House debates

Monday, 3 December 2018


Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018 (No. 2); Second Reading

10:15 am

Photo of Rebekha SharkieRebekha Sharkie (Mayo, Centre Alliance) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Australians were horrified by the images in the 60 Minutes report in April this year.

It has now been eight months, and no meaningful action has been taken by the government. There have been attempts to delay, distract, and weather the storm. But let me tell you, Mr Speaker, the Australian community have not forgotten this and they continue to make contact with MPs. I alone receive between 70 and 80 emails on any given day.

The bill I introduced today mirrors the compromise bill that was first introduced by the member for Farrer, and I applaud her leadership on this issue and that of the member for Corangamite, who seconded her on this issue.

I worked with the member for Farrer to reach a compromise that stretched across party lines. It cannot be the perfect bill for everyone who has a view on this issue, but it is a good bill, an excellent working compromise that provides the opportunity for the supply chain of the long-haul live sheep export industry to transition over five years to genuinely create sustainable markets and practices.

The words of the member for Farrer, for 17 years a sheep farmer herself, so well summarise the tragedy of the live sheep export industry.

I quote the member:

The litany of animal cruelty in the live sheep trade makes a mockery of the industry's 'No fear, no pain' mantra.

If the rules were actually enforced—access to feed, water and rest, avoiding high heat stress, no commercial operator would undertake the trade.

Exporters have explained to me that it would not be viable. Unfortunately this is an industry with an operating model built on animal suffering.

So I support the member for Farrer's views, as does, I believe, a majority of this House and clearly also a majority of the Senate.

The overwhelming response from the Australian people tells every person in this place that they want us to act. Members have told me that they've never before seen an issue that has created such an immediate and overwhelming flood of emails, letters and phone calls to their offices.

And so with this reasoned, sensible, centre-way bill, the government, yet again, need to act. They've failed to act so far.

As the member for Farrer also noted, the long-haul live sheep export industry is in terminal decline. It accounts for only six per cent of our sheep and lamb off-take, and is supported predominantly by rapidly unwinding subsidies from Middle Eastern governments. Ninety-nine per cent of consumers in the Gulf have refrigeration and every Middle Eastern country accepts Australia's halal slaughter.

This bill should not be perceived as a threat but as the impetus and opportunity to develop a supporting package of measures that help the six per cent transition away from long-haul live sheep exports, and to support jobs, farmers, and creating abattoirs under Australian code.

These are regional jobs, and I have a regional electorate that wants these jobs. There are opportunities for reinvigorated abattoirs in my own electorate of Mayo. We could have this at Normanville. We could mirror this in Western Australia and elsewhere.

To quote the member for Corangamite:

If the bill is passed, it will provide our farmers, processors and the extended supply chain with the appropriate time to transition completely to chilled lamb and mutton exports to the Middle East, to grow our sheepmeat processing capacity, to invest with certainty, to protect and enhance our reputation as a nation of agricultural excellence and to invest in more Australian jobs.

Yet, I must confess that I believe our current government is incapable of grasping the opportunities of a transition and acting upon the long-haul live sheep export.

It has well and truly given up listening to the Australian people and has instead focused on the echo chamber of its own internal squabbles. And so I say to the coalition government: you can do better than this. You can act. These are jobs in your regional communities as much as they are jobs in my regional community of Mayo.

You can hark back to a judicious past by adopting a sensible centrist solution to long-haul live sheep export. The Australian people overwhelmingly expect you to do this, and will find you lacking if you do not.

I make a particular call-out to the member for Farrer and the member for Corangamite. You had the gumption to come in here and introduce a bill—a bill that you believed in. I note that both members now have ministries. I hope that that's not the reason for their change of mind and change of heart.

I commend the bill to the House. I would like to grant the remainder of my time to the new member for Wentworth, who is seconding the bill.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

Is the motion seconded?

10:20 am

Photo of Kerryn PhelpsKerryn Phelps (Wentworth, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes, it's my pleasure to second the Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018 (No. 2), which has been introduced by the member for Mayo. During the recent by-election, the people of Wentworth made it clear to me that they will no longer tolerate the inhumane practices of the live sheep export trade. The bill proposes an end only to long-haul live sheep exports. It does not affect cattle or short-haul exports. This ban is to be phased in over five years. This is a measured and responsible lead time that will allow farmers, processors and the extended supply chain the necessary time to transition to chilled exports. This transition will allow additional jobs as domestic processing capacity is increased and will end the cloud of uncertainty over the industry that has hindered investment. The bill also proposes that from 2019 there will be no export of live sheep to the Middle East during the hottest Northern Hemisphere summer months of July, August and September. These measures will restore Australia's reputation as a nation of agricultural excellence.

I note that the government recently released the Moss review into the capability and culture of the live export regulator. The review found that regulation of the industry does not meet community expectations and that the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources needs to strengthen its regulatory capability and culture. This would include the establishment of an inspector-general of live animal exports to provide independent oversight and evaluation of the live animal export regulator and the regulatory system.

However, the release of the Moss report does nothing to change my view that live sheep exports must be phased out. The live sheep export industry has had plenty of chances to lift its game and in my view is beyond redemption. Having seen footage of live sheep being transported to the Middle East in terrible conditions, I see no justification for this inhumane trade. It is shocking and cruel that these animals spend weeks in extreme heat and overcrowded conditions, with many dying on the way to their destination. A poll conducted on 20 September by Animals Australia in the seat of Wentworth and subsequently released during the by-election campaign found that 72.2 per cent of people surveyed in the electorate of Wentworth said that they support a phasing-out of live sheep exports. I said during the Wentworth by-election that I would follow the wishes of my electorate and back the phasing out of live sheep exports. This speech and my position honours that commitment. I commend this bill to the House.

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.