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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 14067

Mr KELVIN THOMSON (Wills) (11:45): The three boxes beside me contain over 60,000 signatures to a petition which has been considered by the Standing Committee on Petitions and approved for tabling, and which I now table.

The petition read as follows—

To the Honourable The Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives

This petition of undersigned citizens of Australia calls on the Australian Government to end the export of live animals from Australia to the Middle East.

We the undersigned therefore call on the House of Representatives to ensure that the Australian government ends this trade and, in doing, restore Australia's reputation as a compassionate and ethical nation.

from 60,723 citizens

Petition received.

Mr KELVIN THOMSON: The petition calls on the Australian government to end the export of all live animals from Australia and calls on the House of Representatives 'to ensure that the Australian government ends this trade and, in so doing, restore Australia's reputation as a compassionate and ethical nation'. This very large petition is part of the strong nationwide response to video footage—obtained by Animals Australia and shown on Four Corners—of the brutal mass slaughter of thousands of Australian sheep in Pakistan. The petition will now be referred to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and the Minister for Trade and Competitiveness and will be placed on the Petitions Committee's website.

I want to take this opportunity to express my horror and outrage, which I know is felt by millions of Australians, at the Pakistan sheep cull, which was an event of absolute chaos, with animals being dragged and beaten, having their throats sawn at with blunt knives and being thrown into mass graves, some of them still being alive hours later. I think it was predictable that, when Pakistan discovered that they had accepted sheep rejected by another country on health fears, there would be repercussions. It appears that the parties had in fact colluded to keep the history of this shipment from them. I think that Australians would be pretty unimpressed if a consignment of goods that had been rejected by another country as diseased were fast-tracked into Australia on the quiet. So the Pakistani government clearly felt that they had been deceived in relation to this matter.

Nevertheless, I do not think we should be exporting live animals to Bahrain and Pakistan. We are poles apart from these countries on animal welfare issues, and I think that people there have a completely different understanding of how you treat an animal. To have a senior Pakistani bureaucrat telling us that the Muslim method of slaughter is more humane than non-Muslim methods, when we saw barbaric footage of animals buried when they were not even dead, I thought was just pathetic. The claims of foot and mouth disease, anthrax and so on were, frankly, ridiculous. We should not be exporting animals to countries which can act in such a capricious, unfounded and inhuman way.

I want to draw to the attention of the parliament a resolution passed by the federal parliamentary Labor Party this week concerning this issue, which I think is of quite some significance. It says:

Noting the 2011 National ALP Conference Platform commitment to the establishment of an independent Office of Animal Welfare, the FPLP Caucus endorses the Caucus Live Animal Export Working Group to develop a model for an Office of Animal Welfare for the purpose of developing and reviewing domestic animal welfare standards, harmonising domestic laws, monitoring and reporting on surveillance and enforcement of domestic and live animal export regulation, and other appropriate activities.

The report to the Caucus on this model will consider:

the location of the Office within government and the legal status of the Office;

the relationship of the Office to state and territory jurisdictions, including interaction with the existing animal welfare committee of the standing council on primary industries, how the Office can complement state and territory responsibilities for domestic animal welfare, and how to continue the progress made on model codes of practice;

how the Office would interact with stakeholders; and

an approximate cost of its operation.

The preferred model will be presented by the end of February 2013 for consideration by the Government.

Further, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry will continue to actively engage within the OIE and other international for a to promote Australia's leadership in animal welfare standards, including ESCAS, and stunning prior to slaughter.

It is noteworthy that many members of caucus, including the member for Corangamite who is in the chamber now, have expressed their own concerns about this issue. I am very pleased that this resolution was carried and I look forward to the opportunity to work on the development of an independent office of animal welfare, which I think has the capacity to do a great deal of good.

In closing I should mention that another petition has been sent to me and, I note, to the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Prime Minister. This petition is from Henry Rischbieth of Echunga in South Australia and also talks about the need for an end to live animal export from Australia. It says that animals endure terrible suffering both on the journey and in the way that they are slaughtered. It says that the live export industry has failed to prevent the suffering and deaths of 2½ million animals during transportation over the past three decades. Mr Rischbieth says that the answer is more abattoirs in Australia and the export of chilled meat. That petition has 218 electronic signatories.