Senate debates

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Bills

Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports Bill 2019; Second Reading

1:05 pm

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | Hansard source

As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, I want to speak in favour of the Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports Bill 2019. While I speak in favour of this bill, I want to explain two core contradictions that this bill highlights. But first I will give an overview. This bill provides for the office of an inspector-general of live cattle exports. The purpose is to provide certainty that the welfare of the animals is being respected while at the same time ensuring the commercial viability of the cattle export trade.

Animal welfare is crucial to farmers because farmers care for their animals. That's why farmers have poured tens of millions of dollars into educating people who handle their cattle overseas. I am following, in the speaking order, a vet who said that core to the farming business in cattle and sheep is weight and that farm animals lose weight under stress. It is in the farmer's financial interest and their own moral and ethical interests to look after animals. That's why farmers care for animals. That's why farmers have poured tens of millions of dollars into educating foreigners on how to handle Australian cattle overseas.

I can think of people that I've met in Central Queensland and the Darling Downs like Bryce Camm—bright, experienced, knowledgeable, committed. He points out things like export competitors and the sophistication of farming these days. It is not just a simple matter of putting a few cattle on a boat; it is a very scientific business. I'm thinking of Linda Hewitt in Central Queensland—energetic, savvy, dedicated and, again, knowledgeable. She is similarly concerned about government interference in the business.

Importantly, this bill is not just about farm products, farm animals; it is about confidence in the cattle industry. With that confidence, graziers invest. With that confidence, graziers employ. With that confidence, graziers across our country can earn export earnings. That wealth flows through to the benefit of our nation. Here are some background facts. The live cattle trade generates $1.2 billion in export earnings, with $620 million being returned to the local economy. This employment is critical to local economies, from TI and Cooktown in the north to Thargomindah and Cunnamulla in the south-west. This employment is critical to local economies, particularly in the Northern Territory and the northern parts of Western Australia and Queensland. It's important right across the country—not just in the Territory, as Senator McMahon talked about, but right across the country because of the flow-on effects, which I'll discuss in a minute.

In the Kimberley, for example, 700 local Aboriginals are provided with jobs because of live cattle exports. Even the ABC noted that these job are all these blokes know. Live cattle exports allow Australians to breed tropical, heat-resistant breeds of cattle in northern Australia to be exported to Asia where they are generally grown on locally. A lot of countries to which our live cattle and sheep are exported do not have refrigeration, so people need to buy their food daily. That means we're looking after their needs and the needs of their country. It means the live cattle trade is helping not only our economy but also economies right across Asia and the Middle East. It helps them with employment and also with domestic herd quality. It helps these countries overseas to help themselves.

The graziers and employees, like these Aboriginal stockmen, love these cattle. They respect these cattle because their income comes from the cattle and because they are living creatures as well. The demonisation of the live cattle trade is an insult to good, decent and caring people.

There is another perspective here that I want to add. As Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Lending to Primary Production Customers, I learned firsthand of the damage that banks and receivers do to so many rural producers. I learned more. I learned of the government tipping farmers over the edge due to government interference in the Murray-Darling Basin, stealing farmers' property rights. The live cattle export ban that flowed right across our country didn't just affect the north; it affected all cattle producers right around the country. Prime Minister Gillard's knee-jerk and capricious reaction in cancelling the live cattle trade after footage of foreign workers abusing our livestock emerged caused terrible losses in the industry. These are now the subject of a $600 million class-action lawsuit. Prime Minister Gillard's reaction was to the ABC's fabrications and sensationalism. It's a pity that our farmers aren't media savvy, because they would have been countering this a long time ago. Yet farmers around this country are waking up. One thing the farmers won't do, though, unlike the Greens and the activists, is tell lies. They're using facts. I want to commend their dedicated families and the communities that were cleaned out by the banks as a result of government facade.

Now we're entering even more-dangerous territory. When a drought hits, it is often necessary to export cattle in this manner to save them from being put down. That option must be available to farmers. Live cattle export is actually an animal welfare benefit. One Nation are committed to ensuring that live cattle, sheep and all animals are treated with the same respect overseas as they are in Australia, and that's why we support this bill. Farmers' livelihoods, as I've said, require care of animals, yet the Green ideology says the reverse. I'll discuss that further, later this afternoon.

I will go further now, though, to say we are committed to ensuring that not only farm animals but farmers and all Australians are treated with respect. Let's consider the Liberal-Labor legacy that's devastating agriculture. Here are just some of the things that I can list. There was the stealing of farmers' property rights in 1996 under a Liberal federal government that did a deal with the Borbidge National Party state government in Queensland. That was done as part of the UN Kyoto protocol. It was based on no data that the UN produced and it was later implemented through the Labor Party in the state of Queensland. This is the Liberal-Labor duopoly.

The lack of investment in water infrastructure is crippling our industry. We can see that now everywhere. A prominent Liberal whom I won't mention but for whom I have some respect was asked by a friend of mine just last week, 'Why didn't the Liberals invest in building dams 10 years ago?' The answer was staggering: 'Because we didn't need them 10 years ago.' What rubbish! We need investment now to protect the future.

I was talking with a farmer in southern Queensland who was talking, in turn, with a Chinese buyer in Japan. That's how the international connections work. He was being told by the Chinaman that the problem with Australian agricultural product is a lack of consistency—not quality, because our quality is better than anywhere else in the world. It's about the consistency of delivery. This drought now stands as a beacon for that. So we need investment in water infrastructure. We need proper allocation of water. Some of the allocation has been affected by the UN's Rio de Janeiro declaration, which was not based on data and which was implemented by the Labor government, followed by Liberal governments. That was from 1992 onwards.

Then we have energy policy. We have a drought. As I have said many times, we have farmers in Central Queensland, southern Queensland and North Queensland not planting fodder in a drought because they can't afford the water prices. We have canefarmers similarly worried about their energy prices affecting their farming. And the energy prices that are crippling our country are due to the UN's Kyoto protocol, the UN's Rio de Janeiro declaration and the UN's Paris agreement—all based on no data, all due to the UN and all implemented by both the Labor Party and the Liberal Party. And now we have an insane government action in Queensland, where the state Labor government is putting in severe penalties and restrictions based, again, not on data but on UN protocols and on a consensus statement—not science, a consensus statement. We'll have a cup of tea or a few beers and come up with a consensus statement.

Then we talk about the fishing industry that's been decimated right around our country following the UN Kyoto protocol; and following the Rio de Janeiro declaration in 1992, from the UN again. Forestry is the same: no data to back it up. But now the Queensland Labor government wants to smash the forestry industry in South-East Queensland. They're just the specifics that are hurting agriculture in my state. Then we look at tax. We look at economic mismanagement. We look at budget cycles now becoming ways of getting favours. As a result, we see rural and regional Queensland being smashed.

It's not foreigners doing this. It is decades of the Liberal-Labor duopoly government. We need real action, management and vision for the farmers of Australia. From TI to Thargomindah, from Cooktown to Cunnamulla, rural areas need the support of these restrictions—these artificial, government imposed restrictions—removed.

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