Senate debates

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Live Animal Exports

3:39 pm

Photo of Nigel ScullionNigel Scullion (NT, Country Liberal Party, Deputy Leader of the Nationals) Share this | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (Senator Ludwig) to a question without notice asked today.

I take this opportunity to congratulate you, Senator Parry, on your ascension to the deputy presidency. I know that on this side we consider it to be practice for the real job very shortly.

One of the questions I asked the minister was: what could Nico Botha do and what access to what programs would he have with regard to him now having to shoot 200 animals every day until 3,000 animals have been culled? As part of the answer—I am sure the minister was not being glib about it—he said, 'We've referred this to Human Services and Centrelink are going to give him a call.' He would know from my question that I have done the arithmetic for him: it is some $125,000 in losses every day. Sadly the $5,000 that would be provided to Mr Botha would only just cover his bullets. It smacks of arrogance to simply say: 'We'll just ring Centrelink. It'll be all right.' It is a completely blinkered government that cannot understand the human tragedy that is happening out there in North Australia.

We now see this coupled so closely to animal welfare issues, the terrible irony that we were trying to prevent. The motive for that prevention was good, but the way this government has gone about it means it has completely and utterly bungled it. That is one demographic—that is, property owners right across North Australia. If that is the government's response, to 'ring Centrelink', I do not think any sort of comfort in the future for the amelioration of these decisions is going to be very satisfactory.

There is another demographic right across North Australia that are very close to my heart—that is, the Aboriginal Australians who are working on so many of these cattle stations across the country. I have spoken to them in Timber Creek, in Lake Nash, in Newcastle Waters and in Beetaloo recently. There are 7,000 Aboriginal participants across North Australia in this industry. Those 7,000 support nearly 17,000 people in extended families and communities that are absolutely dependent on this, ensuring they have pride because they are part of an extended family that earns their money instead of getting it off welfare, pride because they know the alternative is Centrelink. They do not like to have anything to do with Centrelink. They have moved away from that in the pastoral industry.

It is a great irony that they now own some 55 stations in the Northern Territory, 22 in Western Australia and six in North Queensland. They own them. They started out as the backbone of this industry. It is not the Kidmans of the world that developed the cattle industry; it was the Aboriginal stockmen, the Aboriginal managers. They are the backbone of and provide the framework for an industry that they have only recently, in historical times, had the opportunity to own. They own their own land, own their own cattle stations, provide for their own employment. They have some independence and some pride. They own a stake in their own business, a very important business, a business that has brought spin-offs for people who used to expect they would go on CDEP or expect that they would be intergenerationally poor. The expectation was they did not go to work, they went to Centrelink. But that cycle has been broken. They have ownership of their land and pride in how they can provide for their people and for their country. But the great sadness is this—they have asked me: 'What will I do? Where can I go?' I have said, 'I'm sorry, it's back to Centrelink.'

Here we have a government that has made a knee-jerk decision that has not only affected the pastoral industry and the people within it in a fiscal sense, but has also emasculated our First Australians. It has taken away those vestiges of pride they have worked so long to achieve. For the past couple of decades their plans have slowly come to fruition; they are slowly getting back to where they should be. They are so proud of the work they have done. They enjoy this work so much. If you ever want to see a bloke enjoying his job, who seeks for no more than to get up every day and work on a pastoral station, talk to an Aboriginal stockman. They love their work. This government has said, 'Sorry about that.' Instead of putting people from welfare into employment, they have managed very well to take people from perfectly good jobs and stick them on welfare. (Time expired.)


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