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Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Page: 7614

Mrs GRIGGS (Solomon) (16:55): I rise to speak on this matter of public importance: the urgent need for the government to revoke the live cattle export ban. As I stand before you today, not only are our farmers suffering but thousands of cattle are starving in stockyards across Northern Australia. I refer to an article dated 29 June in the NT News, titled 'Cattle "have to be shot"'. I would like to quote a few words from the article:

The live export ban means 8000 Brahmans will have to be shot before they die of thirst, a shellshocked Marlee Ranacher—daughter of NT cattle icon Sara Henderson—said last night.

She said the water was drying up, and the Bullo River Station dynasty had run out of cash to buy diesel to run the bores.

'We can't pump water for them—we have to start shooting them. I can't watch them die of thirst. It's a disaster beyond comprehension.' …

'I actually thought we lived in a democracy - not only have (the Government) not looked after the welfare of its people, they've not considered the welfare of millions of cattle. I don't know what we're going to do.'

That was a week ago, and the Gillard Labor government continues with what we can only describe as an economical, human and animal welfare disaster happening right before our eyes. These now starving and thirsty cattle were stopped from being exported because of a knee-jerk reaction by a panicked Gillard Labor government. The result: an animal welfare issue in our own country.

I have been asked by the people of my electorate of Solomon and the greater Northern Territory to tell you today that this total ban on live exports is damaging. It is damaging to families, businesses, Indigenous and non-Indigenous jobs, the greater community and the welfare of our cattle. This total ban must be lifted as soon as possible.

I stand before you today as a concerned member of parliament and a lifetime Territorian through and through. No-one can deny that animal cruelty is wrong, but a blanket ban on live exports will be disastrous for Northern Australia and will not stop the cruelty inflicted on animals exported from other countries into these rogue abattoirs. Blanket banning of Australian animals from being exported to Indonesia will not stop the cruelty. Let me make this very clear. Australian cattle farmers are appalled by the treatment of their cattle. They are appalled by these rogue abattoirs. This Gillard Labor government should resume the livestock trade immediately and trade with the abattoirs that comply with best international standards. The rogue abattoirs will have two choices: either meet the international standards or lose the business.

If we turn our backs on this trade we lose our position to negotiate, to resolve the issue and to stop the cruelty. Cattle production is worth around $300 million a year to the Territory economy. The live trade to Indonesia represents a massive 47 per cent of our total live cattle trade. The total ban directly impacts cattle producers and businesses such as the transport or trucking industry, farming families and feed suppliers. The ban also indirectly affects accountants who do the books for the cattle producers, the fuel suppliers and so on.

I was recently on Pete Davies's radio show, 360. During the show we received so many outraged calls from Territorians who were not happy about the total ban. Most of them were not from farming families. They were people who know that they will be indirectly affected by this total ban. These people were not happy, because they know not only that the ban will impact farmers and the Northern Territory economy but also that it will not stop the cruelty. This total ban is going to hit all of the Territory, and it is going to hit it hard. About 10,000 Territorians, including 700 Indigenous Australians, are being directly and indirectly affected. There are an estimated 54 Indigenous cattle properties in the Territory. All of them are affected. They, like the other businesses in the Territory, face an uncertain future. The damage to the Australian industry will be vast and difficult to recover from. As one of my constituents said to me last week: 'The cruelty seen in Indonesia is now being dealt out to our farming families of Northern Australia.' How true that is. Their livelihood is about to die as cruelly as the cattle in Indonesia. The constituent who said this to me is not alone and he is not wrong.

My office has been inundated with calls, emails and letters from people all over Australia but mainly the Territory. Most of them are fearful and angry about this total ban, particularly the implications that it has for them and the Northern Territory economy. This issue needs to be resolved in a matter of days, not weeks, not months. This industry is at risk and so is the Northern Territory economy.

Another recent article in the Northern Territory News read: 'Cattle catastrophe coming: don't penalise us for rogue aba­ttoirs'. The article focuses on the Muldoon family, who run 40,000 head of cattle in the territory. Mrs Muldoon said in the article:

The government has made a serious misjudgment here; they made a really bad call on this.

True. They, like many of the 300-plus cattle-farming families in the Territory, will lose their income and may have their mortgages foreclosed on them. This is simply unacc­eptable.

The Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association know full well the live export trade is not something you can just turn on and off when it suits you. They know the impact it has on the local and greater community. This is their industry, it is their livelihood, but unlike Labor they are looking at what is in the best interests of the farmers and the best interests of the cattle.

Luke Bowen from the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association summed it up when he said:

Your government tried to turn the power off at the wall and do you now expect to just switch it back on at a time when it suits and expect cattle to be on boats the next day? It takes weeks for the supply chain in Australia alone to start to move again from the property to the port. Get off your hands and show some commitment, and try and resolve and fix what you broke before the north implodes.

I am not convinced that this government cares about Territorians, especially those Territorians who will be affected by this total ban, nor do I think it cares about the thousands of cattle starving and dying of thirst. Well, I care. I want my colleagues in this place to know that this Gillard Labor government, through its failure to comp­etently administer Australia's live cattle export industry, has put serious pressure on Northern Australian families. Desperate to get the message to the government, a constituent of mine has started a Territory-wide petition urging the Gillard Labor government to stop the cruelty, not the trade. I will table that petition in the next sitting period.

The Northern Territory Legislative Asse­mbly was specifically recalled early to discuss this total ban and the impact on Territory families. Unlike the Gillard Labor government, the federal and Territory Coun­try Liberals have flown to Indonesia to try to find a way to resolve this issue. We the coalition believe that there are ways to ban the cruelty and not stop the trade. The point that seems to be missed in this debate is that there are internationally accredited abattoirs in Indonesia. Why are we not exporting to them? That is why the Gillard Labor government should lift the export ban.

Unlike the Gillard Labor government, the Territory Labor Party has used its common sense to realise the decision of the Gillard Labor government was wrong, rushed, not thought out, arrogant and ignorant. Like many Territorians I am sick and tired of this Gillard Labor government's knee-jerk rea­ctions to issues as important as this. This total ban on live exports is another example of the government making decisions that affect our country without considering the short- and long-term implications across our nation.

As a federal representative from the Northern Territory I have some questions for those opposite on behalf of the people of the Northern Territory: why isn't the Labor member for Lingiari representing the people on this issue? Why hasn't Senator Trish Crossin voiced her people's concerns? Why are they silent on this issue when the people of the Northern Territory, who elected them, are calling on them to speak up? I call on the member for Lingiari and Senator Crossin to join me and Senator Scullion and represent the people of the Northern Territory by calling on the Gillard Labor government to revoke the ban on live cattle exports. My Liberal colleague Senator Scullion and I are certainly being vocal on this issue.

The issue here is obvious. Yes, animal cruelty is wrong, but the issue is not trading live cattle overseas. The implications of this ban stretch far beyond the property lines of Australian cattle stations. The Gillard Labor government needs to open its eyes, look at the bigger picture, admit it got it wrong, fix the cruelty and save the trade.