Wednesday, 19 September 2018
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources; Consideration
by leave—I move:
That the Senate take note of document no. 2.
Today we have seen the release of mortality statistics from the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act 1997 Livestock mortalities during export by sea report for the period 1 January to 30 June 2018, and they make for grim reading. Thousands of sheep are dying as these live export ships ply the seas in their trade of misery. We are still in the northern summer period for the Middle East, where oppressive heat conditions mean temperatures are reaching above 40 degrees. These are exactly the same conditions the infamous Awassi Express sailed in, which led to the extreme cruelty that we saw on 60 Minutes.
And now the Morrison government has approved the Maysora to go to the Middle East with tens of thousands of sheep. This is an incredibly reckless decision. Sheep are almost guaranteed to die of extreme heat stress. So much for our agricultural minister's crocodile tears for animals when he said that it was bullshit that sheep continue to die at sea on live export ships. For the federal government to give the go-ahead to a new shipment when they haven't even released their review of the live export regulator shows how little they think of this process. They're only interested in paying lip-service to animal welfare and just ticking the boxes.
In May this year the Australian Veterinary Association said that there shouldn't be shipments in the northern summer due to the heat stress risks. And the RSPCA has said that this advice was consistent with the outcomes of the recommendations made by Dr Michael McCarthy. But instead of acting on these recommendations, the government has opted for further testing and consultation, all while continuing to approve further export permits.
Prime Minister Morrison has gone out of his way to humiliate his Liberal colleagues, who actually care about this issue. I'm sorry to say that the time for inside-the-tent diplomacy really has passed. Liberal MPs who support the Greens bill to end the live export trade for sheep must walk the talk and bring it on for debate in the House of Representatives. What more evidence do we need that the Prime Minister does not care about the views of MPs in his own party? If you want to end the long-haul export of sheep to the Middle East, the only way is to vote with your head and your heart.
This ship, the Maysora, has a particularly troubled history. It's an old ship and it is completely unable to meet community expectations. On previous voyages, there were reports of sheep not being able to lie down and having inadequate access to food and water, as well as many sheep mortalities. I also note today's news that 19 crew members of the Maysora, which was preparing to load sheep on the docks in Fremantle for the Middle East, presented themselves to Australian Border Force officers on Monday night, claiming that they had gone unpaid for a long period of time and they did not want to return to the ship. It seems that live exports are not only bad for sheep; they're also bad for workers.
Going ahead with shipments before the review of the regulator is released just proves what we have known all along: that the history and the industry will not change. It really is just a matter of time before we get yet another expose of animal cruelty, the same as we have been getting consistently for 30 long years now. It's time to break this government's fake outrage cycle, commit to real action and end the cruelty. The only option is to ban live exports and to transition to the vastly more profitable and humane chilled meat export industry. No more excuses. The time for action is now.