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Thursday, 9 May 1985
Page: 1634


Senator BOSWELL(1.19) — Mr Deputy President, today I wish to discuss the problem of animal welfare and the inappropriate remarks made on this subject by Mr Justice Kirby at a symposium on animal welfare in Brisbane. Mr Justice Kirby has made a reputation for himself over the last number of years as being the show pony of the judiciary. This gentleman has given wide ranging opinions on subjects from breastfeeding babies in South Africa to many others. So the rural industries of this nation who supply 40 to 45 per cent of the nation's export dollars--


Senator Gareth Evans —36 per cent.


Senator BOSWELL —Has it gone down to 36 per cent? That has happened under the Labor Government. The rural industries should not have been surprised that Justice Kirby has become an instant expert on animal welfare. The primary industries are well aware of their need to provide the best animal husbandry methods for their stock and the most improved methods of stock transport. It is obvious to all who are associated with the livestock industries that unless an animal is well looked after in a stress-free environment, that animal will not grow, breed or be productive.

Disregarding the commercial point of view, farmers and graziers have a genuine fondness of and pride in their animals. The grazing and farming industries have implemented many improvements for their animals and producer organisations have spent many millions of dollars from research funds to provide animal welfare research. Some of the direct improvements that have been made by the grazing industries have been stock crate design development; stock handling facilities; yard designs; more adaptable material in the building of yards; drought management; supplementary feeding-for example molasses and urea additives-auction sales of cattle whereby stock is sold by description and what is left remains on the property until sold; and, of course, only a couple of months ago television sales were introduced. New breeds of cattle have also been introduced that will adapt more readily to Australian conditions. There have been continued pasture improvements; clearing of timbered land and sewing of pastures including grasses and legumes; continuing expenditure on new and improved watering facilities; controls of predators; new and improved chemicals for control of internal and external parasites; and continuing surveys of rail and road transports with a view to reducing stress.

Mr Justice Kirby's remarks on animal welfare have served only to flame emotionalism in the animal welfare area and have done nothing constructive to help the intelligent debate on this issue. On Tuesday on the Queensland Country Hour, Mr Justice Kirby stated that he had never seen any form of animal operation take place. Unlike Senator Georges who was prepared to visit the rural areas as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare-he earned the appreciation of the grazing industry because he took the time to visit graziers, and listen to their problems and points of view-Mr Justice Kirby has shot from the hip. The tenor of his speech was to imply that the grazing industry had acted irresponsibly and certain animal husbandry practices should be carried out with anaesthetic. Mr Justice Kirby does not realise, if he has not seen any operations take place, that the anasthetic, if administered, increases the stress on the animal and puts the beast in a semiconscious state for a period of two hours. When it recovers it goes berserk and races around the paddock. An anaesthetic just does not work. That is the sort of thing that people must have practical experience of before they can make such statements.

Mr Justice Kirby also attacked the live sheep export industry, which is vital to our wool industry. The standard of shipping has constantly been improved over the years and losses have been reduced to around one per cent. It is interesting to note that in the next year vets will accompany some 20 ships exporting live sheep. He also remarked that lambing percentages in Australia were down compared with other countries. It is well known in the industry that Australia's predominantly merino sheep have a lower lambing rate than any other breed of sheep in the world.

A great deal more of Mr Justice Kirby's speech indicated that if and when the Commonwealth, Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation developed certain biological controls to obviate castration and mulesing operations, legislation should be introduced to stop these operations. I assure Mr Justice Kirby that no laws would be needed to introduce them. The grazing industry would take it upon itself to use the new methods but, unfortunately, no such biological control has been successfully developed. In the case of mulesing a product was developed but it was unsuccessful as when it came into contact with the skin of the sheep it caused severe burning. The suggestion that Mr Justice Kirby made regarding overstocking in a hostile, uncongenial climate does not hold up. No grazier is going to expose himself to financial ruin by placing numbers of cattle in an environment in which they cannot survive.

Unfortunately, the remarks made by Mr Justice Kirby have done nothing to help the vexed question of animal welfare that is being investigated by the Senate Committee headed by Senator Georges. All it has done is inflame emotionalism in the animal welfare lobby. I suggest to Mr Justice Kirby that he should not in future try to pre-empt the findings of the Committee or go out on a one-man animal welfare campaign or crusade unless he better informs himself.