Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Rural Affairs and Transport References Committee; Report
I rise to support my colleague's comment in endorsing the recommendations of the report of the Rural Affairs and Transport References Committee on animal welfare standards in Australia's live export markets and on the Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill 2011 (No. 2) and the Live Animal Export Restriction and Prohibition Bill 2011 (No. 2). From the outset it must be remembered that this debacle was of the Australian government's creation. The Australian government chose to ban the live cattle export trade to Indonesia. The government's actions have caused substantial damage to cattle breeders and affiliated businesses across Northern Australia. We just heard an inspiring speech by Senator Sinodinos—his first speech in this place—referring to the great frontier men, the northern cattlemen, and how they had their hopes dashed in those 30 days.
The Australian government's responsibility for this cannot be understated. It is therefore only fitting that the government bear full responsibility for the impact of its actions and the effect they have had on Northern Australia. With regard to the events leading up to the ban, as the report highlights, no-one condones the animal welfare violations which were seen in the Four Corners footage. The extent to which stakeholders in this industry—peak industry bodies, the Australian government, exporters and so forth—knew about animal welfare abuses is contested and is unlikely to be agreed by all concerned. It is abundantly clear, however, that it was the decision of the Australian government that crippled much of Northern Australia during that time.
The committee happily endorses in its report the sentiment of Dr Temple Grandin:
I think using animals for food is an ethical thing to do, but we've got to do it right. We've got to give those animals a decent life and we've got to give them a painless death. We owe the animal respect.
It is important for Australia to remain engaged with Indonesia to act as an agent of change for animal welfare improvements, particularly at the point of slaughter. Notwithstanding that if Australia were to withdraw from the live cattle export trade to Indonesia it is probable that Indonesia would source live animals from elsewhere, animal welfare abuse against any animal, not just those from Australia, is abhorrent. Australia should remain engaged to provide proper animal-handling practices, not just for the benefit of Australian exports but for all animals bred for slaughter in Indonesia.
I want to talk about the devaluation of Northern Australian land. Landholders have been left with significant uncertainty. There are residual issues with bankers over the devaluing of their properties through that period of time and there remains a cloud of insecurity over them. We have all had to deal with bankers in our time and we all know that they are human. To think that they could contemplate this happening again, when we have not seen the return of the values that these cattlemen were enjoying in the region at that time. These people were operating legitimate and legal businesses until the government decided to take away the security of their livelihood.
The government assistance at the time was one size fits all, and I will be talking about this later on. But the glib announcements from the minister at that time that there would be $60 million of assistance and funding actually translated to interest rate subsidies on cattlemen's new borrowings of $60 million. I reserve the right to continue my remarks. (Time expired)