Senate debates

Monday, 10 September 2018


Animal Export Legislation Amendment (Ending Long-haul Live Sheep Exports) Bill 2018; In Committee

11:05 am

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

Today? Now you've made me lose my train of thought, Senator Williams. I shouldn't take your interjections! The economic flow-on effects of the agriculture industry are significant. Senator Dean Smith brought up the impact on the grains industry and why the grains industry in Western Australia is very concerned about the impact on the whole of agriculture. It is because you are not just looking at the direct cost of not being able to export those animals; you are looking at the flow-on costs—to the hay producers; to the grain producers; to the people who service the feedlot environment; to those who work on the ships; and to the shearing community, which relies on the number of sheep in the industry to actually maintain a viable shearing industry, which is growing increasingly hard to attract people to.

I brought up shearing time at the farm for a reason: those who are on the activist end of trying to have live exports banned are also against shearing. We have seen it. The same groups of people who are seeking to have live exports banned are also seeking to have shearing effectively banned. They have released footage of some very terrible examples of shearing in western New South Wales. Those images are shocking to people—and you completely understand that—but are we really going to stop shearing? Are we going to stop the wool industry, a great industry for WA and Australian agriculture? Australia rode on the sheep's back for a very long period of time. And for the first time since the creation of the wool stockpile, at the end of the wool reserve price scheme, the wool industry has been going through a sustained period of growth. It's a great fibre. It's a wonderful fibre. It's a fibre that the world demands, that the world wants, in increased quantities. It is very renewable and, obviously, the properties of wool are amazing.

But the sheep industry does not survive with one arrow in its quiver; the sheep industry survives because it is able to produce meat for domestic consumption, wool for export and live animals for export. To seek to end this trade in any fashion would be terribly detrimental, particularly to the sheep farmers in Western Australia. The flow-on effects would be significantly more dramatic than anyone who is seeking to vote in favour of this bill would acknowledge. The flow-on effects would be significant and quite disastrous for the agricultural industries of Australia.

We've seen an example where a live export destination was halted in Bahrain and the chilled and box trade did not take up the slack. They merely looked elsewhere and, as others before me have stated, they will look to countries with much-lower animal welfare standards than Australia. I've said this before; I will say it again: we do not merely export live animals; we export Australian welfare standards to all those destinations, and we've seen a dramatic impact in regard to the live cattle trade in that respect. We've seen a dramatic impact in terms of the ESCAS-approved facilities in the Middle East, and in exporting our animal welfare standards we are improving conditions around the world.

What's happened with Australia's quite-legitimate decision from this government to invoke the McCarthy review and to put increased restrictions in place in the summer months is that the situation with Emanuel and their licence suspensions have left a void for Western Australia, and obviously that is still an issue to be resolved. But it's not that those markets have closed down; it's merely that they have looked elsewhere. So, anecdotally, we are hearing about significant shipments of sheep going from South America and southern Africa to the Middle East in place of Australian sheep. Does anyone in this place, particularly those who are seemingly going to vote in favour of this bill, seriously believe that animal welfare standards from southern Africa and South America are living up to the animal welfare standards of Australia? They simply are not.

We are the only country in the world that has asked our markets—and they don't have to accept it—to accept our animal welfare standards. We are the only country in the world that has done that, and we have made a significant impact. It is my understanding that for every Australian animal that is killed in an ESCAS-approved facility overseas something like three or four animals that are sourced from elsewhere are killed in those facilities to Australian standards. We are exporting animal welfare standards, and any move to cut off the trade can only result in a negative impact on animals on an international basis.

I've got only 2½ minutes left, unfortunately, because we couldn't continue with our second reading debate—which I think is a disgrace. But before I do sit down I want to ask the three proponents of the bill to answer a few questions: do you truly believe in the live cattle trade? I would like an answer to that question and I think farmers across Australia would like an answer to that question. This bill deals with sheep and it deals with a five-year phase-out period. So, in five years you've got an ending of the sheep trade, but do you want to see the cattle trade ended as well? We've also heard that this is a compromise bill. Does that mean you would sooner see the live export trade and the live cattle trade ended today rather than in five years, with the commensurate impact that would have on animal welfare in Australia? And I ask you—and I ask the three proponents of this bill, quite seriously: have you gone to Western Australia, have you sat down with Western Australian farming families and have you talked to them about this bill and the impact it will have? I would like an answer to those questions.


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