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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 7321

Live Animal Exports

Mr CROOK (O'Connor) (14:27): My question is to the Prime Minister. I recently attended a meeting of primary producers from the agricultural region of WA who are greatly concerned about the future of their industry following a blanket ban on live exports to Indonesia. Will the Prime Minister agree to visit Indonesia as a matter of diplomatic urgency to rebuild relations with the Indonesian government following the fallout of this government's live export ban? Further, will the Prime Minister agree to remove the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry from his portfolio to resolve the impasse that his inept manageĀ­ment of the live export issue has caused, with particular attention to the fact that Indonesia's live export permits for Australian cattle have now expired and will not be renewed for three months?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:28): I thank the member for his question and understand that he would be concerned about the circumstances of the live cattle industry, so let me just go through the various things he has asked me. I will start with the last point first because I think it is very important.

Opposition members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! The Prime Minister will resume her place. The member for O'Connor has asked a question. It is not for me to have a commentary on the question, but I do not believe it is for those on my left to have a commentary, word by word, on the answer. The member for O'Connor deserves to have the ability to hear the response. The Prime Minister is responding to the question. She should be allowed to do so in silence.

Ms GILLARD: I was responding to the last question first because I think it is very important to clear up any misapprehensions there may be about this matter. There is no technical impediment to Indonesia granting permits during the forthcoming three-month period. The course that Indonesia has adopted to date is to not issue import permits to any country. So this is not just about Australia. It has taken that decision in relation to import permits for any nation. The form of words that the member used in his question was that this definitely means that Australia will not be in that market for three months. That is not true. We are obviously working strongly with Indonesia, and with industry here at home, to get the trade up and running again.

My aim, as Prime Minister, has been to resume this trade as soon as possible, making sure that we can address the very real animal welfare issues which were exposed on the Four Corners program and which horrified Australians, including those in the cattle industry. I have had the opportunity to meet with them personally on more than one occasion and everyone that I have met has said as their first sentence to me that they do not want to see their animals treated like that and they were horrified by that footage too.

We want to get this trade up and running as soon as possible, having ensured that the animal welfare standards are appropriate. In order to do that, we need to be able to track and trace where animals from Australian farms go—that is, we need to be able to trace them from the farm, through the journey, on the boat, to the feedlot, to the abattoir—and we need to assure ourselves—

Mr John Cobb interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Calare is warned.

Ms GILLARD: that the standards in the abattoir are appropriate. We are engaged in that work right now.

On the diplomatic strategy and how this work is being done, the government across the board is engaged in this—the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister for Trade, and, obviously, I am involved as Prime Minister—and we are pursuing a diplomatic strategy with the best possible advice from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. We will continue to do that. I do not believe that it is appropriate for me to in any way respond to domestic politics here in this regard. The best thing is to have the most productive working relationship with Indonesia, and that is what I intend to do.

On the actions taken by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, the minister has been working hard on this very difficult question. There are, of course, some extreme views in this debate. There are some people who basically do not believe we should kill animals for food and there are some people who say, 'Resume the trade, no matter what,' but the vast majority of people, I believe, are in the centre of those two poles and are saying, 'Let's resume the trade when the animal welfare issues are right.' But, given the vast spread of opinion here, it is of no surprise really that the minister for agriculture has got the occasional critique from some involved in the debate. However, he is working hard to get this resolved, as we are across government. I thank the member for his question.