Senate debates

Tuesday, 27 February 2007


Australian Meat and Livestock Industry

7:01 pm

Photo of Andrew BartlettAndrew Bartlett (Queensland, Australian Democrats) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the same topic, the live export trade. In his contribution, Senator Ian Macdonald spoke about public concern over live trade in animals as though it were in the past. I can certainly assure him that it is very much a current concern with many thousands of Australians. Indeed, if you look at the petitions tabled in the Senate—and, sadly, not enough senators do look at the petitions tabled here—by far and away the largest number of cumulative signatures over the last few years express concern about the live export trade. I think it is up around 130,000 signatures.

This concern is not new. Back in the days when the Senate used to give consideration to animal welfare issues and not treat them as fringe matters, the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare clearly demonstrated problems with the live export trade at that time. Indeed, it came to a finding that, if we were to take account solely of animal welfare issues, the trade should stop—recognising that economic issues trumped animal cruelty at that time.

Certainly, there have been a number of improvements and changes since the 1980s. I accept that, and the fact that we have a report like this one is some indication at least of a tiny degree of transparency. It is still quite a small degree of transparency and it does reveal significant deaths on board. Senator Macdonald gave the total figures from all the shipments, but there are specific incidents in here. For example, there was a shipment out of Portland and Fremantle in October last year, through Livestock Shipping Services Pty Ltd. It was a 30-day voyage that went through the ports of Eilat, Aqaba and Adabiya, which are in Israel, Jordan and Egypt. The percentage of cattle deaths on that voyage was 3.18 per cent, well over the benchmark for death rates. Indeed, the percentage rate of sheep deaths on that ship was 1.19 per cent—72,000 sheep were crammed onto that one single vessel.

I am not sure whether people have seen some of these vessels at the various departure points, but there are quite a number listed here that have total sheep numbers over 70,000. There is one that had 99,607 animals and a death rate of almost one per cent. Indeed, one vessel made a voyage of 34 days to four different ports—Bahrain, Kuwait, Jebel Ali, which is in Dubai, and another port—with 108,000 sheep crammed on board. Anyone who suggests that there are no animal welfare issues involved in that is kidding themselves.

We have seen screened just recently on the Today Tonight program the follow-up to evidence that was screened last year. It is not just the suffering that occurs on these voyages but the cruelty that is inflicted on animals when they get to the other end. I mentioned a vessel that had a high death rate. One of the ports it went to was the port in Egypt. The footage that has been screened on television shows the way Australian livestock are treated when they are offloaded in Egypt and transported to markets or abattoirs, and the absolutely unspeakable cruelty involved in the way they are slaughtered. When this first came to light last year the minister and industry said, ‘It is a fraud; it is not true; they are not Australian animals; it is not happening.’ But they did suspend the trade. They had an inquiry and put in place an MOU that was supposedly going to fix all this. Minister McGauran said that it was all going to be fine now. People went in there again and got more footage of the very first Australian shipment and it showed that nothing had changed. That has been the problem—20 years of continuing incidence of cruelties, government investigations, promises, recommendations, supposed changes and then we get more evidence that nothing has changed.

There are alternatives to the live export trade. Economic studies show that it exports jobs. We have alternative trade. If the government put as much energy into promoting those alternative exports, the frozen meat trade could increase significantly. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.


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