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Tuesday, 7 October 2003
Page: 20713

Mr DANBY (9:10 PM) —It has been a busy time in Melbourne Ports in the last couple of weeks when parliament has not been sitting. I was fortunate enough to have my colleague the shadow minister for the environment, Kelvin Thomson, speak to a very large group of people at the St Kilda Sports Club about Labor's plans for the environment. There is particular interest even in inner city Melbourne in the prospects of reviving the Murray-Darling river system and in Labor's Riverbank idea of inserting 150 gigalitres of water a year into the Murray if a Labor government were to be in office here in Canberra. This fits in very well with the Victorian government's increased concern about water conservation. Despite the fact it is the second most southern state, Victoria's reservoirs are at an all-time low. This is something that all Australians have to be increasingly concerned about, whether we live in a city or in the country.

We have also had a presidential forum for the candidates for president of the Labor Party. It is the first time we have directly elected the position. This is an example of democracy in the Labor Party, and it is a new idea.

Mr DANBY —At least four of the candidates—Mr Samaras, Mr Warren Mundine, Mary Easson and Duncan Kerr—openly encouraged people to participate and all four candidates were very impressed with the audience which was, it will alarm the Liberal Party and its spokesman across on the other side of the House, overwhelmingly young and enthusiastic and anxious to get rid of the current government.

I want to focus my remarks on an event I attended last weekend, which was the 10th annual blessing of animals at St James the Great to celebrate St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, and the festival that is being held by Father Roger Kelly, Lorraine Hawkes, Michael Knopf and my friends at St James the Great. Dr Hugh Wirth, who is the National President and Victorian President of the RSPCA, led a procession of people with their animals, led by the great Melbourne Cup winner, Subzero.

I do not think it is trivial at all to say that, practically to a person, the people in the audience disagreed with the Jesuit quoted in the Sunday Age as saying that animals do not have a soul. The people in the procession were very thoughtful and considerate of their animals. Dr Wirth explained that a society that is considerate of other species will be concerned about humans and human rights as well. That is why a very large number of people at St James the Great, including myself, are very concerned about the 58,000 sheep on the MV Cormo Express and the extraordinary way they are going from port to port. This is a real animal welfare crisis. I think that Labor's spokesman on agriculture, Senator Kerry O'Brien, has expressed it very well by explaining how it is a quarantine risk and explaining that this live sheep fiasco is threatening the carcass trade. He quoted the Western Australian Meat Marketing Co-operative representative, Mr Dawson Bradford, who told ABC radio that the image that is being portrayed or the illusion that is being created is the fact that Australians do not care how they handle their livestock. The opposition has suggested that these sheep be immediately offloaded, if possible in Iraq, and that the Australian government, given our relationship with the new Iraqi administration, should press very hard for them to be perhaps given to the people of Iraq.

The treatment of these animals on this ship is a matter of concern not only to my constituents but to people all around Australia and it is a real fiasco. It is not good enough for the minister to stand up here in question time and give no time line as to when this matter will be dealt with. I think that the options facing Australia—either bringing them back here with the risk of disease or mulching 57,000 sheep if they have to be destroyed on that ship—are all terrible options and should have been foreseen by this government when it set up the live sheep trade with countries in that part of the world. (Time expired)