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Thursday, 23 June 2011
Page: 7143

Live Animal Exports

Mr JOHN COBB (Calare) (14:52): My question is to the Prime Minister. I refer the Prime Minister to her statement 12 months ago that the Rudd government had lost its way. I remind her that the government's handling of Australia's live cattle export industry has plunged that industry into crisis, risked jobs and damaged the livelihoods of 17,000 people across Northern Australia. Prime Minister, why can't the government immediately issue an export licence for cattle destined for Australian owned and operated abattoirs in Indonesia? If it does not, can she understand why rural and regional Australians feel so let down by her govern­ment?

Mr Fitzgibbon: Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I think you will agree that the questions from the opposition today have been consistently in breach of standing order 100, as confirmed by page 540 of House of Representatives Practice.

The SPEAKER: I am happy to acknowledge that there is some relevance in the point of order, but I have indicated that I will allow them and, in allowing them, allow greater scope than I would otherwise allow in the response.

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:54): In respect of the member's question I would say that it is, unfortunately, simplistic—I wish it could work some other way—to say that the issue of live animal exports and appropriate treatment in abattoirs in Indonesia, following the very graphic and very disturbing footage that Australians saw of the treatment of animals there, can be solved by inspecting an abattoir and saying that standards are okay in that abattoir because—

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: The Prime Minister will resume her seat. I find it quite extraordinary. For the last 30 seconds, if people had been listening to the response, they would have heard that it was directly related to the question. I would have thought that, whilst some people might not agree with the response, they would listen to it in silence.

Ms GILLARD: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. It is a good reminder that you cannot claim to take this issue seriously and then not try to absorb the facts. The facts are that inspecting standards in an abattoir is a vital part of getting the trade back up and running, absolutely—but it is only one part. The other part we have to have in place is the ability to track cattle as they leave Australia and go into Indonesia. The trade does not work on the basis that you move seamlessly from a part of Australia into an Indonesian abattoir. Animals go via feedlots; cons­equently, we need a tracking system that works from Australia, through the journey, into the feedlots and into the abattoirs where animals are ultimately dealt with. Con­sequently, we can then ensure that Australian cattle are ending up in the abattoirs where the standards are appropriate.

I note that the Leader of the National Party has been talking about tracking systems in recent days. He has been extolling the virtues of the National Livestock Identification System—

Mr Hockey: Yes!

Ms GILLARD: If you allow me to finish my sentence, you might actually learn something. I think there is a piece of information that the opposition clearly do not have which is absolutely vital to understanding this problem and resolving it. I suggest to the opposition that they might follow this piece of information. As the Leader of the National Party has been talking about, there is a National Livestock Identification System. The Leader of the National Party knows a bit about that. As a former agriculture minister, he is obviously familiar with it. The system was imp­lemented between 2003 and 2004. When the Leader of the National Party was the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry he agreed to exempt from that system northern cattle for live export—that is, the cattle that we are talking about and that need to be traced into Indonesia were exempted from the livestock tracking system that the Leader of the National Party is extolling the virtues of. So to get the trade back up and running, given that the cattle we are talking about have not been in that livestock tracking system, we need the two parts. We need the tracking and we need the inspection as to standards, and we are working on both.

I understand that there are many people who are anxiously waiting for this live animal trade to get back up and running and I am very sympathetic to the circumstances of those who are anxiously waiting, which is why we will be working with them to get this reform done. Australians do not want to see animals treated in the way we saw them treated on the Four Corners show. We will get the system up and running so that we know there are standards and we know where Australian animals are.