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Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Page: 9411


Senator BACK (Western Australia) (17:31): I thank you, Mr Deputy President, for the opportunity to support the motion of Senator Heffernan. The winner out of the recommendations of the report of the Rural Affairs and Transport References Committee on animal welfare standards in Australia's live export markets and on the Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill 2011 (No. 2) and the Live Animal Export Restriction and Prohibition Bill 2011 (No. 2) has been common sense in a range of areas, not least of which has been the fact that animal welfare standards will improve over time both in this country and in the countries to which we export. I am very proud of that fact.

Time does not permit me to go through the list of recommendations, of which there are nine. I am very pleased to say that it had the majority support of members of the committee. What I can say is that, as a result of the inquiry and as a result of the discussions that went on with all sorts of stakeholders, the importance of the live export trade to this country and to our target markets has been emphasised. I believe that is a critically important outcome of this particular inquiry. What people understand far more now is the importance of the industry to the producers, to those who support them, to Aboriginal communities across the north of Australia and to low socioeconomic recipients, specifically in Indonesia but also other markets in the Middle East and elsewhere. That is very important for the future and for the outcome of this report. It also puts to bed the nonsense that goes on about the capacity of the live export trade for the cattle industry to be replaced by an abattoir based industry in Australia. It is simply not the case. The capacity of the north of Australia is not there to produce finished cattle. The economic essential is the fact that abattoirs across the top of Australia all closed years before the live export trade got underway. So we have put that to bed.

I emphasise the absolutely critical importance of the engagement of senior government ministers from here in Australia, including the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, with their opposite numbers in the target markets with which we operate. Only then, when we have that long, strong and ongoing involvement by government ministers at that level, will we see the involvement of bureaucrats, particularly in our target markets. Only then will industry be able to achieve in the long term the goals, expectations and outcomes that we want. I do urge that that occurs.

This inquiry largely dealt with the cattle industry, but the sheep industry and markets including the Middle East, Turkey, Russia and other places were addressed. I would urge that the outcomes of this report and its recommendations, including the recom­mendation of the Farmer report, which was commissioned by the minister during this whole process, are listened to.

From an animal welfare point of view it is critically important that, of the 109 countries around the world that export animals live, there is only one—and that country is Australia—which invests heavily in the target markets into which it operates in areas such as animal welfare, nutrition, husbandry, management et cetera. If we exit those markets, or are caused to do so, the losers will be animals because animal welfare standards will once again deteriorate. Not only will we lose the live animal export markets but also we will lose those markets for chilled and other meats in those areas. More importantly, we will lose our influence to improve animal welfare and husbandry standards in those places. I commend the report to the Senate. I commend the recommendations to industry and to all interested participants. This has been a round and robust inquiry. I am very proud of its recommendations. (Time expired)