Senate debates

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Live Animal Exports

3:44 pm

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

Thank you, Deputy President Parry, and congratulations on your election to that position.

I do not think farmers, cattle producers or anyone involved in this industry wants cattle to be treated in the way we saw on Four Corners in Indonesia—or any other country, for that matter. I think they want action taken to ensure that the cattle are treated and slaughtered appropriately—that they do not go through undue pain and suffering in circum­stances which I think appalled everybody that saw the footage on Four Corners. It is a terrible situation, but it is a situation where the government had to act.

It is a pretty easy target for the opposition simply to blame the government. Of course, from their point of view, the government is ultimately responsible for everything. That is what an opposition does. Often they will exaggerate things and make things up in order to make those points. That is unfortun­ate. This government is trying to work very hard with the industry and with Indonesia to ensure that we can get a resumption of the live cattle trade.

I had the opportunity to visit Egypt a number of years ago where we saw a closed-loop abattoir that took a long time to develop—four years—after the previous Howard government closed down the live trade to Egypt when there were similar concerns and public outrage about those issues. This government has acted in a very similar manner to the way the previous government acted with very similar circumstances. It took a long time to develop that. We do not believe we will take anywhere near as long as it took to reopen the trade with Egypt. They eventually got a closed-loop system, which is what we require with Indonesia.

We are confident that the work we are doing with Indonesia and with the industry will soon lead to the ability to reopen some of the trade. It is simply not enough to say that there are some abattoirs somewhere that will meet the international standards that we expect for our cattle to be slaughtered in Indonesia. You actually have to guarantee that when the cattle are shipped to Indonesia they are in a closed-loop situation where they can be tracked to ensure that they go to the international-standard abattoirs which they are expected to go to and not diverted to other places where the current practices which appalled everybody will continue to operate. That is what we need to avoid.

It is very disappointing that the live trade industry itself has seriously let down the farmers and cattle producers of this country. It was an industry that was aware for some time about some of the treatment that was occurring to the cattle. Instead of trying to address the issue in a long-term process—where we could get closed-loop systems, have appropriate standards and assist the Indonesians and work with them to achieve it—they simply continued to export cattle, with no regard for the way that they were treated and slaughtered. The live cattle trade industry itself has let down the cattle producers and the farmers of this country. And, of course, it has let down all Australians.

This is of interest to all Australians. We know that there has been an enormous public outcry. In fact, there is an enormous campaign to never reopen the live cattle trade, but this government is committed to it for many of the reasons that Senator Scullion identified. We accept those reasons are there. We accept that the livelihoods of many people, including Indigenous companies and stockmen, are reliant on this particular trade at this point in time. The government is moving to ensure that we get an adequate compensation package to address some of those issues.

Whenever a decision like this is made, it always has flow-on consequences, but the government was in a position where it needed to act and act quickly and responsibly in the best interests of the long-term trade. That is what people, I think, fail to under­stand: if we do not get this right, this trade will never reopen. Simply doing what the opposition says—ignoring the reality on the ground and simply reopening the trade without having the proper safeguards, the appropriate closed-loop systems in place—would jeopardise the longevity of this industry in the future. (Time expired)


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