House debates

Monday, 22 July 2019


Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2019; Second Reading

10:19 am

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

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

It has been over a year since the damning 60 Minutes footage was first aired in April 2018 and we learnt that over 2,400 sheep had died with many more suffering severe distress in terrible conditions. The images showed but a snapshot of the horror that the sheep endured on their voyage on the Awassi Express. And to this day, I still receive countless emails from members of my community, including those on the land, who are deeply concerned about this trade.

Sadly, it's now been over a year since the member for Farrer, now Minister for the Environment, introduced her private member's bill in May 2018. I must say, as a person sitting around in her office, it felt to me like a glimmer of hope, although that glimmer of hope certainly did fade when the bill did not progress any further. And, when the member brought it in, I think many of us in this chamber had great hope.

But for one minor amendment, the Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bills 2019 I am introducing today mirrors the member for Farrer's original proposal.

Namely, this bill introduces provisions which will restrict long-haul export of life sheep and lambs during the northern summer months of June, July, August and September during a five-year transitional period or at any time after the period where the voyage meets the following three criteria: firstly, that the voyage is by ship, secondly, that the voyage exceeds 10 days in duration, and thirdly, where a place in that voyage, regardless of the final destination, is either the Persian Gulf or the Red Sea.

The only difference between the bill introduced by the member for Farrer in the previous parliament and the one introduced in the House today is an expansion of the restriction during the northern summer months from three to four months, such that the period that is now prohibited is June to September, where previously it was July to September.

The expansion brings the bill into alignment with the government's own temporary ban on long-haul live sheep exports during June, July and August and those foreshadowed in the regulatory options paper released by the department earlier this month.

The ban was introduced by the department earlier this year following the damning findings of both the government initiated McCarthy review and its own independent technical committee appointed to review the heat stress modelling.

The McCarthy review found major failures within the industry's heat stress risk assessment model and recommended a change away from pure mortality rates to one based on animal welfare indicators—a novel idea, for an industry that, in the words of the member for Farrer, uses 'an operating model built on animal suffering'.

But rather than adopt a measured and sensible phasing out of this industry, then and there, the government instead pursues another review and appoints a technical committee to determine the appropriate level of suffering that sheep may endure during long-haul live export voyages.

The department's technical committee released their draft report in December 2018 and it made for sobering reading. In short, all vessels entering the Persian Gulf or the Red Sea from May to October may exceed the heat stress thresholds of almost all classes of sheep.

Building on the findings from the draft report, the technical committee released a regulatory options paper to determine the best way forward, including a proposed prohibition on trading in September.

While the paper proposed three options in response to the draft heat stress review report that was released in December 2018, the first option—being an expansion on the long-haul live sheep exports into the month of September—is the only option that is consistent with its own scientific data and expert advice.

The bill I have before the House is consistent with option 1 of the regulatory options paper and would see a prohibition on exports during the summer months of June, July, August and September.

Most importantly, it would see the welfare of animals placed above the profits of exporters. However, I accept that my bill is not for everyone, and the bill I introduce today, like the bills previously introduced by the member for Farrer, is a compromise bill.

It cannot be the perfect bill for everyone who has a view on this issue, but it is a good bill and provides a working compromise.

Some may say that five years does not provide primary producers enough time to adapt to changing regulatory environment. But this bill should not be viewed in this way. It is an opportunity to assist an industry that is already in terminal decline—and I think it's important to make that statement—to transition away from long-haul live sheep exports and create Australian code abattoirs and employ local workers in much-needed production jobs.

I know in my community we desperately want more local abattoirs, and I am working very closely with industry and local government in my community to see what the potential could be. And no doubt there are electorates in Western Australia who are calling for the same support. These are well-paid, good local jobs, and we want those local jobs in our regional communities.

The government must act now to ensure the welfare of Australian livestock and to protect Australia's reputation, which is critical, as a nation that supports responsible and humane agricultural practices.

It is my hope, one that is shared by thousands of my constituents, who write, call and email me, that the member for Farrer's original bill—which she showed great courage in presenting to this House—finally passes this chamber, ending this long-running saga, and that we have a better future for live sheep. Thank you.

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

Is the motion seconded?

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

I second the member for Mayo's motion and once again reserve my right to speak.

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.