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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 2624

Live Animal Exports


Senator COLBECK (Tasmania) (14:00): My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Ludwig. When was the minister, his department or his office—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator COLBECK: Thank you! I am not sure if that applause is for me or for the previous speaker, but I will take it!

The PRESIDENT: Order! It is disorderly! Senator Colbeck, continue with your question.

Senator Sherry interjecting

Senator COLBECK: I will take it when I can get it, Senator Sherry—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Colbeck, just continue with your question.

Senator COLBECK: My question is to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Senator Ludwig. When was the minister, his department or his office first provided with images of inhumane cattle slaughter practices in Indonesia?







Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:00): I, like many Australians, was shocked by the footage shown on Four Corners on 30 May. I was also shocked by the opposition's response on this issue too, quite frankly. The government shares the Australian community's concerns about animal welfare and is taking the necessary action to provide for a secure future for the live trade industry. But, as I have already announced, the government has suspended live animal exports to Indonesia until we are satisfied that the appropriate animal welfare standards can be met. I announced on 13 June 2011 that Mr Bill Farmer AO would also conduct an independent review into Australia's live export trade. Mr Farmer, of course, will examine each stage of the supply chain from paddock to the point of slaughter. But I have seen comments from Mr Abbott and Mr Truss on this and they seem to suggest that they would want to take—

Senator Colbeck: Mr President, I rise on a point of order on relevance. I have given the minister a minute of his two minutes to consider the question, which was very specific, around when he, his department or his office first saw images of these inhumane slaughter practices. It was a very specific question and I would ask you to bring the minister to the question.

Senator Conroy: Mr President, on the point of order, I do not know how much more relevant you could be in answering that question. Senator Ludwig was absolutely answering—

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator Conroy, resume your seat. When the noise across the chamber ceases, we will proceed. Senator Conroy, you were responding to the point of order.

Senator Conroy: Senator Ludwig was absolutely answering the question. More importantly, he still has almost a minute—almost half of his available time—to complete his answer. The suggestion that he is not relevant to the question should be dismissed as absolutely spurious.

The PRESIDENT: The minister does have 56 seconds remaining. I do draw the minister's attention to the question.

Senator LUDWIG: Thank you. Can I work up to my point—

An opposition senator: When?

Senator LUDWIG: Shortly. I have seen Mr Truss's and Mr Abbott's suggestions that they would want to take the risk that Australian animals continue to be exposed to the shocking conditions we have seen. The decision to suspend trade was not an easy one, but let us be clear: on the afternoon of 30 May—

Senator Ian Macdonald: We didn't ask you whether it was easy; we asked you when!

Senator LUDWIG: I see you interjecting. What did you do when you were the minister? Nothing! And, of course, on the afternoon—

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator LUDWIG: If you don't want me to answer the question, I won't.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Ludwig and others! Senator Ludwig, resume your seat. Senator Ludwig, continue with your answer.

Senator LUDWIG: Thank you. As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, the afternoon of 30 May was the day of the Four Corners program. The decision, as I said, was not an easy one to take, but let us be clear: this is a suspension that the government will lift as soon as industry can establish a verifiable system. (Time expired)














Senator COLBECK (Tasmania) (14:04): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. When did the minister first contact the Indonesian government regarding these practices?


Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:05): I outline that, in terms of the bilateral relations that we have with Indonesia, we are working closely with the Indonesian government on this issue. Both DFAT and DAFF officials have been in close contact with our Indonesian ambassador in Jakarta, and Indonesian counterparts. The Indonesian government shares our concern that some animals are not being slaughtered in accordance with Indonesia's own animal welfare laws. Both governments acknowledge that no one issue can dominate the relationship. The Indonesian trade minister, Dr Pangestu, stressed in her public comments that Australia's action represents a temporary suspension and that Indonesia was keen to improve practices.

Senator Brandis: Mr President, I raise a point of order on relevance. The question could not have been more specific: when did the minister contact the Indonesian government in relation to these practices? There was nothing else. He was not asked about the bilateral relationship or the history. He was asked a narrow and specific question. Either he answers it or he is not being either directly or indirectly relevant.

The PRESIDENT: I draw the minister's attention to the question. You have nine seconds remaining, Minister.

Senator LUDWIG: I had the opportunity of speaking to my counterpart, Minister Suswono, and I will provide the exact time and date for the chamber. Can I also indicate— (Time expired)





Senator COLBECK (Tasmania) (14:06): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Given the minister's recent statement that he has been expressing concerns about this matter since January, why didn't the minister take the opportunity to investigate the matter personally when he was in Indonesia in March?


Senator LUDWIG (QueenslandMinister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Manager of Government Business in the Senate and Minister Assisting the Attorney-General on Queensland Floods Recovery) (14:06): Of course this is an area where, unlike the coalition when they are in government, I have been raising it both in January, with the industry, and again at an opportunity in Katherine with the Cattle Council of Australia to talk to the issue of animal welfare outcomes for our trade to continue.

In addition to that, we have continued to say that we understand that the suspension will have an impact on the Australian producers and those involved in the live export trade. We know that this government, unlike the previous government, have continually raised the issue of how we improve animal welfare outcomes for this trade. That information has been continuously conveyed both to industry and to the Indonesians. (Time expired)