Senate debates

Wednesday, 21 June 2017


Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill 2017; Second Reading

5:59 pm

Photo of Lee RhiannonLee Rhiannon (NSW, Australian Greens) 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 an explanatory memorandum and I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speech read as follows—


I introduce the Greens' Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill, which would end the horror and suffering that is the live export trade.

Thirty-two years ago a Senate inquiry found evidence of the cruelty of the trade was enough to close it down on animal welfare grounds alone. It recommended that the Government expand the chilled meat trade to eventually replace the live export trade.

The Greens echo those calls. And for many years we have appealed to successive governments to end the trade and provide a just transition to the domestic chilled meat industry. That would be a win-win. Not only would the intense suffering of animals on those ships stop, but it would be a huge boost to Australian jobs and it would grow local supply chains in rural economies.

Yet despite the clear ethical, reputational and financial benefits of ending the live export trade, successive Labor and Coalition governments have continued to support this cruel and abhorrent trade in animal suffering.

Since 2000, 612 639 animals have been reported as dying on crowded live export ships. A vast number of those animals suffered slow deaths from starvation, unable to eat or digest the factory-produced pellets that are used by exporters to substitute a lifetime of grains or pastured food.

Over 25.2 million frightened animals have been crowded into the stinking holds of live export ships in the past seven years alone, blanketed in their own excrement for weeks which fouls any feed or water they might access. Their eyes, throats and lungs are burnt by dense toxic ammonic gases accumulating in those airless holds.

Hundreds of thousands of sheep have died a cruel death from salmonellosis, pneumonia and enteritis with its fevered, cramping and bloodied diarrhoea; in excruciating pain from untreated injuries, infections and illness; or baked alive in searing temperatures.

The profiteering from such abject and systemic cruelty continues, supported by both Labor and the Coalition.

In 2011 we saw clear evidence of animals being systematically tortured in Indonesia. The Federal Government responded with a temporary ban on the trade. But rather than transitioning towards domestic meat processing industry, they put a supply chain assurance scheme in place and lifted the ban. We now know that scheme, the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance scheme or ESCAS, has failed to do what it was supposed to do.

A history of breaches and complete lack of action shows that the Department of Agriculture is incapable of regulating the live export trade through ESCAS. ESCAS was intended to bring certainty to the Australian public, who are immensely concerned about animal welfare on live export ships. But the shocking acts of cruelty have continued unchecked.

In 2015-16 alone, over 17,000 animals died on that harrowing haul to overseas markets where their unspeakable suffering intensified.

In overseas markets under the failed ESCAS regime, Australian animals cower and bellow under bludgeoning sledgehammers; have their throats sawn with blunt knives; tendons sliced, bodies and eyes stabbed; decapitated slowly; dragged and trussed into oven-baking car boots or on top of car roofs like terrified baggage to suffer abuse and horrific deaths.

Australian governments continue to excuse and facilitate extreme brutality by opening up this abhorrent trade to countries where animal abuse and cruelty thrives in government-sanctioned abattoirs.

Recently, the Greens have become concerned that the government is planning to expand the live export trade, at a time when they should be phasing it out. In Senate Estimates this February, the Department of Agriculture confirmed that it has considered ESCAS arrangements for horses, ponies and donkeys for the purposes of slaughter in the event that an application for live export is lodged. Animal welfare groups have seen an exposure draft order that would do such a thing.

I note that the Australian Livestock Exporters Council has stated that it and its members do not support the commencement of any trade in the live export of equines for slaughter. The government needs to definitively ban the export of equines for slaughter as well.

I also wish to note that the Victorian state director of the government's own Export Finance Credit Agency, EFIC, revealed that the agency did not fund the live export trade because it involved "too much cruelty". Those comments were quickly walked back by other EFIC members, but they were very revealing. And thanks to this individual we now know that there are individuals within some arms of government who are willing to give an honest assessment of the risks associated with this inhumane trade. Indeed, a Western Australian magistrate's court has found that a routine live export sheep voyage is unequivocally cruel. Australia's reputation isn't the only risk created by the barbaric live export trade. There is an unambiguous case that Australia can also profit financially from closure of live exports. The value of chilled meat exports is consistently worth seven to eight times more in trade income to Australia than live exports.

Recently, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced his government is putting $8.3 million towards the livestock assurance scheme to improve 'efficiency and competitiveness' in the sector. While the local meat processing industry struggles, and jobs are dwindling, this government is busy funding and promoting this cruel trade. The live export trade remains in direct competition with the domestic meat processing industry which is of greater value to the Australian economy, as is the maintenance and creation of domestic employment along the domestic supply chain. Conversely the closure of domestic processors and the loss of local employment continue to be directly attributable to the growth of the live export trade that has shifted much of the profits and value-adding to overseas markets.

In 2004, a WA Ministerial Taskforce directly blamed the growth in the live export trade as coming at the expense of the domestic meat processing industry with the two sectors competing for the limited supply of animals at the farm gate. This has a major impact on the supply of animals for processing, resulting in the consequent rationalisation of the meat processing sector.

The 2006 Hassall report into the live export industry forecast sheep-meat imports progressively displacing live sheep in Middle East markets, and demand for chilled meat growing. Trade figures show that for over 10 years chilled meat has been worth around 700 to 800 per cent times more in export dollars than the live export trade.

In 2010 a report by SG Heilbron, The Future of the Queensland Beef Industry and the Impact of Live Cattle Exports, found that "The rapid and unchecked growth of live cattle exports is inflicting significant damage on Queensland's beef processing industry" and that "live cattle exports are cannibalising Queensland's beef industry striking at the heart of its value chain".

The 2012 ACIL Tasman economic analysis of the inputs and outputs of live cattle export farms in Australia's top end shows they are not financially sustainable over the long term regardless of the live export market and "are problematic from a whole business perspective."

A 2013 Sapere report looking at the economic impact of phasing out live sheep exports found that "While there may be issues in relation to the availability of suitable labour, there exists sufficient spare physical processing capacity in Western Australia to absorb the entire Australian live sheep export trade as it currently stands."

In December 2015, an industry conference was told the business case for exporting cattle to Indonesia had collapsed, with costs increasing by 4-5 times in the previous 8 years with it costing around 5 times more to produce a kilogram of beef in Indonesia through importing and feeding cattle than it did to import beef in a box.

Indeed a very small percentage of Australian livestock producers sell into the live export trade, which produces a small percentage of the income streams for the large majority of those producers.

The 2014 ABARES Live Export Trade Assessment Report reported that Australian livestock producers receive just 7% of their income from the sale of livestock to the live export industry, with 93% coming from the domestic processing sector. Only 12% of cattle producers in northern Australia rely on live exports as their primary source of income.

Additionally, international market factors beyond Australia's control will always present a constant threat to the sustainability of the live export industry.

There is only one answer.

The Greens' plan to end the barbarism that is the Australian live export trade will benefit of the domestic meat processing industry and create more Australian jobs. It is time for a just transition to address animal cruelty and create economic benefits for rural Australia.

I commend this Bill to the Senate.

I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.