Senate debates

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


Rural Affairs and Transport References Committee; Report

5:56 pm

Photo of Richard ColbeckRichard Colbeck (Tasmania, Liberal Party, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries and Forestry) Share this | | Hansard source

I acknowledge Senator Macdonald for giving me a few moments on this report, which is a very important one. I acknowledge Senator Siewert too, who has not sought the call, because I know this is an important issue to her and she has spent a lot of time working on this through estimates and through the committee process.

This report again highlights the failure of the government's decision-making processes. We learnt through the estimates process and through freedom of information documents that have been released that the government made this decision to ban the live export trade through a cabinet process but without formal papers. We know, through that process, that the government was not in possession of all of the information or, most critically, the impact on the industry in Northern Australia. They were not appraised of what that impact was going to be because they had not sought that information.

In the lead-up to this decision, in fact the day before the decision was taken, when the Minister for Foreign Affairs was talking to his Indonesian counterpart, we know that the discussions the government had were that it would continue to work with the Indonesians to resolve the issues that needed to be resolved within the live cattle trade. I acknowledge comments in Senator Xenophon's dissenting report where he indicates that it is a tragedy that it takes such a crisis to make the quantum leap that has occurred in this particular trade. It should not be that we need a program like Four Corners to advance this. I hope that the government is now alert to the fact that it needs to work very closely with our trading partners. In fact, I have had that conversation with the RSPCA and other people who are interested in this, that the government needs to be proactive in working with our trading partners so that every effort is made to ensure that high animal welfare practices are in place.

It is also a disgrace that the Indonesians found out about this decision to ban the trade in the media. Despite the fact that they were having conversations about us continuing to work with them, they had to find out through the media that the decision-making process was not robust enough to ensure that there was proper communication. I have had the opportunity to see what good can be done when we work closely through the provisions that are put in place in Egypt. It is a tragedy that some people will never recover from this bad decision. I urge the government to seriously consider the recommendations of the report.