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Thursday, 22 March 2012
Page: 2659


Senator BACK (Western Australia) (18:00): I rise with pleasure to comment on the report, under the Australian Meat and Live-Stock Industry Act, on livestock mortalities during export by sea during the period January to June 2011. I will also comment, if I may, Mr Acting Deputy President, on the report for the period July to December of 2011. I will deal with both reports in the one five-minute period. I want to record the wonderful survival and arrival percentages for both cattle and sheep in that 12-month period. With 397,000 cattle in January to June and 320,000 cattle in July to December, there was a mortality rate of only 0.15 per cent. In other words, the safe arrival rate was 1,499 out of every 1,500 animals, which is an incredible result that should be recorded and celebrated. To put it into perspective, that is a far lower mortality rate than would exist on farms in Australia. The figures for sheep were 0.62 of one per cent and 0.84 of one per cent respectively, again speaking to the wonderful management of livestock on Australian farms, the excellent transport of livestock into the feedlots, the management of stock in feedlots prior to them being shipped and the movement to the ships and onboard transport.

I will have a lot more to say in the coming weeks on the live export trade, its importance to this country and its importance particularly to the wellbeing of agriculture in my own state of Western Australia and the wellbeing of the entire economy of Northern Australia, as was evidenced last year when, regrettably, the live cattle export trade was suspended for a brief time. People in southern Australia, particularly in urban Australia, had no concept at all of the effect that that suspension unwisely had on the market.

I want to draw attention to a very important aspect, and that is animal welfare. Australia leads the world in animal welfare standards for livestock, particularly those that are transported around the world. I have made the point before in this chamber—and I will make it again and again—that there are 109 countries in the world that export live animals to other markets. There is only one country of those 109—and that is Australia—that has committed time, people and money for many years to ensure continual improvements in livestock management, husbandry, welfare, transport and nutrition in those target markets.

We will at some time this year be faced with the prospect of examining again legislation on the possibility of terminating the live export trade. It is important for people to understand that only one country has lifted animal welfare standards in target markets—be it in Asia, the Middle East or the North African region—over time. That is our country of Australia. We stand alone and we stand very proudly as the country that has had most effect and the greatest effect. Those with a keen interest in animal welfare need to know that animal welfare standards do not stop at Australia's borders. It is a worldwide challenge.

Whilst we are in those markets in Indonesia, in the Middle East, in North Africa and those other countries, we will continue to be the sentinel. We will continue to be the country that leads improvements in standards. There have already been immeasurable improvements in livestock shipping and feedlot conditions. Yes, there is still room for improvements in abattoir performance in those markets. But I remind you again, Mr Acting Deputy President, that Australia is the country that will have the greatest effect when it comes to those improvements. Should we ever be excluded from live animal exports in those markets, two things will happen. The complementary boxed meat market from Australia will cease but, worse than that, animal welfare standards will deteriorate back to a level prior to our country coming into the market. I compliment the officers for this report. I commend it to the Senate. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.