Wednesday, 23 November 2022
Statements by Senators
Western Australian Young Liberal Movement, Live Animal Exports
It gives me great pleasure today to rise to thank and acknowledge a young man—Cooper Bates—who was in my office last week undertaking a voluntary internship from the Young Liberal Movement of Western Australia. Cooper is currently studying a Bachelor of Commerce with a major in business law. He came into my office and undertook a variety of tasks for the week. He is a very intelligent and hardworking young man. To put it in colloquial terms from the bush, he has his head screwed on right. I'd also like to acknowledge Jacob Fowler, Hayden Tognela and the Young Liberal team in Western Australia for putting this program together. I was very happy to be the guinea pig in the program, but I know it will be rolled out more widely. Congratulations, Cooper.
I also wish to speak briefly about the uncertainty that has been created in an industry in my home state of Western Australia. It's one that's very close to my own heart—the live export trade. As many would know, I come from a farming family and have participated in the sheep trade for many years.
This is a very important industry to Western Australia. It's worth $143 million directly to the agriculture sector—and that's sheep alone. There are another $200 million in cattle exports. In total, across Australia it provides $1.6 billion of overall economic benefit to this country, it employs thousands of workers and it provides a stable floor price for sheep in the Western Australian market. It also provides a stable source of protein to very important trading partners overseas. They want to keep importing our sheep because they are of high quality and because the animal welfare standards are the best in the world. We're exporting not just livestock but also animal welfare standards. That is something I urge all in this place to remember when we are considering these issues going forward.
Unfortunately, in my home state of Western Australia the industry is under a massive cloud. It's under a massive cloud because when this government came into power they said that they were going to stop the trade. This will result in a loss of jobs in Western Australia and a significant undermining of the sheepmeat industry in Western Australia. It will damage long-term trading relationships with very important trading partners. This, sadly, will not be limited to sheepmeat. This has the potential to also flow on to other agricultural and non-agricultural products, and that would be extremely damaging.
Nations rely on Australia being a good trading partner. Nations rely on Australia as a source of food, fibre and minerals. If we, through government fiat, decide to close down particular industries then how can those trading partners have certainty in other similar industries and other aspects of agricultural trade that are so important? They will look elsewhere, because the principal responsibility of those nations is to feed their people, to make sure that they have the sources of high-quality protein that they need for their domestic markets.
Australia has been a long-term supplier, particularly into the Middle East from Western Australia, and over those 30, 40 or 50 years we have seen constant improvements in animal welfare standards. The sheep trade, in particular, has demonstrated quite remarkable results, over a consistent period of time—not just over the last three years, since the Awassi Express incident, but over the last 20 years—constant improvement in animal welfare standards, constant improvement in mortality rates. That is something I would very much urge the new minister and government to keep in mind.