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Tuesday, 31 May 2011
Page: 5276

Live Animal Exports

Ms SAFFIN (Page) (14:51): My question is to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Will the minister please inform the House of the government's response to recent reports of the appalling treatment of animals in abattoirs in Indonesia?

Mr BURKE (WatsonMinister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities) (14:51): I want to thank the member for Page for the question and acknowledge in similar terms to the job opportunities that I referred to across the north of Australia that there are many members on this side of the chamber, and some over there as well, with very significant meatworks within their electorates. They are very conscious of wanting to make sure that we maximise opportunities for the downstream processing jobs in Australia, as well as the animal welfare concerns which were aired last night. The member for Page has been pursuing these issues very strongly for quite some time. As I said a moment ago, anyone who saw that footage last night would have been horrified. The footage was just awful, and Australian farmers have been quite distressed by it as well. Shortly before question time, Senator Ludwig, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, put forward an initial response on behalf of the government. As I say, he was presented with this footage shortly before the program went to air but shortly before question time was able to go through the responses which the Australian people would expect we would have to what was presented overnight. Our response is to: first of all, ask the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to conduct an immediate investigation into the specifics of the footage; next, to announce that the government will appoint an independent reviewer to investigate the complete supply chain for live exports up to and including the point of slaughter; and next, to ask for the minister himself to receive a briefing on the full range of legislative and regulatory options which are available to respond to issues concerned with animal welfare.

In the interim, Minister Ludwig has asked for orders to enforce the suspension of live animal exports to the facilities which were identified by the evidence which was broadcast last night. The minister will also add further facilities to the banned list in the future if required. He has implemented a moratorium on the installation of the restraint boxes that were seen being used in the footage. This will apply to the instalment of any new boxes with Commonwealth funds across all global markets. He has also asked the Chief Veterinary Officer, the chief vet, to coordinate an independent scientific assessment of the restraint boxes which are under use in Indonesia.

Following the completion of this work, the government will consider what further actions may be necessary. The government does share the legitimate concerns of the Australian community about animal welfare abuses and is taking the necessary action to investigate the footage. I thank the member for Page for raising the issue.