Tuesday, 26 June 2012
Questions without Notice
Live Animal Exports
I direct my question to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. My question relates to breeder livestock exported from Australia to overseas countries such as dairy cows exported to China, which are not currently covered by the new Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System and which face eventual slaughter in overseas abattoirs which use the cruel practices exposed by animal rights activists. Considering that the Farmer Review of Australia's Livestock Export Trade recommended that the government clarify the position on additional conditions for the trade in breeder livestock animals and that the ESCAS for slaughter of livestock will be fully in place by the end of the year, can you commit to including breeder livestock in the ESCAS sometime in the near future and will you include those countries that Australia exports breeder livestock to which are not currently in the ESCAS such as China and Mexico?
I thank Senator Rhiannon for her interest in the live animal export industry. In 2011, I commissioned the first complete review of the export of Australian livestock. This review made a number of recommendations, which this government accepted. Many of those recommendations have already been acted on, such as the rollout of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System and the review of Australian standards for the export of livestock.
The new framework for exports requires evidence that animals will be processed and handled in accordance with internationally agreed standards and also enables the continuation of the highly valuable trade by placing it on a sustainable footing and by ensuring that the Australian livestock industry meets the community's expectations. The framework provides an increased level of transparency and accountability from the point of export to the point of processing, and exporters must show they have a supply-chain assurance system that delivers internationally agreed standards of control, traceability and independent auditing.
Mr Farmer, in his review, also made a recommendation that the federal government should look at the conditions for the export of breeder animals and determine if any further conditions should be placed on this trade. As part of the government's response to the Farmer review recommendations, we will review conditions for the export trade in breeder livestock. The review found that breeder animals are a different class of animal from feeder or slaughter livestock and are exported for different purposes. They are inherently more expensive animals, and they are intended to improve the productivity and genetic pool of livestock in the importing country and to maximise returns on the initial investment. (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Senator Ludwig, thank you for your response. You said there would be a review of the conditions with respect to breeder livestock; when will that occur, and will it be publicly released? And can you reassure the Australian public that cattle being exported to Indonesia right now—in the category of breeding animals—are not being slaughtered at inappropriate and inhumane slaughterhouses?
All of these matters will be provided publicly once we have followed through on what I indicated is a review of the conditions. We have continued to ensure transparency. At the end of any import quarantine period, it is important to realise, breeder livestock are often sent to different markets from those which feeder or slaughter stock are sent to. China, Mexico and Russia are three major markets for breeder cattle; few slaughter cattle are sent to those markets. Again, at the end of any import quarantine period—that is, for breeder cattle—any breeder animals will have the same health status as the local herd and may freely move within the importing country. For that reason, breeder animals tend to be held for a number of years prior to their eventual death. In terms of Indonesia, it is a quickly developing country with growing numbers of breeder cattle. It is increasing the demand for their own livestock— (Time expired)
Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Minister Ludwig, thank you for your response, but I ask again: when will the review be released? And is your vagueness about when the review will be released because there is a potential loophole that can be exploited here, whereby one set of animal welfare standards applies to export animals headed for slaughter yet industry is exempt from meeting those same standards for exported breeder animals?
I do not accept the premise of the question that has been put by Senator Rhiannon. It is a valuable trade. Breeder cattle are different from slaughter and feeder cattle. Clearly, they are there to build up domestic herds' genetic pool, plus provide animals over a longer period. They are usually there until their death. Many in fact do not end up in a slaughter yard because they may suffer a different fate in a particular cattle yard. What I can say, though, is that we continue to look at this issue, and when the review is finalised we will obviously make it public. But it is important to go back to the Greens on this issue and ask them if they will commit to continuing this valuable trade. It is one that has a bright future. It is one that supports hundreds of jobs in the north and continues to play a vital role in the Top End. (Time expired)