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Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Page: 7612


Mr ADAMS (Lyons) (16:45): Let me comment on the member for Durack's contribution. It was all about shooting the messenger and not dealing with the issue of where the problem was. It was all about politics and not dealing with his own constituency. It was a really poor effort and did not represent the cattlemen and the cattle families of his own electorate or the cattle families of northern Australia at all. I reject his allegation that Tasmanian abattoirs would be found to be the same as the images that we saw on the Four Corners program. I believe that Tasmanian abattoirs work under Australian standards and meet all of their obligations very well.

To restart this trade before we have resolved the issues that brought about its interruption could bring about an end to the trade forever in my opinion. It is ridiculous to give simplistic answers. The interruption to this trade took place because the slaughtering of Australian cattle did not meet the community standard that we demand in this country. That is why it was suspended. Meat and Livestock Australia has the responsibility of looking after Australia's reputation and the standards of this nation. I believe the restraining boxes that were set up in Indonesia were more about show than reaching the standards that Australians believe should exist. Animal welfare requires a much higher standard and I believe that Meat and Livestock Australia would have known that it was not reaching the standards it should have been. The social licence for Australia requires a much higher standard than that. The public response to those images on televisions around Australia is what brought about the intervention.

There is a need to face up to the mistakes that have been made. There is a big need to face up to that reality and to accept that there were mistakes. I thought by now there might have been some resignations. When the other side of this House calls for resignations on the political level, they should be calling for some resignations from their own side, from some of the people that would be their supporters. Why there have not been any resignations I do not know. Nobody has accepted the responsibility. I believe that there needs to be an acceptance of responsibility for us to move forward.

I was looking through LiveCorp's documentation on their roles. It reads:

LiveCorp also implements industry policy as determined by the Australian Livestock Exporters' Council (ALEC), delivers timely industry communication and drives additional value adding programs.

I have never seen any of those and I have never seen any communications from them through my office. They also have as one of their 10 industry goals:

To maintain government support and increase general community support for the industry through transparent operation.

I do not think they have lived up to their own missions and industry goals. I am sure they have failed every time, but we still have not seen any resignations from people who have been found wanting and certainly have not shown any responsibility or any transparency.

Australia is a major global player in the red-meat sector and we are among the world's largest producers of red meat. We are the second largest exporter of beef and sheep. In 2007-08 the gross value of beef and veal production in Australia was more than $7.4 billion—a considerable amount. We were right to suspend the trade after what had occurred. The members of this House would have received many communications from their constituents. I know how many I received from farmers in Tasmania about their concerns. There was a constituent in my office last week, a rather large one, who told me that he believed people should go to jail. He believed that we should be doing everything we can to re-establish the trade and reorganise it, but he also believed the people who are responsible need to bear their responsibility. I am sure there are many others around the country who agree.

To improve the animal welfare level and to get back to an established supply chain we need a system that we can all have confidence in to ensure that Australian animals are treated in accordance with OIE guidelines. Stunning-preferred processing is one of the major issues we have got to make sure happens. On traceability, the National Livestock Identification Scheme in this country is a very good scheme—something we should be very proud of, as I am sure you are, Acting Deputy Speaker Scott. It is something that gives us a lot of security. It certainly gives us biosecurity, meat safety, product integrity in our overseas markets and of course market access in many areas. We need to make sure that that system is working right through this livestock export trade into Indonesia and that as animals leave Australia on a boat we can identify them as they go into the feedlot and into the abattoirs. We need to know where Australian animals are being slaughtered and the outcome. That is the way for us to get this trade back in place.

This industry needs to have credibility and it needs to have the support of the Australian people. It needs to have the social licence to do what it wants to do, and it will not get that unless it has credibility. It will not get credibility just by saying it has been done; there will have to be process that proves it is achieving what it said it would.

Let me clearly state that there is no question about the value of the live animal export industry—to Indonesia and beyond—to the Australian economy. I think it is worth about a billion dollars a year. There are people who are certainly finding it hard going now that this trade has been suspended. We know that, and many of us feel for them. We know that this goes right across the industry, from the landowners and the pastoralists right through to all the others who are working in the industry. Personally, being a former meatworker, I would always prefer to have no live exports and concentrate on giving our meat producers the opportunity to work towards maximising their income through ensuring that animals can be traced right through to the supermarket or to the local shop. It always strikes me as a waste to ship beautiful, almost finished animals offshore to be marketed there just as meat, without us having a chance to brand it, to regionalise and identify it or to have some control over quality.

No-one in this government would want this suspension to last a day longer than it needs to, and I believe that we can work towards a proper and sustainable industry that can have the credibility of the Australian people. But if we fail that, this industry will be lost to Australia. Racing back in is not the answer.