Senate debates

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Live Animal Exports

4:02 pm

Photo of Bill HeffernanBill Heffernan (NSW, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

For those who did not know: in 1988 we exported 81,000 cattle. The cattle trade to Indonesia, or the live export trade, peaked in 2002, with 955,000 cattle. Last year, we exported 821,000. In the 1990-2010 period, Indonesia took 48 per cent of our live cattle exports; the Philippines took 16 per cent; Egypt, eight per cent; Malaysia, seven per cent; and then there are lesser amounts. In the period 2000-10, that was up for Indonesia, to 57 per cent; the Philippines dropped to eight per cent; Egypt dropped to seven per cent; and Malaysia dropped to six per cent.

Can I declare an interest. I have actually shot cattle in a drought situation. I have to tell you that it is not a very nice thing to go through, and I regret, if that is going to happen at Moola Bulla, that there is not another way out. I shot cattle. I went down to save the cows. I shot all the calves. But I did not shoot them all. I could not get through them all. It was too much. I drove out of the paddock and I thought, 'No, I am not going to do this anymore.' I had the rifle under the seat of the car. I opened the gate, then shut the gate. I thought, 'Shit, did I unload the rifle?' I pulled the trigger, and the bullet went out through the door. That is what it does to you. I have experienced that.

Obviously the Indonesian government has said, 'The ball is in your court,' with the letter that Elders and others have got. They are saying they are not going to issue the permits unless we issue the authorisations for export. We could fill 50 per cent. We are talking about abattoirs up there as good as the Wagga abattoirs that kill 1,000 a day. Then you have a whole lot of abattoirs that kill one or two a day, which are never going to be conformist. If we allocated the cattle with NLIS—and I am pleased that the MLA and the Northern Territory cattlemen have learnt the hard way, because for some years I have been trying to convince them that the loophole we have in our NLI system should have been filled. In these regrettable circumstances, now they have agreed to fill it.

When Moola Bulla was a Great Southern cattle property, which was sold to this man from South Africa, it was one of the greatest in that region. I will not nominate the properties—because of the lack of NLIS tags requirement from property of origin direct on the ship, there was a huge cattle-thieving operation there, and the victims were the investors in the Great Southern MIS. Indonesia is waiting on us to do something. Elders have an abattoir which, as I say, is as good as any abattoir in Australia, and they are waiting up there for the cattle to keep coming. They are killing cattle there now, but they will not have a continuum. We have an industry in Darwin that has gone from $1.95 per kilo—and the only live export market out of Darwin at the moment is the Philippines—to $1.40. It has dropped 60c a kilo. I should not name particular companies, but the consolidation of meat processing and the shutting down of a place such as Beef City in Queensland is all about the parity of the dollar, and multinational companies will now fill the Japanese market with boxed meat from America instead of boxed meat from Australia. This will mean even greater pressure on the industry, and it is in the interests of the profitability of Beef City JBS Swift, a family company from Brazil with a sovereign guarantee, to forget about exporting Australian boxed beef cattle to Japan and instead source it from America.

These are further challenges that the cattle industry faces, but we can fix these problems tomorrow morning by exporting NLIS cattle, which are tagged and could go into, for instance, an Elders abattoir in Indonesia, which is as good as an Australian abattoir. By doing so, we could probably maintain 50 per cent of our trade—and we are talking about 57 per cent of our total live export trade, so it is a dire circumstance. It is difficult for people to understand that no farmer wants cattle treated the way they were seen being treated on the telly, because we have seen a perfect political ambush of the industry: Animals Australia and the RSPCA knew about this last year and did not tell us or the industry. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.


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