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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 8406

Mr BANDT (Melbourne) (15:59): We have the opportunity in this House to do something meaningful for animals right now. We could do something meaningful right now and restrict and hopefully, ultimately, bring an end to the live sheep trade. Why can we do that? Well, something very significant has happened. A bill has passed the Senate. The Animal Export Legislation Amendment (Ending Long-Haul Live Sheep Exports) Bill 2018 passed the Senate, co-sponsored by Senators Rhiannon, Hinch and Storer. Obviously, they had the majority of their colleagues with them. The bill put in place a process to begin to restrict the live sheep trade. Is it a perfect bill? Is it the ideal bill that the Greens would want and would move in our own right? No, it's not. It's a bill that restricts the trade through certain months of the year. It doesn't unfortunately deal in detail with the stocking density question, which is a very important question, and it's not a full ban or end to the trade—all things the Greens would like to see happen. It only applies to sheep, whereas we see no reason for it to not apply across the board, but it would be a very good start.

The reason it is in a position before us in the House today is that it's a bill that's a result of compromise by people of good will from across the political spectrum. Up until recently some of those people sitting on the Liberal backbench have said to us: 'We agree with you and the Australian population that these ships of shame cannot continue. These shiploads of death that result in animals under our watch dying in huge numbers as we send them offshore have to come to an end.' What we know, because we've been here time after time, is that it's not possible to regulate the treatment of those animals from behind a desk in Canberra. Once the sheep get on the ships and the ships set off on their long journeys to the other side of the world, it is impossible to regulate the conditions under which they are being kept. That is why they die in huge numbers. That's why you find them in their own excrement, dying. That's why you find them in heat that they cannot tolerate, dying. They begin to pant, they begin to expire and then they die.

The Australian population wants this regulated. Most of them, I suspect, want it brought to an end. We've tried, as the Greens, and I know the member for Denison has tried as well, to bring bills in here to bring the whole trade to an end—to either do it immediately or have it done over a period of three years. In the Greens we've also worked with the meat workers union to say it would be much better to have the processing conducted here. When you have the Greens and the meat workers union working together to say, 'Wouldn't it be a good idea to have processing here rather than to send these animals offshore?' it tells you something about the strength of feeling in the community and how widespread the view is that people want something to happen.

We now have, probably, the best opportunity that we've had for a very long time to do something. I was on my feet seeking the call while the Leader of the House was still sitting down. I've got an explanatory memorandum for the bill ready to be tabled right now. I was seeking the call to try and progress this debate and start it in the House today, so that we could debate it for the rest of this week and hopefully pass it. I didn't get the call—so be it. The Leader of the House got the call and the government is now trying to kick this off into the long grass. The government is now trying to make sure that this bill, which has passed the Senate and could pass this House if we're given the chance to debate, can never, ever come to a vote. But there is a way this House, just like the Senate, can say 'No, actually the treatment of sheep is an important issue and the deaths that we have seen of these sheep as they've been exported is important enough for us that we want to debate it now.' How can we do that? All it would take would be for a few members to stand up and say that they are going to vote to have a debate now. I was very, very encouraged to hear and talk to the member for Farrer not that long ago about a compromise bill, like this bill, that wouldn't satisfy everyone but would start to rein in this terrible trade.

I've heard the member for Corangamite and the member for La Trobe speak very passionately about this, and I think they believe it. They want to see this horror stopped. I also know that those members, the member for Corangamite and the member for La Trobe, are in very close contact with people who run in their electorates at election time and they beg them for their preferences. They say, 'Come and give us your preferences, because we are much better on animals and, even though you might not agree with everything my party says, you know that, when the opportunity comes, we will stand up for animals.' I've spoken to many activists in Victoria who say that the member for Corangamite and the member for La Trobe do what they can. Well, now's the chance to earn that support that you've been given by your constituents, who want you to take action on animals. Now's a chance to say nothing more than, 'We want a debate in this House and a chance to consider a bill that would start to rein in some of the worst excesses of the live export trade.' So I say to those members that now is your chance. We might not get another chance. Now is your chance. I say to anyone in this House who says that they're concerned about the welfare of animals that now is your chance.

In many respects, there couldn't be a better week to debate this, because the government don't have much else on the agenda for this week. They're frantically running around trying to make sure that we don't debate anything that might be potentially controversial. So the program is looking very bare indeed. So there is time to debate this. I would prefer that we get it on this week, and that's why I was seeking the call. We're not going to be able to do that, so I support the amendment that has been moved by the Manager of Opposition Business, because that would mean that we'd get to it next week—but we would get to it.

People should be under no illusions about what they're voting on. If we don't vote for this amendment, we're voting to do what the government wants and it will be kicked off into the long grass and this horror will continue. This horror will continue, because the government has run away from taking any action itself. It had a bill on the Notice Paper and now it's pulled it back. The Senate has called the government to account—and I'm very, very proud of the work that former Senator Rhiannon has done, together with her colleagues, to come up with this cross-parliamentary, cross-partisan, bill. Now is a chance for us to do something about it.

As someone who spent many, many years in Fremantle, you know what it's like when the ships are in town. You know when there is storey upon storey of sheep and animals piled up ready to go offshore, because you can smell the stench of death as you walk around town. When it hits 40 degrees on a summer's day in Perth, you know that there are animals there that are suffering. Then you think about what it's like when they've been at sea for days and weeks and the temperature starts hitting 40 and 50 degrees and you imagine the suffering that those animals are going through then. The Australian people know what that suffering means. That's why they want this trade restricted. They know that, whatever the government is doing, it's not enough. So now we have an opportunity.

I'll just say once more to anyone with a good heart in this place who believes that it is time to act to stop the suffering, now is your chance. If you don't vote for this amendment, we will remind everyone about it right up until election day. If you don't vote for this, every promise that you've made about standing up for animals counts for absolutely nothing.