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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 7401

Ms BURKE (Chisholm) (20:20): I want to thank the member for Denison for the opportunity to speak on this important issue of live animal exports. Unlike the member for Calare, I do not think it is just a few pressure groups who are pushing this issue. You only need to open your inbox to see that thousands of Australian citizens want something done in respect of this issue. Anyone who watched the footage aired on Four Corners would have been shocked by the treatment of the animals that was shown, but many in the live cattle export industry trade should not have been surprised. They have been dealing in this space for a long time. They should have known what was going on and taken action earlier.

On 8 June, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator the Hon. Joe Ludwig, announced the suspension of the export of livestock to Indonesia. This suspension will be in place until the government and industry establish sufficient safeguards which provide a verifiable and transparent supply chain assured up to and including the point of slaughter for every consignment that leaves Australia. The trade to Indonesia will only recommence when the government is certain the industry is able to comply with the supply chain assurance. This announcement follows the minister's decision on 31 May to suspend the shipment of Australian cattle to the abattoirs identified in the footage provided by Animals Australia and Four Corners. The minister and the Australian government have also undertaken the following actions. The government will appoint an independent reviewer to investĀ­igate the complete supply chain for live exports up to and including the point of slaughter. The independent review will still go ahead, but it will now also inform both the design and the application of new safeguards, and it will be conducted by Bill Farmer. The government will implement a moratorium on the installation of the restraint boxes, seen being used in the footage, with Commonwealth government funds. It has asked the Chief Veterinary Officer to coordinate an independent scientific assessment of the restraint boxes used in Indonesia. An initial desktop review has been done and this is currently being followed up by site inspections in Indonesia. Also, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry recently met with his Indonesian counterpart and is discussing the trade at that level.

While the government continues to work to recommence live exports with Indonesia, last week it also introduced financial assistance to support those affected by the suspension. This includes a $30 million live export assistance package to support indivĀ­idual primary producers and related businesses and $3 million for employees and small business owners who earn the majority of their income from the live cattle trade to Indonesia.

The government also welcomed a $5 million industry contingency fund to address animal welfare needs in the short term, though it was a long time coming. The government is continuing its dialogue with Indonesia and with industry groups. The government shares the legitimate concerns of the Australian community about animal welfare abuses and is taking the necessary action to improve conditions in the livestock export industry.

Whilst I welcome the improvements that have been made to the industry, my personal opinion is that I cannot see any legitimate reason for the export of live animals to continue. The cruelty of the trade and the issue of animal welfare are of great concern to me and many in my electorate. Although I acknowledge the growing demand for fresh meat in Indonesia and the Middle East, I can see no reason why Australian abattoirs with Muslim employees cannot provide the best quality halal chilled and frozen meat. According to the Victorian government website BusinessVictoria, under the heading 'Halal Meat':

Australia currently exports beef, sheepmeat and goatmeat to over 40 Islamic countries including the Middle East and North Africa, as well as nearby South-East Asian nations. Australia has a reputation as a clean, safe and reliable source of halal food and beverage products, and is recognised as a leader in Halal export. It is estimated that the growing market for Halal products worldwide is worth around $685 billion per annum.

Australia expanding its chilled meat market would provide winners all round. It would be a win for Australian farmers, who would maintain a market for their products—indeed, the majority of jobs would not disappear; they would translate into this other area, and more jobs would be produced. It would be a win for abattoir workers, as more jobs would be created to process meat. And obviously it would be a much better outcome for the livestock.

Since the 1970s the meatworkers union has opposed live exports on the basis of its destruction of Australian jobs, its inhumane treatment of the animals and the decimation of the meat-processing industry. Last year it again called for live exports to be phased out. Since the 1970s at least 25 export meatworks have closed in Australia and more are still closing at the present time. The lack of refrigeration in the Middle East, which is often one issue cited, is no longer an issue. The following quote is from the WSPA website:

Australia predominantly exports to wealthy countries in the Gulf, who import a huge amount of refrigerated goods, not just meat. Suggestions that these countries lack of such basic appliances are not only misguided, they are culturally insensitive.

While this is not the case across the board in Indonesia, there are other ways to deal with it. Today I received a letter from someone in the Northern Territory and I would like to read it. It said:

Thank you for supporting the ban on live export.

I am a local resident of Darwin and my family have been involved in the pastoral industry for over 130 years, although we now live in town.

The letter goes on to say that we need to move from cattle to meat. (Time expired)