has been inundated with emails and letters from people very concerned about the welfare of sheep on long-haul live exports. I will mention a few. I have received over 1,200 individual emails and letters from locals expressing their concern about the treatment of sheep on long-haul live exports. I will read a few words that I have received. Rosemary said:

It's unjustifiable that gentle sheep are 'cooking alive' on export ships.

Another constituent, Terry, said:

I can't actually comprehend that they are still permitting these vessels to go.

…   …   …

Voters have been waiting for political action …

They have called for all of us in this place to support this bill. Paige, who lives in Bendigo, said:

It's also so wrong that sheep could be sent overseas during times of hot weather. It's clear that … heatstress is a terrible way for animals to be treated.

Christina from Elmore said:

The latest heart-breaking expose of the live-export industry shows the horrifying conditions endured by nearly 64,000 sheep sent from Fremantle to the Middle East last August. Approximately 2,400 of those sheep died from heat stress … the deaths of so many …

They want to see our parliament act. Those are just some of the words of people in my electorate who have contacted me to urge me and others in this place to support this bill. It's time that this parliament got on with phasing out live sheep exports. We have said that it should be done in an orderly way over a period of five years, which would give us time to establish new markets for these sheep and would give us time to work with the industry to establish where they could be processed as we convert from the export of live sheep to chilled processing. I have a meatworks in my electorate. When I spoke to them I asked if this could be done, and they said yes. With the right support and with the right industry engagement, this could be achieved.

As I stated at the beginning, the media reports are correct, and both the mover and the seconder of this bill have now declared that they're abandoning their support for this bill. Where are we today? They should come in here and clarify their position.

11:59 am

Photo of Steve GeorganasSteve Georganas (Hindmarsh, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—I know that I have already made some comments on the Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018, but I think it's very important to restate some of those things. Many people who have spoken before and after me on this particular bill have highlighted the cruelty of this trade, the absolute horror that we have seen in TV and newspaper reports of these animals who are absolutely mistreated in scorching heat on these hell ships, where they die, get diseases and are not treated well. We should be very proud of the way we treat animals here in Australia. We should stop this trade immediately to ensure we can treat our animals in the right way to add value to the industry by processing those sheep here and exporting them to markets overseas.

12:00 pm

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018. Like most of Australia I have been shocked at the vision we have seen over the past few months. I know that every Australian agricultural producer would be equally shocked at these scenes of cruelty. We understand that. It is time for this cruelty to be stopped. It is time for us to support the industry to transition. Thankfully live sheep exports have been in decline for many decades. We need to support our sheep farmers to make sure they're sustainably profitable and to create more jobs in Australia.

I was brought up in St George in the Balonne Shire out in Western Queensland. The first dollar I earned was working in a shearing shed with the McCoskers at Dundee Station. I know the importance of supporting our farmers and making sure we get the balance right. The major primary industry of the Balonne Shire when I was a kid was the sheep, wool and beef industry. It has now become much more diversified. Things like cotton have taken off. I grew up surrounded by hardworking Australian sheep producers, graziers and shearers. I know how hard they work. I know that welfare for their livestock is always paramount. Sheep Producers Australia in a media release in April this year said:

Producers want best animal welfare outcomes. We want to know the same high standards of animal care are maintained once our sheep leave our properties. We are pleased that the livestock export industry is moving to make changes and we look forward to the trade's animal welfare outcomes being improved in future.

Supporting the sheep industry to transition from live exports will not only ensure the welfare of our livestock but also produce more Australian jobs. I am the son of a butcher, two of my brothers were butchers, my grandfather was a butcher and my uncle was a butcher, so for me, supporting the transition away from live exports will mean more jobs in Australia, with the meat producers having more to do with the slaughter of animals. Treating our animals properly and keeping jobs in Australia are things I care passionately about, and I'm sure most Australians would support them.

We shouldn't back this just when it is politically convenient; we need to back this piece of legislation because it is the right thing to do. This bill was introduced by the member for Farrer and seconded by the member for Corangamite. The member for Farrer has been firm in her support for this bill. In a speech in parliament on 21 May she said that the live sheep export trade was 'built on animal suffering' and:

The case for continuing long-haul live sheep exports fails on both economic and animal welfare grounds.

Where are those members now? It would appear that they've sold out their convictions for political promotions. They have put their own political welfare above animal welfare. They have chosen self-interest over doing the right thing by farmers and their livestock. They have abandoned this private member's bill to phase out the live sheep trade and support farmers in that process. They have forgotten the shocking treatment of 60,000 sheep who suffered on board the Awassi Express in the height of the searing Middle Eastern summer. They have forgotten the outrage after the community was confronted with those shocking scenes. I haven't forgotten, and neither have my Labor colleagues.

This problem is not going to solve itself. There are three inherent flaws in the current business model for live sheep exports: first, it's reliant on the wretched Northern Hemisphere summer trade, and there is no way to reconcile appropriate animal welfare standards with that trade; second, the cruel conditions imposed on livestock promote higher payments to sheepmeat producers engaged in that trade and disadvantage domestic processors here in Australia; and third, the community will not tolerate the cruelty inflicted on Australian animals in this live export trade. The reality is that this trade can't continue.

I applaud the member for Farrer for initially introducing this bill. It is important that there is an organised transition so that Australian sheep farmers are supported and that markets adjust appropriately. But once again we've seen that members of the coalition, whether they're Liberal or National or Liberal-National, won't stand for anything that gets in the way of their own political ambitions. While the members for Farrer and Corangamite will no doubt be celebrating their promotions to Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories, and Assistant Minister for Social Services, Housing and Disability Services respectively, this bill will lie abandoned, the convictions that were so strongly advocated just a few short months ago quickly tossed aside. We need to make sure we get the balance right. We need to look after Australian jobs, and to do that we need our sheep to be slaughtered in Australia appropriately under Australian conditions.

Photo of Sharon BirdSharon Bird (Cunningham, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There being no further speakers on this bill, the debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.