Senate debates

Wednesday, 19 September 2018


Department of Agriculture and Water Resources; Consideration

5:07 pm

Photo of Mehreen FaruqiMehreen Faruqi (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

by leave—I move:

That the Senate take note of document no. 2.

Today we have seen the release of mortality statistics from the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act 1997 Livestock mortalities during export by sea report for the period 1 January to 30 June 2018, and they make for grim reading. Thousands of sheep are dying as these live export ships ply the seas in their trade of misery. We are still in the northern summer period for the Middle East, where oppressive heat conditions mean temperatures are reaching above 40 degrees. These are exactly the same conditions the infamous Awassi Express sailed in, which led to the extreme cruelty that we saw on 60 Minutes.

And now the Morrison government has approved the Maysora to go to the Middle East with tens of thousands of sheep. This is an incredibly reckless decision. Sheep are almost guaranteed to die of extreme heat stress. So much for our agricultural minister's crocodile tears for animals when he said that it was bullshit that sheep continue to die at sea on live export ships. For the federal government to give the go-ahead to a new shipment when they haven't even released their review of the live export regulator shows how little they think of this process. They're only interested in paying lip-service to animal welfare and just ticking the boxes.

In May this year the Australian Veterinary Association said that there shouldn't be shipments in the northern summer due to the heat stress risks. And the RSPCA has said that this advice was consistent with the outcomes of the recommendations made by Dr Michael McCarthy. But instead of acting on these recommendations, the government has opted for further testing and consultation, all while continuing to approve further export permits.

Prime Minister Morrison has gone out of his way to humiliate his Liberal colleagues, who actually care about this issue. I'm sorry to say that the time for inside-the-tent diplomacy really has passed. Liberal MPs who support the Greens bill to end the live export trade for sheep must walk the talk and bring it on for debate in the House of Representatives. What more evidence do we need that the Prime Minister does not care about the views of MPs in his own party? If you want to end the long-haul export of sheep to the Middle East, the only way is to vote with your head and your heart.

This ship, the Maysora, has a particularly troubled history. It's an old ship and it is completely unable to meet community expectations. On previous voyages, there were reports of sheep not being able to lie down and having inadequate access to food and water, as well as many sheep mortalities. I also note today's news that 19 crew members of the Maysora, which was preparing to load sheep on the docks in Fremantle for the Middle East, presented themselves to Australian Border Force officers on Monday night, claiming that they had gone unpaid for a long period of time and they did not want to return to the ship. It seems that live exports are not only bad for sheep; they're also bad for workers.

Going ahead with shipments before the review of the regulator is released just proves what we have known all along: that the history and the industry will not change. It really is just a matter of time before we get yet another expose of animal cruelty, the same as we have been getting consistently for 30 long years now. It's time to break this government's fake outrage cycle, commit to real action and end the cruelty. The only option is to ban live exports and to transition to the vastly more profitable and humane chilled meat export industry. No more excuses. The time for action is now.

Photo of Gavin MarshallGavin Marshall (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Faruqi, I didn't pull you up at the time, because it wasn't the most egregious breach I've ever heard, but some of the language you used was below the standard expected of the chamber. Even though I know you were quoting someone else, I would ask you to consider that in future.

5:12 pm

Photo of Slade BrockmanSlade Brockman (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to take note of the same document. I will talk about outrage to start. I'll talk about the outrage of 1,000 farmers in a community hall in Katanning a few months ago about the threat from radical activist groups and some in this place to their livelihood, to their business, to their economic wellbeing and to their future, based on misinformation and half-truths. I have the document we are considering today in front of me, the livestock mortalities documentation, which is regularly reported as per the legal requirements on the industry. It shows further positive results from the industry in achieving good animal welfare outcomes.

This government has taken note of what occurred on ships last year. There were some particularly egregious instances that the public were rightly outraged at. But the track record of the industry is very good. We see today that mortality rates are 0.6 per cent amongst sheep and 0.14 per cent amongst cattle. There are a very small number of buffaloes that are exported live, and the mortality rate there is 0.08 per cent. We've seen an ongoing commitment from all parts of this industry to improving standards.

The government did ask Dr McCarthy to do a review. The review has reported, and the government has accepted those recommendations. Some of them required further work. There were clearly recommendations that needed to be able to be monitored and measured before they were actually implemented, and how that was to be done in a practical way needed to be worked through. That is an ongoing effort, and the government is committed to it. But the ship that has been in the media today that is going out shortly is largely a cattle ship, and I believe that those directly opposite still support the export of cattle in this way. I certainly hope they do. I certainly hope senators like Senator Watt from Queensland, if they no longer support the export of live cattle, tell the electorate that before the next election—

Photo of Murray WattMurray Watt (Queensland, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We've never said we support that! We were talking about sheep; they're different to cattle.

Photo of Slade BrockmanSlade Brockman (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I think you should tell the electorate in Queensland if you're changing your mind on cattle, Senator Watt, because a lot of these issues are being conflated together when, in actual fact, these are very important parts of both the sheep industry, particularly in Western Australia, my home state, and South Australia and the cattle industry across the north of Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland. These are very important issues and getting the live sheep trade going again from Western Australia is a very important part of the economic wellbeing and the future of the industry in Western Australia, and of the economic wellbeing of 5½ thousand families who significantly rely on that trade. If you had been at that public meeting in Katanning a few months ago, you would have seen how dreadfully impacted those families were by what was going on, not only by the way their industry was being characterised, particularly by the Greens, but also by the abandonment of the industry by those in the Labor Party directly opposite us.

The industry does have a track record of positive outcomes and improving outcomes and it can do better; it will do better. This government is committed to allowing it to do better and has made a significant set of changes in order to do that, such as having an independent observer on every vessel leaving Australia. Changes like this have made and will continue to make a positive difference. We need to see the trade from a Western Australian perspective particularly continuing. We need to see strong support—I would hope bipartisan support—for the trade, not just the cattle sector of the trade but the whole trade going forward.

Question agreed to.