Senate debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


Rural Affairs and Transport References Committee; Report

5:51 pm

Photo of Alan EgglestonAlan Eggleston (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I support the live export trade but do so on the understanding that Australian livestock are not subject to grossly inhumane treatment, as appears to have been the case in several Indonesian abattoirs. I would like to focus on our relationship with Indonesia. The Indonesian government was caught completely off guard when the Gillard government stopped the live export trade. There was no call from the Prime Minister to the President of Indonesia and no information whatsoever was given to the Indonesians. Yet the live export cattle trade from Australia is a very vital part of their food chain and protein supply.

I happen to know that from the very highest levels of the Indonesian government there was enormous irritation, even anger, and great surprise that the Australian government had treated them so discourteously. It is a very interesting story. During estimates I asked the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade whether the government had sought advice from them before the ban was imposed and I was told that, indeed, the government had. I asked what the advice was. I was told it was not to impose the ban in the way that was subsequently done but to have discussions with the Indonesians. That was very important.

Indonesia is our closest neighbour. It is a country which is very friendly towards Australia. It is very important that this government in particular needs to learn to deal more sensitively with Indonesia and the countries of the Asian region in general. Rather than the imposition of this blanket ban without notice, it would have been much more preferable if the Australian government had discussed the problem with the Indonesians and sought a joint solution.

The impact of the ban on the cattle industry, particularly in the north-west of Western Australia, where I came from before I came into the Senate and where I attended hearings on this matter, was enormous. The pastoralists of the Pilbara and the Kimberley were hit very badly by this export ban and, unfortunately, their cattle have now grown too heavy to be exported to Indonesia. Eighty Indigenous properties across the north of Australia, employing some 14,700 people, were also affected by the ban. The bottom line is that we must learn from this experience and never again treat our close neighbour and friends in Indonesia in the way that they were treated in this case. We also need to remember that there are people, businesses and livelihoods involved in the farming organisations which were affected by this ban.


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