Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Rural Affairs and Transport References Committee; Report
Time is short so I will stick to the salient points. There is unanimity in this chamber about issues of animal cruelty. We were all shocked by what we saw on the Four Corners coverage. From my visits to the Northern Territory, from my participation in this inquiry and in Western Australia, it must be noted that producers in Australia have high standards of animal welfare and act in good faith when it comes to live exports. They do not to deserve to have their livelihoods put at risk because of regulatory and planning failures. But these issues have been raised on many occasions over the years.
There have been serious failures in the regulatory processes and Australian producers have been let down. It is still my belief that in the longer term we need to phase out the live animal trade, to process animals here and to value add here. But I acknowledge, as I did in the report to the committee, that there ought to be a longer time frame in conjunction with industry and RSPCA consultation. Three years is not practical.
We need to look at mandatory stunning. We need to look at the best practice. We also need to ensure that there are no exemptions to preslaughter stunning in all Australian abattoirs as well. On the one issue where I think there is unanimity with my colleagues in the coalition, there ought to be a much better system of compensation. The producers that have acted in good faith do not deserve to be out of pocket. I was very concerned by the evidence heard from good people who have done the right thing in the way they have looked after their animals in Australia. They deserve a much better system of compensation. Those involved in ancillary industries deserve much better compensation so that they are not out of pocket. There needs to be a much better way of dealing with this. Essential expenses are not currently covered under the existing compensation scheme and that is a very deep flaw.
It also needs to be taken into account that if we want to transition away from live exports and at the very least to ensure that there are fewer animals slaughtered overseas and more processed here we need to look at the economics of that. We need the feedlots, the economics and the infrastructure in place to allow for that. That would unambiguously be a good thing for producers to have greater choice in their markets. That is an issue that I like to think we can all work on constructively. Having said that, this is an important issue. The government in the short term needs to ensure that the producers are subject to much more generous compensation that is fair and equitable so that those in the north of Australia can deal with what has occurred recently as a result of what I believe was not their fault but regulatory failures on the part of other bodies.