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Thursday, 25 August 2011
Page: 5628


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (18:17): We have just heard three magnificent, uplifting, thoughtful, articulate speeches and I congratulate Senators Edwards, McKenzie and Madigan on their first speeches. They were very good. It brings back to me that more than 20 years ago I made my maiden speech in which I was very keen to promote Northern Australia. In the time that I have been in this parliament I have seen improvements in Northern Australia. The mining expansion, which has been so good for Australia, has principally occurred in the north of our country, and various other good things have happened in the north. One of the good things we have done at a parliamentary level was to set up the Northern Australia Land and Water Taskforce, under Senator Bill Heffernan. It did so much good work in the relatively and regrettably short period of time it was there.

Another of the industries in Northern Australia that has grown up quite substantially in the last 20 years is the live cattle industry, the beef cattle industry in Northern Australia—hence my discussion today on the Australian Meat and Live-stock Industry Act and mortalities relating to livestock during exports by sea. The report is indeed illuminating and does have some good information in it.

What I want to lament in the Senate today is how the beef cattle industry, which has done so much for Northern Australia, has been decimated by the stupidity of the Gillard government. We all know that the Gillard government is financially inept. It is incapable of proper financial management. It is a government that was formed on the basis of a lie. And you, Acting Deputy President Bishop, will recall that just a year ago Prime Minister Gillard, the then Leader of the Labor Party, promised Australians that there would be no carbon tax under a government she led, and of course a year later we are in the throes of debating a tax introduced by Ms Gillard.

In addition to that incompetence and dishonesty the current government can be accused of almost single-handedly taking back the live cattle export industry and the beef cattle industry that has flourished in Northern Australia in recent years. Senator Ludwig made a decision about animal welfare that in the first instance was correct. Where there was evidence of foreign abattoirs dealing cruelly with Australian cattle something should have been done about it. I think all Australians would have gone along with the government had they continued with that initial decision. But, because of its stupidity, its crass ignorance, its inability to properly manage and its having its eye on what they believed was public opinion, the government then changed its decision, after a couple of days, and brought in a complete ban on live cattle exports. That single-handedly has put the northern beef cattle industry back so far. I was told recently that 90 per cent of bank loans to cattle producers in Northern Australia are technically in default at the moment. We know how much we have offended our Indonesian neighbours, our closest neighbours, with that stupid decision to stop the cattle export. It was done without any warning, any advance notice or any consideration whatsoever of our good friends in Indonesia. The government stands condemned on that decision. It stands condemned on the fact that it has not done enough to try to overcome the results of that very stupid decision by getting some help to what is now unfortunately a struggling industry in Northern Australia. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.