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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 3873


Senator FURNER (Queensland) (15:21): Mr Deputy President, I join with other Senate colleagues in congratulating you on your appointment today.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Thank you.

Senator FURNER: It is a fine choice and it is good to see you in the chair. I wish to respond to the motion to take note of answers provided by Senator Ludwig to questions on the live export issue. It was a decision that was not taken harshly; it was a decision that was taken with concern for the welfare of and impact on the industry. I am certain that you would be aware, Mr Deputy President, that we do not take these decisions on the spur of the moment, whether on the issues associated with Four Corners or on others. We looked at the concerns of this industry in the approach that has been taken. I remind senators opposite that this is a matter that has been raised with the industry, with Meat and Livestock Australia, since January of this year. The minister actually wrote to that association, expressing concerns about this particular animal welfare issue of the method of slaughter in Indonesia.

Again, we do not take these decisions lightly and we do not take them with the degree that people think we might—certainly those opposite. I think Senator Macdonald made the claim—the wild accusation—that we have lost a fine industry. That is typical of this scare campaign that they consistently run. Whether it be on carbon pricing or on other mechanisms, they run this scare campaign—

Senator Ian Macdonald: Have you ever been up into the Gulf Country?

Senator FURNER: Yes, I have been to Indonesia.

Senator Ian Macdonald: Not to Indonesia—to the Gulf Country!

Senator FURNER: I have been up north, as a Queensland senator, and have been involved in the cattle industry, so I am well aware of what happens in abattoirs and I am well aware of what happens in Indonesia. I have not been to an Indonesian abattoir but I am aware of the customs and the culture there, and I do have an appreciation of why this is an issue. That is why we need to work through this particular problem and get a resolution in the mechanisms and measures that we are taking, whilst taking into con­sidera­tion the welfare of those animals and at the same time taking into consideration the welfare of the industry.

We also have an obligation under World Trade Organisation rules to take action to ensure that Australian cattle are treated in accordance with those standards on animal welfare. Hand in hand with that particular requirement and obligation, we are also supporting the industry in terms of a contingency fund of $5 million for assistance to workers. That is why we are involved in trying to find a resolution and provide assistance for the industry and workers up in the cape, the Territory and other northern parts of Western Australia. It is another example of what we have done in times of need when people have been seeking assistance from this government. If we reflect back on the Queensland floods and cyclone, the government was there. We provided assistance for workers and for people who were affected by those particular terrible incidents. From memory, I think that those opposite opposed the flood levy. They were not interested in assisting people who were in a time of need. I do not know what their position is on this issue; they seem to be lost in some respects.

It is a case of a fine balance between working with the industry and working with the Indonesian government. That is why the minister has been up there and has consulted and discussed it with his Indonesian counterpart. We also have the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Kevin Rudd, who is willing to have some dialogue with the government of Indonesia. One thing that we have been able to do with the Indonesian government, since we have a healthy relationship with them, is to come up with solutions and outcomes that are suitable for both countries. It was not that long ago that we welcomed the Indonesian president to the House, and I think that the dialogue and communication, the understanding and respect for one another and the healthy relationship between the two governments was demonstrated by each government on the floor on that occasion. That healthy relationship will continue with our involvement in this particular issue.

So it is not a case of the industry being destroyed or being lost, as stated in the scare campaign that is being run by some of those opposite. It is not all of them; I take on board some of the comments made by Senator Back. He comes from a veterinary backg­round, so he understands the reasons for this and the issues associated with animal welfare in this particular area. I think that, if more people like Senator Back had come forward and expressed the concerns of this industry, we would be in a position of reaching a solution. (Time expired)