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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31577

Mr GAVAN O'CONNOR (5:31 PM) —With reference to the statement that has just been made by the minister, I am pleased that the government has accepted the amendment that was moved by us in the Senate. I think it does tighten up this piece of legislation, particularly the accountability mechanisms in the legislation. Both houses of parliament have succeeded in making the livestock export sector more accountable by requiring the tabling of detailed reports in both houses of parliament of shipments that experience high rates of mortality. We have successfully moved those amendments in the Senate to require the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to provide to the minister a detailed report on live animal exports. According to that amendment, the report must provide the following information: the name of the exporter; the month and year of each shipment; the port where the loading took place; the duration of a voyage; the ports where the animals were unloaded; the types and numbers of animals shipped; the mortality rates; and any action taken by the secretary in relation to the exporters as a result of the reports. Labor's amendment also requires the minister to table that report in each house of parliament.

As I expect to be the minister after the next election, I do not regard these provisions as being very onerous at all. I think it is important that the industry is accountable, not only to this parliament but also to the community. This is an issue that is of real concern now to the Australian community. No doubt the minister's emails have run hot, as mine have, following every media program that has sought to highlight deficiencies in the live export trade. I need to put on the public record again that if this situation had not been allowed to drift as it has been drifting under this government then the situation faced by the meat industry generally as a result of problems in the live export trade might not have occurred. We have moved these amendments to give comfort to the Australian community, and to the rest of the meat industry, that we take this issue seriously and it is really time that the live export trade looked to its practices. I am pleased to say that after promptings by the community and the opposition, the minister has finally moved to get the live export trade to take this criticism seriously and to involve itself in some practices to clean up the trade.

With the introduction of this legislation, the industry is now on notice that if it does not perform there will be consequences. I do not think anybody ought to have any illusions about the fact that the live export trade is now on notice. I am pleased that the government has brought in legislation in the wake of the Keniry report, as it undertook to do, and I am pleased that this legislation has had a chance to be debated. The full intellect and practice of the parliament has been brought to bear upon it, and in the spirit of making legislation better the government has come to the table to agree to this amendment. I think it is one that can be borne by the secretary of the department, by the industry and by the minister, whoever he or she might be sitting in the chair. At the end of the day, it will be an improvement to the legislative framework that now sits across this industry to ensure that we not only address the concerns of the community, but that we protect the good reputation of the meat industry and farmers in it generally.

Question agreed to.