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Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Page: 7617

Mr MITCHELL (McEwen) (17:05): I have listened to all the babble from those opposite, particularly the member for Durack, who spent 10 minutes not facing up to any facts or realities but just coming up with more three-word slogans, more drivel, more rubbish. He wants to blame the messenger for this.

We should sit down and have a mature conversation—I know it is difficult for those opposite—and look at why this trade was suspended. It was suspended because of cruelty to animals. Everyone who has seen that footage knows that that cruelty was appalling. The question I would like to ask those opposite, as they sit there with their empty blank faces, is: how long did Senator Coonan have that video footage? She never came out and said that she had it. Has she been talking to you about it? Did she say to you that she was in possession of that video footage long before it came on the ABC? No. That is the hypocrisy of what goes on opposite. You sit there and want to blame the people who brought the footage to everyone's attention.

When I was working at DPI in Victoria we went to markets and we saw cruelty here in Australian. The member for Dawson wants to blame religion; he says that is the problem. That is just the sort of absolutely appalling thing that you would expect from such a barbaric person as he is.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! The member for McEwen will withdraw that reflection on the member for Dawson.

Mr MITCHELL: I withdraw. They want to blame the religion and they want to blame the people that brought the video footage to people's attention, but they do not want to stand up and face up to the fact that they are partly to blame for this. They were the ones that set up MLA, they were the ones that set up self-regulation and they were the ones that set this industry up for failure. During the whole 11 dark years of the Howard government, they did nothing—they closed their eyes and hoped that it would go away, but they did not do anything. What did you do when there was an issue with the live export of sheep to Saudi Arabia back in 2003? What did the government do? I know the member for Bennelong, who is in the chamber, would not have a clue, but what they did was impose a blanket ban, a straight two-year blanket ban. You put the live sheep industry at risk for two years with a blanket ban—not a temporary ban until the problem was sorted out.

We are trying to do the right thing by the industry by giving them the chance to go forward, giving them the chance to continue for the long term. Do you remember, when there was a problem with poor handling of cattle in our exports to Egypt in 2006, who was the minister at the time who imposed the blanket ban? I know the member for Bennelong would not have a clue, but it was Minister McGauran of the Nationals. He is the one who put the suspension in place in 2006, a suspension that was not lifted until 2008.

They sit there and make this feigned outcry: 'Oh, the poor industry!' But when you actually have a look at their history, when you look at what they have done over time, you see that they have actually put this industry more at risk than anyone else. So it is up to us, the Gillard government, to sort it, to fix it and to get it back on track. That is what we are doing. The member for Bennelong laughs but that simply beggars belief. You have no idea what you are laughing about.

Mr Alexander: I have a very good idea.

Mr MITCHELL: You have no idea at all. You have yourselves imposed blanket bans which have lasted for two years at a time, yet you say how bad it is that we have suspended live exports.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for McEwen, by use of the word 'you', is referring to the occupant of the chair. I am sure that is not his intention and I would counsel him to observe the standing orders.

Mr MITCHELL: I was definitely not referring to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and I apologise if that is the indication that I gave. There is no way I would do that.

Those opposite know that an independent reviewer has been appointed to undertake a complete supply chain review of the live export trade for all markets. The independent reviewer, Bill Farmer, will inform us on both the design and the application of the new safeguards. We need to put these safeguards in place.

I notice the member for Casey over there. I am sure that if he went back to his electorate and checked his local markets he would probably find that there were a couple of issues with DPI and animal cruelty in his area going back four or five years. But, as is typical, he has his back turned and is not interested. It is far easier to sit there and try and claim a political point than to sit down and say, 'How do we get through this properly, quickly and effectively so that we sustain the industry in the long term?' That is what Bill Farmer is doing. He is going to inform us on the design and application of these new safeguards.

We, the Gillard government, are working extremely closely with the Indonesian government and with industry to bring about improvements in practices in abattoirs to make this important trade sustainable for the long term. In the meantime, we have provided a package to assist the people out there who are hurting during this temporary suspension. This assistance package will make sure that employees and small business owners who earn the majority of their income from the live cattle trade to Indonesia receive support in the short term. That is important because we know that this is a painful issue. We know that when industries are facing hardship we have to try to help people along.

We can remember, during the Howard government, that the only time any industry that was going bad got any support was when it was run by a bloke named Stan Howard. They did not care when jobs were lost in many industries and many businesses. People turned up for work on a Monday morning and were told, 'Sorry—no superannuation, no pay, no job.' You could not have cared less about that. When it was Stan Howard, though, you were in there straightaway and sorting it out.

I also have to pick up on what the member for Durack said in his 10-minute rant. He tried to say, 'We do not need to have this city-country divide,' but then he said, 'All the people in the city are stupid; they do not understand cattle and they do not understand what goes on on farms.' That is an absolute joke—to sit there and say that all people in the city have no idea. You have to wonder about the credibility of someone when he comes out with such silly remarks and then tries to blame the people who brought the video footage out. It shows that they are out of touch, that they are arrogant, that they have absolutely no idea and that anything more than a three-word slogan is beyond their intellectual capacity.

We know that we have a lot of work to do to get this trade back up and running and to do it quickly. We know that and we have been working closely with key stakeholders. I met with the Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association in the last sitting week and I spoke to them about the issues they are facing. They all agree that we have to sort this out—that we cannot have our animals sent over there when we cannot guarantee the supply chain and when we cannot guarantee that each animal that goes across there is going to be killed in a humane manner. Until we can do that, until we can be assured that we have those safeguards in place, we need to work through this to get things up and running.

You would think that a company such as MLA, who get many millions of dollars a year, would be out there, as the peak body to the industry, doing their best for that industry. It is clear that they have not done that. It is clear that they have failed the cattlemen; it is clear that they have failed the industry. They should be out there working hard to get the industry going again, but they are not. It gets left to the government to do the work because of their incompetence—and I say 'incompetence' because a peak body should be making sure that markets are safe. If that is their key objective and that is their key product, they should be out there making sure that their product is safe and there is a sustainable future for that market. But they have not done that. They have let the cattlemen down. As was suggested previously, maybe that is where heads need to roll. Maybe the people at MLA should be told: 'You have failed. You should take responsibility. You should make the ultimate sacrifice.' I think that is what needs to be done.

Paul Holmes a Court, a cattleman, said that there was no doubt that the suspension was going to be financially devastating for everyone in the medium term, but that it was necessary if we were to establish the systems required to secure the industry's long term future. He also said on 10 June:

Currently our industry can't guarantee that our standards will be met all the way down the line. The ban should only be lifted once we have an independent, auditable system which will allow that to happen.

The government is working with the industry and working with the Indonesian gover­nment, and we should be ignoring the hypocrisy from those opposite, which has become so predictable. They are saying one thing and doing another. This government is doing the right thing by the producers, by the cattle, by the trade and by the families that are involved. We will defend and support the long-term interests of the live cattle trade and we are committed to doing so in a sustainable way. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): The discussion is concluded.