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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 7403


Ms LEY (Farrer) (20:25): The Live Animal Export Restriction and Prohibition Bill 2011 calls for a ban on the export of livestock for slaughter from 2014. The coalition does not support any measure which proposes to permanently limit or end Australia's live animal trade. We stand behind our agricultural enterprises, our farming families and the contractors and workers who depend upon them. We recognise that live sheep and cattle exports, properly managed, are an important part of the global food task. We urge the government to do everything in its power to restart the live cattle export trade to facilities that can demonstrate humane killing methods.

When the government blundered in and cancelled 100 per cent of the trade last month, it overlooked the fact that up to 45 per cent already goes to abattoirs that meet the same standards that we demand in Australia. Where was the leadership from this Prime Minister? She should sack her agriculture minister. He has presided over this wretched situation and everything he has done has made it worse. Urgent high-level talks with Indonesia are needed now, not when the Minister for Foreign Affairs has finished gallivanting around Equatorial Guinea, Budapest and Burma.

Having been a farmer it broke my heart to see footage of the mistreatment of cattle in some Indonesian abattoirs. There is no excuse for this shameful behaviour. If any person, organisation, industry or government body knew of it and yet did nothing, they would stand condemned, no less by the opposition than by the supporters of this bill. But it breaks my heart, too, to see the effect of the current knee-jerk cancellation of the trade on the communities of Northern Australia, all of which are now being indiscriminately punished and are in turmoil. An industry that supports farmers, roadhouses, stockmen, truckies, mustering pilots—of which I was one—and countless other family businesses has been crippled by the inept, confused and bungled response of this government. You could not have written a black comedy script containing the farrago of stupidity that we are witnessing from the Prime Minister's 'Team Australia'.

Today in question time the PM captured what she said were the various views in this debate, including that people should not eat animals for food at all. I know that is a perf­ectly valid moral standpoint, but it should not inform the development of agriculture policy in this country. The problem is that, under the new partnership between Labor and the Greens, that is exactly what is happening. A $320 million industry is on its knees, livelihoods are being lost, cattle are stranded in holding yards with feed running out, one of our nearest neighbours has been insulted and humiliated, and now there is little prospect of the trade being restarted anytime soon.

The Prime Minister and her frontbench do not understand that the economy, the life, the identity and the character of this nation are neither developed in nor confined to the inner suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Is there not one government minister who has lived a life in rural and regional Australia, who has risked a dollar of their own money in a small business or who can imagine what it is like to cart cattle down a dusty gravel road worrying about your truck repayments, to build your own mustering business in a remote outback town miles from your family, or to be a young Indigenous person, desperate for a start, learning to ride a horse so that you can work on a cattle station?

The Gillard government seems entirely untroubled by the real world. The price effect on the southern Australian beef market is just starting to be felt. I have heard of cattle from Alice Springs being trucked to Warrnambool. Elsewhere confidence in the industry and its future is sliding. But for most northern cattle there simply is no market. They will have to be shot where they stand—and where is the humanity in that? Indonesia could decide to source cattle from South America or India, where there may be foot-and-mouth disease and where there is much less emphasis on animal welfare. It is not too late to work closely with the Indonesians to achieve a win-win result. Central to the system will be livestock identification, whereby we can track our animals through a closed loop supply chain and prove that they are transported, handled and slaughtered humanely. At least one of our existing businesses was already doing this but was indiscriminately shut down by the Gillard government. There could be no better demonstration of the faith and the confidence that this parliament has in the people of our northern pastoral industry than a vote against this bill. I urge all members to oppose the bill.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Murphy ): Order! The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.