Senate debates

Tuesday, 21 August 2018


Live Animal Exports, Glyphosate

7:20 pm

Photo of Slade BrockmanSlade Brockman (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise tonight to speak briefly on a couple of very important issues for my home state of Western Australia, in particular the live export trade and the recent events in the United States that may potentially impact on the use of the weedkiller glyphosate. Firstly, I will go very briefly to the live sheep trade.

The live sheep trade is a critical industry for Western Australia, and it is absolutely imperative that we reject the radical and uninformed activists in their push to jeopardise the livelihoods of thousands of hardworking Western Australians and Australians by ending that trade. The live export trade is worth more than $1.4 billion to the Western Australian economy every year. The events on the Awassi Express that we've all seen many times were truly dreadful, but they were also the exception, not the rule. There have been many myths and untruths peddled about the trade. As someone who has been involved in agriculture for a significant part of my life and whose family has sold many thousands of sheep for export, I think it is important that I take the opportunity to address some of these fictions.

The first myth I'd like to address is that we can simply replace the live trade with chilled meat. This simply will not take place. We saw previously, during an episode involving Bahrain, the disruption and damage done to our export trade relationships when live export was ended; the void simply was not filled by Australian chilled meat. We may help our competitors elsewhere, but we certainly will not help ourselves.

Myth No. 2 is that banning the sheep trade will improve animal welfare. I think this is a complete myth, because when we export the animals—be it our sheep or our cattle—we also export Australian standards of animal welfare. That has meant that, elsewhere in the world, for every one Australian animal that is slaughtered in an Australian registered and accredited facility, some three or four animals from elsewhere in the world are also killed to Australian standards in those facilities. That is the direct export of our animal welfare standards through the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System. Banning the Australian trade will not result in a reduction in the number of live sheep being transported to the Middle East. They'll just come from elsewhere. They'll potentially come from a lot further away, from countries with significantly lower standards of animal welfare than Australia.

The final point I would like to address is the question of whether mass mortality events are very frequent. Heat stress events like those on the Awassi Express are not a frequent occurrence. Between 2010 and 2017, the annual mortality rate was between 0.62 and 0.89, with an average of 0.76. Over this time, in excess of 17 million sheep were exported from Australia, the vast majority of these, some 85 per cent, from Western Australia. There may be some opposite who point to this rate as relatively high, but the reality of farming is that you'll get a death rate in paddocks of a significant amount over the same period of time. These rates have been trending down over time and are actually a positive reflection of the interest the industry has taken in animal welfare standards.

Very briefly, I just want to talk about the situation with glyphosate. We've recently seen a court case in the US where a significant award was made on the basis of a link between glyphosate and a particular cancer. We must remember that the US court system is not making that determination based on scientific evidence. There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that glyphosate based weed control products are safe for use on crops. In fact, there are more than 800 scientific studies supporting this proposition. Those calling for a ban on glyphosate are doing so from a political position, not a position of science. And it's exceedingly important that in Australia we always have decisions on the use of chemicals and the regulation of chemicals made by independent scientific organisations based on independent scientific advice.


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