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Thursday, 12 December 2013
Page: 2673

Ms PARKE (Fremantle) (10:03): Last Sunday morning I attended a Stop Live Exports rally in Fremantle in which people formed a human chain across Stirling Bridge to express their concern at the extreme suffering of our fellow creatures arising from the live export industry. Most live exports from Australia take place through the port of Fremantle. The local community called again for the industry to be transitioned to an expanded chilled and frozen meat export trade, thereby adding value to the Australian economy, creating jobs and ensuring better animal welfare.

The industry and the government response to such protests is to point to the regulations that were introduced under the former Labor government in 2011 that required animals to be treated in accordance with minimum animal welfare standards under the export supply chain assurance system. They say things are improving, that revelations of cruelty are isolated incidents, and that, if Australia were not in the trade, there would be a far worse animal welfare outcome.

The problem with this argument is that the evidence coming from many parts of the world does not back this up. In the past 15 months alone the Australian community has been confronted with graphic depictions of cruelty to Australian animals in Jordan, Mauritius, Israel, Malaysia, Kuwait, Egypt, Pakistan and Qatar. This week shocking new footage has emerged of what appear from their ear tags to be Australian cattle suffering horrendously cruel deaths in Gaza. I forced myself to watch seven minutes of the most torturous, barbaric, hideously awful films taken by participants and observers who had then loaded them onto YouTube. You see and hear cattle bellowing with fear as the men in the video saw clumsily away at their necks with blunt knives, one bull suffering no less than 102 cuts to his throat. When their throats have been eventually sawn open but they are still conscious, bulls have then been kicked or had water thrown into their wounds. You see a slaughterman stabbing a bull in the eye and a bull being shot in three of his kneecaps with an assault rifle.

It is time to ensure some accountability and integrity in this process. The Australian exporter or exporters involved in these serial incidents of cruelty, including livestock-shipping services, must be held responsible and experience the appropriate consequences, namely the revocation of their export licence, otherwise the regulations are meaningless. Otherwise there is no incentive for others to behave properly.

The fact is that live export is a high risk for both animals and producers. As a WA sheep farmer told me, he does not export live animals, because, in his view, 'It's a bad business.' In fact, just seven per cent of cattle and 10 per cent of sheep raised for slaughter in Australia last year actually went into the live export trade. Live export is a small and declining industry, worth $783 million in 2012-13 compared with the cattle and sheepmeat industry, worth $16 billion annually.

The social licence to operate of the live export industry was gone a long time ago. In 1985, the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare concluded that there was enough evidence to stop the trade. Twenty-eight years on, it is time to acknowledge that, with the best will in the world, we cannot control what happens to animals when we export them to other countries.

Sitting suspended from 10:07 to 10: 41