Senate debates

Monday, 20 June 2011


Live Animal Export Restriction and Prohibition Bill 2011; Second Reading

3:34 pm

Photo of Nick XenophonNick Xenophon (SA, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to table an explanatory memorandum relating to the bill.

Leave granted.

I table the explanatory memorandum and seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—

Live Animal Export Restriction and Prohibition Bill 2011

Over the last thirty years, Australia has exported more than 150 million sheep and cattle to be slaughtered overseas.

More than two million of these animals have died en route.

For the ones that survive, an even crueller fate can await.

On Monday 30 May 2011, ABC's Four Corners aired footage shot in Indonesian abattoirs by Animals Australia and the RSPCA, which showed Australian cattle being tortured and brutalised during slaughter.

Cattle had their tails broken, their eyes gouged, the tendons on their legs slashed; their throats were cut with blunt knives, with an average of 13 strokes taken to kill an animal.

The Mark 1 slaughter boxes, designed in Australia and installed in Indonesian abattoirs using Australian taxpayer funds, do nothing to alleviate this torture.

In fact, they could be said to facilitate it.

These reports are the latest in a long line of industry exposés, where animal welfare groups have revealed the cruelty inherent in our live export markets.

It is time to bring an end to this brutal trade.

Following the Four Corners investigation, hundreds of thousands of Australians have protested against the live export trade.

Among those protesting are live-stock industry groups, who understand the damage being done to Australia's industry by the condoning of these brutal practices.

Meat and Livestock Australia has said that they were not aware of these practices in Indonesia, and that they are working on improving animal welfare standards in export markets.

However, given that MLA has been active in Indonesia for some twenty years, and that MLA inspectors have provided training and conducted inspections in the abattoirs featured in the Four Corners program, this argument seems to hold little weight.

At the end of the day, it is time to agree that we can no longer condone this violent, inhumane treatment of Australian animals.

The argument that 'if we don't send these countries animals to slaughter, someone else will' is not acceptable.

The fact is, we are sending animals, and they are being abused in the most horrible, brutal ways possible.

It is time to take action.

This Bill proposes to end live exports completely from 1 July 2014.

In the meantime, regulations will be put in place to ensure that any country we export to meets World Animal Health Organization standards for animal welfare, and that the animals are stunned using humane and appropriate restraints immediately before slaughter.

Currently, not a single country Australia exports to meets these guidelines.

The end date of 1 July 2014 will allow the Government and industry time to restructure, to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to allow Australia to transition to chilled meat exports only.

The Australian Meat Industry Employees' Union has estimated that, in the last twenty years, some 150 meat processing plants have closed, at the cost of approximately 40,000 jobs. The AMIEU says that this is directly attributable to the live export trade.

The Government needs to ensure that there is an appropriate plan in place before the end of live exports.

This plan should include subsidies to assist producers in transporting their animals until abattoirs in the north are reopened, and compensation to ensure that the industry can make the changes they need to.

It is time to bring an end to this trade, and to support industry in restructuring.

As a country, we can no longer support these brutal practices. We can no longer turn a blind eye to abuse we are in effect sanctioning.

There can be no more excuses for inexcusable behaviour.

It should also be noted that New Zealand banned its live export cattle trade in 2004 following the death of 5000 sheep on an Australian ship bound for Saudi Arabia, and is now a substantial supplier of processed meat to Indonesia.

In response to the Four Corners investigation, New Zealand's Agriculture Minister David Carter has said that New Zealand would not under any circumstances send live cattle to Indonesia.

"The footage is horrific, and that is why New Zealand has such a strong stance on animal welfare," Mr Carter said.

"Under no circumstances should we ever send animals from New Zealand to be treated that way."

If our cousins across the ditch could manage this transition, we should be able to as well.

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.