Senate debates

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Carbon Pricing, Live Cattle Trade

3:20 pm

Photo of Glenn SterleGlenn Sterle (WA, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I was not going to mention it, but I did not see Q&A last night and I am sure the senators in this place did their parties proud. I had something far more important to do than watch Q&A. I had to sort out my sock drawer.

I rise to take note of a question from Senator Back to Minister Ludwig. I heard the comment, 'What would he know, he is a vet?' I do have admiration for Senator Back. I work closely with him when he is dishing it up to me as I am walking out of the chamber as he did the other day quite fairly. You got one in for free, Senator Back--through you Mr Deputy President—but we will have the chance to square the ledger somewhere along the line.

In terms of the live export trade, I do stand in this building as a very proud senator for Western Australia. Those who do know my whereabouts—and hopefully not as many as I think might—know that I proudly haunt the Kimberley. At every opportunity I am in the Kimberley. Whether it be in the west or the east, the live export trade is very topical. Live cattle and beef are the main industry in the Kimberley. It is not the only part of Western Australia for those who might not know. There is also the Pilbara.

I also know that when the live export ban was on and the Rural, Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee conducted a number of inquiries around the Top End of Australia and also one here, in Canberra, I made sure that I was in Broome to hear from the pastoralists—not only the Kimberley pastoralists and the Pilbara pastoralists but also the 22 Kimberley Aboriginal pastoralists—who were affected. They have their own little association, headed by Billy Lawford from Bohemia Downs. I know the drama that the ban on the live export trade created.

I honestly say, with my hand on my heart, that I know the pain that it would have given the minister to have to put that ban on. But let us just talk about that ban—the ban that lasted a month. Yes, it did get everyone jumping who had an interest in live export, and they are not only the pastoralists but also others who rely on cattle for a living. They are the numerous truckies, trucking companies, truck drivers, auto electricians, tyre suppliers, fencing suppliers and local shops in those regional and rural towns, as well as a host of other businesses. Let me talk about this from the west Kimberley perspective—the towns of Broome and Derby. People think that Broome is bubbling. It is the dry season, which is normally the height of the tourist season. Tourism is really suffering. Trust me: they are suffering. The high Australian dollar is making it very hard for them. But I also have to tell you, Mr Deputy President—and I know that Senator Back will back me on this—the pearling industry is all but defunct there. They are struggling. So the live export of cattle is very important.

I think the way that everyone has jumped on the government has been unfair. Let us take a couple of steps back to what I call the 'shocking behaviour' on behalf of Animals Australia and the RSPCA—and I will tell you why. It was right of them to bring to the attention of the government the mistreatment of animals, but they sat on that information for months. For months and months, they sat on it. If they had been fair dinkum, they would have been in here that quick that they would have burnt the carpet trying to get to the minister's office.

I stand in support of the live cattle industry, but I would much rather see a more active boxed-meat industry. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to go back to my old trucking days when there was an abattoir in Kununurra, an abattoir in Wyndham, an abattoir in Broome and an abattoir in Derby. There was also one, but not for cattle, in Carnarvon. And I also think Port Hedland might have had some activity around there. I remember all those meatworkers and businesses that relied on the live export cattle trade.

I fully stand shoulder to shoulder with the government on its decision to put the ban on because we had to lift our standards. There are no ifs or buts about it. When I was at the PGA conference in Broome in June, I said that it would have been lovely if we could have done it without having to put a ban on. The sad reality is that we had to put the ban on. We had to lift the treatment of animals in Indonesia to world-class standards. I understand that the Indonesians have put some pressure on Australian growers. But I can tell you from the PGA in Broome that they are confident that their export figures will return to pre-ban days. (Time expired)


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