Senate debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


Rural Affairs and Transport References Committee; Report

5:39 pm

Photo of Fiona NashFiona Nash (NSW, National Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Education) Share this | Hansard source

I am proud to follow my colleagues in this debate. I don't think there has been a committee where we have seen such an avid interest in the issue from all members of the committee on this side. It was really quite extraordinary to see. What we saw with the government's banning of the live export trade was a very clear indication of the government's complete lack of understanding of rural Australia. They simply did not consider what the ramifications would be of banning the live export trade. They simply did not consider it. In the context of the inquiry, that became even more clear. We on this side of the chamber all knew what the ramifications were going to be. When we heard what had happened we knew what the ramifications were going to be, but through the course of the inquiry it became even more clear what they were going to be.

Let me read you one part of the report. We are talking about the announcement of the temporary suspension of live exports. Mr Philip Hams, one of the witnesses who appeared at the inquiry, said:

I was laying in bed at 12 o'clock one night when the news came on the ABC … that the ban had gone on for the next day. Outside not too far from where I stay four helicopters parked up and a whole heap of RTA road trains parked up. There were probably 30 people ready to roll the next day and at 12 o'clock the new comes. It was like a train crash—it just goes, 'Whoompa!'

That is precisely what the government did not understand. The government were reacting to what seemed to them to be a wave of community sentiment. There were, I would have to say, a plethora of emails going through to the government, but they did not think. The government and the minister simply did not think about what the ramifications were going to be. It was a knee-jerk reaction. This is indicative of the fact that the government will not think things through and that they do not understand rural Australia.

One of the things that became very clear during the course of the inquiry was the incredible people out there in rural Australia, farming, managing, working—not just cattle producers but all the people involved in the flow-on businesses. In the very short time I have available to me I want to take the opportunity to thank them very much for their evidence, because it was pivotal in making a change. It was pivotal in changing the practices of the government, what they were doing and how this whole issue was going to be taken forward. I take my hat off to them and thank them for what they do for this country. The government should start recognising what rural Australians, those people and families, are doing for this country. I thank them.


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