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Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Page: 7610

Mr HAASE (Durack) (16:35): I find quite amazing the feigned angst that has been discussed by the previous speaker. I have never seen such a performance and I do sincerely trust that, being a union supporter, the member has paid his dues to Actors Equity, because he is nothing but a stalking horse on this issue. There is no doubt whatsoever that when the accusation is made across the chamber that we are simply looking for political mileage out of this issue nothing could be further from the truth. Our speakers involved in this matter of public importance today are directly involved in the industry. We are not metropolitan dwellers. We are not simply trying to cover up for a minister who has failed so significantly that he ought to be sacked. And this side of the House would be calling for that sacking far more vocally if it were not for the knowledge we all share that this poor innocent individual, Senator Ludwig, is simply another victim of an ignorant action by a Prime Minister who is out of touch with the cattle industry here in Australia.

If it were truly the case that this Prime Minister was well and truly aware of the pain, the suffering, the lack of ability to attend to financial responsibilities, she would take it upon herself to be involved personally in the outcome that would be a solution. As it is, she is standing back not wanting to be sullied by the situation because she believes that the majority of city dwellers must have more knowledge about this subject than the people that actually work in the industry. How wrong could she be. If ever there was an example of mistakes being made because of the constant pursuit of populist politics, this banning of the live trade by this Prime Minister is the greatest example. It will go down in history that a Prime Minister dared to inflict so much pain on the Australian people that puts this whole industry, which last year was worth $1.012 billion, at risk for all time.

Those battler families that have carved out a niche and a difficult lifestyle in Northern Australia—where their only ability with the pastoral land at their disposal is to rear and export live Bos indicus cattle—are damned by this Prime Minister without any indication of conscience. She spoke in this House yesterday about her desire to see this problem solved as quickly as possible. She overlooks the fact that it was her action that caused the problem in the first place.

We can go back to the footage and look at the circumstances of, firstly, its collection and, secondly, its distribution to the Australian people as a matter of absolute urgency. It was collected months ago. It went to air five weeks ago as a matter of urgency. What a lot of nonsense! The commentator in that footage, having collected the informa­tion, every night knew that those cattle were being treated in a similar way in those 11 abattoirs out of 735 across Indonesia. Did the ABC run any counterargument? No, they did not.

Who is culpable in this? We were told that we ought to be conscience stricken and ashamed of ourselves for allowing this practice to proceed, yet the very person that wormed her way into 11 select abattoirs to find some evidence of misdemeanour sat on it for nearly seven months, apparently without any conscience whatsoever. What is the credibility of this practice as demon­strated, horrendous as it was, as unacceptable as it is to anyone? Any human being would not accept that practice, more so those who are concerned with the breeding and fattening of good high-quality beef from Australia. Those persons would be the last to engage in such cruel activity. But where is the evidence that this is general practice?

I charge that, if that photographer went into abattoirs across Australia—indeed, even Tasmania—and waited to get selected footage, they would have been able to put something together that would shock every city-dwelling Australian in this nation. People in cities today have no contact with the bush. They do not understand the breeding of stock for slaughter for food. They do not understand the significance of that shiny package that comes on a supermarket shelf, that it was actually a living breathing thing and that an agriculturalist, possibly a pastoralist, deliberately bred it knowing that it was going to be slaughtered. That concept has been far removed from city dwellers today. To be confronted with evidence that was held for months and then promoted in the most dramatic way was, of course, going to have an impact. Of course, there were going to be innocent, impressionable MPs scurrying to the Prime Minister saying: 'The actions of our agriculture minister are not sufficient in declaring that the majority will be banned. We want the whole trade banned.' What thought for a moment did they have of the families across northern Australia, infiltra­ting into southern Australia, that would go broke as a result? It has nothing to do about conscience, about fearing and denying cruelty to animals. It has nothing to do with that. It has got to do with the coldly calculated process of shutting down an industry in Australia that the perpetrator of that footage declared publicly was her aspiration before she went and collected the evidence.

If I were a vegan, I might have some cockeyed idea that I should stop the world from eating meat also. But I do not think I would be morally justified in sneaking into the night to gain evidence to send to an innocent population of Australia to gain an outcome for my organisation to extract dues from hoodwinked Australians to keep me in the self-promotion that I was accustomed to. If we are looking for dastardly deeds here, if we are looking for perpetrators of horr­endous action, we should look no further than the member of Animals Australia who went to Indonesia and collected that damning footage.

There is a huge question mark over the legitimacy of the collection of that footage. We are getting all manner of stories back from abattoirs concerned about the circumstances under which the footage was allowed to be taken. If you analyse the footage, you see rank amateurs inapp­ropriately dressed, grinning like cheshire cats, posing almost as momentary movie stars. What were they promised? We do not know that. We have not been told that. We were not given a balanced view from the ABC; yet this government, without a second thought, without any communication or negotiation, insulted a nation. They insulted a lifestyle. They insulted a process to the world and declared that Indonesia and their culture was substandard and unacceptable; and then the Prime Minister has the gall to suggest that she was surprised by the reaction from Indonesia. Well, the egg is on her face right now. She needs to make the mea culpas. Until such time as she personally involves herself in this debacle and develops a solution that will see the reinstatement of this industry and the compensation of the members of this industry, she has no right to claim legitimacy as a good Prime Minister for this nation. The PGA has already called for the sacking of the minister. This side of politics has not as yet because we know where the real responsibility lies for this debacle. It lies with the Prime Minister fairly and squarely. Only she can make amends.