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Tuesday, 25 June 2013
Page: 3915

Senator MARK BISHOP (Western Australia) (15:10): Before I commence my contribution to the debate on this motion, I should echo the remarks from Senator Conroy. It is probably Senator Boswell's last motion to take note of an answer, so I congratulate him on a long and successful career in this place.

Senator Boswell: Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I note those comments, but I will not be retiring until June 2014.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: It is not a point of order, Senator Boswell, but thank you for that clarification.

Senator MARK BISHOP: In that case, I still will not withdraw my remarks; I will just adjourn them to another time.

Senator Heffernan interjecting

Senator MARK BISHOP: Senator Heffernan, I do know a lot of things and I know about this. What I was going to say in my opening comments was that, when decisions are made, as Senator Boswell said, there are consequences and there are repercussions. I do not for one moment concede that this has not been a most difficult issue—it has been a difficult issue in Queensland, a difficult issue in the Northern Territory and a difficult issue in Western Australia. It has affected the owners of the properties in those places. It has affected the workers on those stations, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. It has affected those who are active in and participate in and make an income from participating in the trade.

But when this TV footage was released and caused an immense reaction right across Australia, out of the blue, our government took decisions affecting the live cattle trade that did have consequences and did have repercussions. We do not for one moment resile, and have not at any time resiled, from that decision we made and implemented, because always, since that decision was made, we have had one core purpose in mind: we wanted to have a strong, viable, sustainable, live cow, live sheep, live product, meat export industry out of this country. That is what we wanted then, that is what we want now and, most importantly in this discussion, that is what we have now.

All of our markets have been restored. Sheep, cattle and goats are being exported in larger and larger numbers and the significant community opposition that did exist and brought this to media attention has dropped right off. So I ask the question, in the context of the remarks on consequences and repercussions with which Senator Boswell opened his discussion: what are the consequences and what are the repercussions?

Senator Heffernan: Mr Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. It is misleading the Senate to be factually incorrect about what is happening in the market. We have closed down—

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: No, Senator Heffernan, that is not a point of order. There is no point of order.

Senator Heffernan interjecting

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Bishop, you have the call. Senator Heffernan, you have the opportunity to seek the call shortly if you wish to contribute to the debate. I suggest you save your comments until that point.

Senator MARK BISHOP: What I was saying was that, in the context of Senator Boswell's introductory remarks, there are consequences and repercussions—yes, there are. The markets that we had have been restored. The customers that we had have come back here. Our exporters are engaged in the business they were in. And we have growing trade, in terms of volume and in terms of prices received for the export of cattle and sheep and other products out of this country. So we are proud of the outcome.

We do not for one moment say that this export industry does not play an important part in our economy. The industry provides jobs for thousands of people—station owners, Indigenous workers, non-Indigenous workers—and, in addition, ensures food security for many countries across the world, not least, of course, for our near neighbours in Indonesia who rely heavily on meat and on the protein that makes up the base of it.

Let us put some facts on the table. Since the ESCAP arrangements have come into place through the new framework that has been established, over 2.35 million sheep, over 800,000 cattle and over 40,000 goats have been exported under those arrangements. As we come into the export season, the forecasts and the trend lines for tonnage to be exported are going up and up, because we now have an industry that has guaranteed markets. The competition cannot match the product we offer and those who were engaged in opposition to the market are unable to prosecute their arguments with any sense any longer because of the regulatory framework—the paradigm that has been established by this government for the tracking of cows and other product to be exported. We have an industry worth investing in. We have an industry that is safe. (Time expired)