Senate debates

Tuesday, 27 February 2007


Australian Meat and Livestock Industry

6:56 pm

Photo of Ian MacdonaldIan Macdonald (Queensland, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

This report by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry entitled Livestock mortality for exports by sea—report for the period 1 July to 31 December 2006 is part of the federal government’s ongoing determination to ensure that live animals exported from Australia are exported in a way that is humane and that as many as possible reach their destinations alive. That is of course very important not only from the animal welfare point of view but also from the Australian industry’s point of view in that we are well regarded as a superior exporter of live animals. This means real revenue to Australia and it very substantially involves a contribution to the economies of many country towns around Australia, particularly in my home state of Queensland.

It is interesting to recall the days, a few years ago, when there was great concern about the number of cattle and sheep that died en route. The government put in place a number of measures. It was all very big news in those days. Because it has been working so well, it has gone out of the headlines, but I think it is appropriate that we look at the results of the government’s very intense concentration on the welfare of live animals being exported overseas. In the period from April 2006 to November 2006 inclusive, there was evidence to suggest that the Australian government’s new measures to reduce livestock mortalities during export by sea were working very effectively and very efficiently.

To give you some idea: in relation to 129 voyages from Australian ports in those months, some 363,084 cattle were loaded and the number that died en route was 739, or 0.2 per cent, which is a very small figure when compared to live exports in previous years. Of sheep exported live, some 2,009,872 were exported and some 20,000 were lost and that is a figure of 1.02 per cent—still too many, we would say, but certainly considerably down on the fatalities of previous years. Of these voyages, the average sailing time was just over 12 days, with many voyages taking just a week or even less.

As one of Australia’s northernmost located senators, I am pleased to report that, for the majority of live exports during those months that I mentioned, the loading ports were in northern Australia. I am delighted to see that Karumba, Mourilyan and Townsville in my state of Queensland were loading ports, as were Broome, Port Hedland and Wyndham in Western Australia and Darwin in the Northern Territory. These very important shipments continue to serve an extremely lucrative overseas market, and it is worth noting that the use of northern ports is very good for regional economies and jobs in the north, and for Australia in general. It is well recognised that a lot of the wealth of Australia comes from the northern part of our country. I often, with some pride, say that whilst northern Australia—which I class as north of the Tropic of Capricorn—has only about six or seven per cent of Australia’s population, it produces something like 30 per cent of Australia’s export earnings. These cattle exports are certainly a significant part of the economy of northern Australia.

Under the Howard government we are working harder than ever to ensure that livestock losses at sea are kept to a minimum. We are also ensuring that Australia’s economic prosperity, in particular that of our regions in the north, is not jeopardised by the complaints which follow losses of live animals. (Time expired)


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