Senate debates

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers

Carbon Pricing, Live Cattle Trade

3:25 pm

Photo of Christopher BackChristopher Back (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I thank Senator Sterle for the support he gave the industry last year. Had he not given it such support, the industry might not have been returned quite so quickly. But I do remind Senator Sterle again that I did write to the minister in the days before he made the decision to suspend the trade, and I invited the opportunity to speak with him at length so that he could avert doing that.

But the matter of greatest concern to me today is that, when I put my questions to Senator Ludwig, whose answers I wish to take note of today, I was raising with him matters of enormous concern to biosecurity in this country. Only yesterday did he answer a dorothy dixer from Senator Moore in which he very proudly spoke of his role in protecting biosecurity in this country. When I raised with him the very real threats of a return of foot-and-mouth disease to Indonesia and, subsequently, to this country and the possibility of a return to this country of contagious bovine pleuropneumonia, a disease that took us some 130 years to eradicate, all he could come back and say to me was 'a scare campaign'. This is the minister who has responsibility to the Australian community for one of our most important industries.

The third highest revenue export income earning industry for this country is agriculture. For Minister Ludwig to stand up here and claim this side of the house, and particularly me, a veterinarian of some 40 years' experience, has no interest in biosecurity or in animal welfare matters is a deep insult to me. It is an absolutely deep insult to me. I raised with him the question of whether or not he is aware and can he confirm that beef is being illegally repackaged as 'product of Australia' and being brought into Indonesia from India—a country which is rife with foot-and-mouth disease and, indeed, contagious bovine pleuropneumonia. The only retort he could give back to me was that he regarded that as a scare campaign.

Let me debunk, if I can, a theory which was put around this time last year about the live export trade, which is that, if the live export trade were discontinued in any country of any type, it would be replaced with chilled or frozen—in other words, boxed meat. We know from our experience with Saudi Arabia in the 1980s, when we lost the live export trade of sheep to Saudi Arabia for political purposes, there was a concurrent drop-off and cessation of boxed beef and sheepmeat sales to Saudi Arabia. I will have more to say about Saudi Arabia in coming days.

What we see evidence of at this very time is that the Indonesians are punishing Australia because of the act by Senator Ludwig in suspending the supply of protein to low socioeconomic Indonesian families last year. The reprisals are many. We see the reprisals, do we not, in the attitude of the Indonesians towards our attempts to solve the asylum seeker problem. We see it in the efforts of the Indonesian government now to accept the notion of accepting beef from the United States. This is a market that is on our doorstep. Would the Americans be keen to get into the Indonesia trade? Of course they would. Do we have a freight advantage? Yes, we do. But what is going to happen now as a direct result of the insult visited upon Indonesia following the actions of Senator Ludwig? These were actions that he did not need to take, I emphasise. We have a circumstance now in which the number of live cattle has been reduced this year to 283,000 animals—this is down from 770,000 in 2009. At the same time, we are also see a halving of the amount of boxed chilled beef going into Indonesia. This is exactly in line with what we saw Saudi Arabia do years ago.

As I have raised the point, another country that Indonesian government ministers have said they will seek to import beef from is Brazil. Not all of Brazil has foot-and-mouth disease. There are so-called foot-and-mouth-disease-free zones. But we know that the leakage of movement of live cattle from foot-and-mouth-disease zones into zones which are free of foot-and-mouth-disease are very wide and loose. I repeat the fear which has been expressed by the veterinary profession and throughout the community that if we end up accepting beef from those countries into Indonesia, those diseases will return to Indonesia, and with our porous borders we will end up with them in Australia.

Question agreed to.


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