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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 2798


Senator IAN MACDONALD (Queensland) (15:03): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answers given by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (Senator Ludwig) and the Minister for Science and Research (Senator Farrell) to questions without notice asked by Opposition senators today.

Contrary to the slur on me by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, which was not corrected by the President, that I had got the letter and had not passed it on, the letter I was quoting from, from the Minister for National Parks, Recreation, Sport and Racing in Queensland, the Hon. Steve Dickson, was sent directly not only to Mr Burke but also to Senator Ludwig. Those letters were written on Tuesday, and they were also posted on Tuesday.

That does not get to the substantive issue, which is: why is the Gillard government more interested in growing grass than in the fate of 300,000 live animals? You hear the Greens and the Labor Party carrying on about cruelty to animals—here is cruelty on an unprecedented scale: 300,000 cattle are about to die for reasons of natural calamity, drought, bushfire and the stupid decision of the Gillard government some time ago to ban live cattle exports without any warning.

Forget about relief to farmers, important though that is. It is important, and the Queensland government will be doing what it can to help, but that is another question and I do not want to get distracted. The rules about that, and what relief will do, really will not help the landowners and they certainly will not help the fate of 300,000 live animals. Where are the Greens? I do not even see them in the chamber. I would have thought they would be jumping up and down on their Senate desks asking what the government is doing about the fate of these 300,000 animals that are going to die not a death from having a leg broken or being mistreated for five minutes but a lingering, horrible death from starvation.

The Queensland government—applauded, I might say, by the Queensland RSPCA—has a practical and sensible solution. Their plan is to put these cattle into areas that only recently were locked up by the previous Queensland government and the Gillard government as part of the nature reserve system. They have grass in them and they are in proximity to the areas that have been drought declared. They are suitable for the agistment of cattle. So there is a solution at hand—an easy solution. Sure, we want to preserve in Australia what we need to preserve, and that can be done. But carefully moving these cattle into national reserve systems can save them, and that will help with the financial and social welfare of the people who own those cattle and who are facing bankruptcy, loss of their homes, loss of their businesses and loss of their kids' schooling because of the live cattle ban, exacerbated by a following bushfire and then the drought.

Senator Ludwig says that he innocently misled the chamber, but he did not miss the opportunity of making some specious remark to me. As I say, I cannot understand why the President would pull me up for accusing Senator Ludwig of being a liar but not address his comment. But that is another issue.

Senator Wong: He is just a repeat offender.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, I have not called you and I can deal with this matter. Senator Macdonald, you cannot repeat the accusation and, equally, you have to be careful about making remarks concerning the President. It would assist the chamber if you withdraw your last remarks and continue the debate.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I withdraw them, Deputy President. I noted the President quite forcibly stopped me calling Senator Ludwig a certain term, but when Senator Ludwig accused me of being the messenger and holding on to these letters, no apology was sought. Quite frankly, I do not care what Senator Ludwig says about me, but it shows that Senator Ludwig—

Senator Wong: Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. Is this on a point of order or has he gone back to his—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: No.

Senator Wong: This is a continued abuse of points of order by Senator Macdonald, who is incapable of withdrawing graciously. He always has to follow up with a lecture demonstrating just how ungracious he is.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, there was no formal point of order. I dealt with the matter. Senator Macdonald complied with my request and Senator Macdonald is continuing with the debate.

Senator IAN MACDONALD: I can well understand why Senator Wong will do everything possible to stop me highlighting the fate of these 300,000 live animals, which are going to die a horrible death of starvation because of the actions of Senator Wong's government, the Gillard government, in not allowing the simple, practical solution put forward by the Queensland government, which is in touch with people and understands these issues. I do not want to make politics out of this. I just plead with anyone on the other side who might have any sense of compassion—I do not see any of them there—to do something to assist the Queensland government with a practical response to what is an animal catastrophe. (Time expired)