Tuesday, 10 September 2019
Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports Bill 2019; Second Reading
) ( ): This is not my first speech. My pathway to this place is one that many may consider unconventional. In this instance, I suggest that that pathway sees me uniquely positioned to speak on this matter with uncommon authority. As a veterinary surgeon with more than 30 years experience in the Northern Territory, a very large portion of which has been spent working in the pastoral and livestock industries and with live exporters, I consider I'm uniquely placed.
I've worked for a large number of primary producers and exporters in the live export industry, in the pre-export inspection of stock, performing importing countries' protocols, supervising loading of stock and accompanying live export vessels at sea. I consider myself to have excellent firsthand experience in this sector. It is with this experience that I speak in support of the Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports Bill 2019, which will deliver a critical component to our plan for best practice in our livestock export industry, a component that will provide greater assurance in the regulation of live animal exports and lead to greater assurance of good husbandry and welfare. With the establishment of the position of Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports, not only can we ensure animal welfare standards are being met or exceeded, but we can also ensure the quality of our export products are of an ever-increasing standard.
It has been my experience, almost without exception, that livestock producers care a great deal about the health and welfare of their stock. This is also true of most exporters. If they have no other reason to care, there is certainly a big money incentive. Stock that die, are sick, are injured or that fail to gain weight represent loss of profits on a journey. Consistent weight gain on a voyage is what they strive to achieve, and this is only possible with good welfare. Sick or distressed animals do not gain weight.
With my personal history in mind, you'll understand my disbelief and distress when I saw a video of the appalling conditions on board a live sheep export boat in 2018. It is with great relief that I also witnessed our government moving swiftly to investigate and to implement a range of changes to ensure the welfare of all exported livestock is improved. Whilst producers and exporters are generally very good, it behoves us to expose and weed out the cowboys.
Australia's live export trade is valued at well in excess of $1.7 billion, representing one of our most significant industries. This industry also delivers thousands of jobs to people who want to work—the hardworking, quiet Australians who spoke so loudly on 18 May this year. This government listened to the quiet Australians who want jobs and security. We are committed not just to maintaining a sustainable, well-regulated livestock export sector but to improving it where possible and to growing job opportunities.
The inspector-general will provide improved assurance as to the proper regulation of the industry and will therefore support its sustainability, ensuring jobs and prosperity for our nation. With this bill and the implementation of the role of inspector-general, we introduce an independent layer of accountability, providing the assurances necessary to promote even greater confidence in our live export trade for producers, foreign customers, governments and the Australian public.
While improving the government's regulation of livestock, this bill provides assurance to our trading partners that we are committed to the livestock export trade and that we mean business when it comes to protecting animal welfare. We also demonstrate to our trading partners that we have a reliable framework in place. We must also look internally, within our own shores, and consider the impacts on our farmers and primary producers. These hardworking Australians contend daily with often harsh lands, continually managing the planning of futures that may or may not include an abundance of rain and feed for stock. We have an obligation to those hardworking Australians to ensure they reap the rewards of their efforts and that this government acts to ensure there is security for these jobs to remain and flourish.
With the establishment of an inspector-general position, we'll deliver to our live export industry the assurances they need to work, plan and invest with confidence—that is, confidence that they can realise an income, a reward, for their hard work; confidence that their government has a plan for ensuring their product is treated with the same attentive care they apply to their livestock; and confidence that their government is listening to their needs.
The people of the Northern Territory, probably more than most other jurisdictions, felt the effects of the Labor government's live export ban. It devastated the Northern Territory and it had a great flow-on effect not only on the producers and the exporters but also on the small businesses and the people in communities. It also led to poor welfare outcomes and the death of huge numbers of livestock.
Our government has already implemented regulation that ensures improved outcomes for animal welfare, and ultimately this bill will drive a positive change in the livestock export industry for Australia that will also see better outcomes for industry and for all Australians. I commend this bill to the Senate.