Monday, 7 December 2020
Live Animal Export Prohibition (Ending Cruelty) Bill 2020; Second Reading
That this bill be now read a second time.
The Live Animal Export Prohibition (Ending Cruelty) Bill 2020 permanently bans the export of live animals for slaughter from 1 July 2023. In the interim, it puts in place additional welfare safeguards to ensure that animals are treated humanely before this ban comes into place.
This bill contrasts sharply with the policies of the government and the opposition. Members would be aware that the policy of the Liberal and National parties is to promote and to celebrate the live animal export trade in all its forms. The Labor Party, to its credit, does—or, at least, did—have a policy opposing the export of live sheep to the Middle East. However, the Labor Party remains committed to the export of beef cattle to other areas—in particular, Indonesia and throughout East Asia and North Asia.
This is the fifth time the bill has been introduced, and it remains necessary. The most recent time I tabled this bill was in December 2019. Since that time, there have been a number of significant and worrying developments. For example, in June 2020, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment granted an exemption to the northern summer live export ban, allowing approximately 35,000 sheep to be shipped into the scorching Middle Eastern summer on the vessel Al Kuwait. The government's after-voyage report states that 1,000 sheep on this voyage were exposed to score 4 on the heat stress scale, which is the highest level on the scale. This means the sheep were panting with open mouths and tongues protruding. Score 4 has never before been recorded in one of these reports. By the way, I moved a motion in federal parliament in June last year to block this exemption and to prevent the Al Kuwait sailing, but this motion was blocked by the major parties, who both voted against it.
Just in August last year, breaches of the export rules were revealed in Jordan, where local sellers dragged Australian sheep around by one leg and advertised the animals for illegal home slaughter for the Eid sacrifice. Footage taken by local investigators for Animals Australia, as well as market sellers at 10 sites across Jordan, shows sheep with Australian national livestock identification eartags being forced to jump off the backs of trucks, then being dragged by one leg and bundled into cars for home slaughter, which is banned under Australian animal welfare rules. Moreover, footage was obtained by Animals Australia again showing the inhumane slaughtering of Australian cattle in Indonesia last year, including footage of extremely distressed cattle in pain, being dragged across the floor, having their throats cut without being stunned, and bleeding to death. The animals in the video from Animals Australia are missing their national livestock identification tags, and their treatment is clearly in breach of Australian export rules.
From 1 November this year, new Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock were due to come into effect. The changes would have given cattle more space to lie down and better access to food and water troughs on live export voyages, but these were blocked by the agriculture minister David Littleproud at the last minute, allowing live cattle exporters to continue to operate under existing stocking densities for at least the next six months.
It's not as though we needed those three examples from this year—in June, August and November 2020. It's not as though we didn't have enough evidence already of the cruelty of the live animal export trade. For example, members would remember, way back in 2003, the Cormo Express, a vessel aboard which 6,000 sheep exported from Australia perished as it floated around the Middle East trying to find a port to unload them. Then of course in 2011 there was the ABC Four Corners program and the shocking revelations of the cruelty being experienced by Australian beef cattle in Indonesia. In 2012 there were revelations from Pakistan of 7,000 sheep being destroyed. Who can forget the images we saw on the television, as recently as 2012, of Australian sheep in Pakistan being buried alive?
And then, in 2017, there was the Awassi Express and the revelations that more than 2½ thousand sheep perished on that vessel, and the graphic images we saw released by Animals Australia, of sheep literally drowning in faeces on the decks of that vessel.
Clearly the live animal export trade is systematically cruel. It's not in Australia's economic self-interest and it doesn't have popular support, and the only way to end the cruelty is to end the trade. In doing so, we will also be acting in the best economic self-interest of this country as we restore the red meat manufacturing industry and employ thousands upon thousands of Australian workers. And it's not as though the consumers in other countries, in particular in the Middle East and Indonesia, won't purchase processed Australian meat that's chilled and frozen. They already do. In fact, we already export more in value of chilled and frozen sheepmeat to the Middle East than the value of the live sheep we ship there. It is a myth perpetuated by the industry and the government that Islam demands live animals. They do not. We're already exporting enormous amounts of chilled and frozen processed red meat into Islamic countries. It's a myth that there's no refrigeration in these countries. It's a myth that the industry is engaged in some sort of altruistic exercise to feed the poor.
Once we've shut down the live animal export industry, we need to also turn our mind to animal cruelty in all its other forms in this country. We need some sort of independent national office of animal welfare to crack down on the cruelty inherent in the industrial manufacture of food within our borders—in the beef cattle industry, the sheep industry, the dairy industry, the pork industry, the poultry and egg industries. And then we also need to turn our minds to the cruelty that is to be found in the racing industry—the thoroughbred racing industry, the trots, the racing dogs. And we need to clamp down on the cruelty within the pet industry—the puppy farms, the kitten farms et cetera. We have an animal cruelty crisis in this country and the government is doing nothing about it, even though it has the levers at its finger tips.
I'll now invite the member for Warringah, who will be seconding the bill, to say a few words in my remaining two minutes.
I rise to second the Live Animal Export Prohibition (Ending Cruelty) Bill 2020, and commend the member for Clark for his continued advocacy on this issue.
The standard we walk past is the standard we accept, and clearly this is an issue we've walked past for far too long. The member for Clark has been trying, repeatedly, to bring us up to a standard where we do, in fact, offer better protections to animals. This bill seeks to permanently ban the export of live animals for slaughter from 1 July 2023 and puts in place steps to ensure that, and, in the interim, that live animals are treated humanely after they are exported. Many of my constituents in Warringah care deeply about this issue.
It has been a particularly trying time for the animals and workers of the live export sector this year under COVID. Since 2017, there has been a ban on live export ships leaving Australian ports after May due to the suffering of the animals in the peak northern hemisphere summer heat. But, under COVID-19 impacts on global shipping and excuses of delay, the Al Kuwait ship was allowed to leave in June, meaning they were sailing in the peak of summer heat. Tragically, we've also seen an extension and a continuation of cruelty to animals under this policy.
I would also like to raise the Gulf Livestock I incident, where, tragically, we saw the sinking of one of these ships in a typhoon off the coast of Japan. One of the crew members of Gulf Livestock I, when it went down with all its crew and all its animals on board, grew up in Warringah and had strong connections with friends and family in Mosman and on the beaches. To date, he has not been rescued or found. Whilst three Filipino nationals were found, 40 other crew—including two Australians, two New Zealanders and 6,000 cattle—remain missing. Japan has called off the search, but friends and family continue their search for Will Mainprize.