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Tuesday, 14 June 2011
Page: 5945

Mrs MIRABELLA (Indi) (22:20): I rise tonight to speak on behalf of the many thousands of farmers and farming families in my electorate and to echo their concerns and the experiences of many farming families right around Australia. They are hard working, small-business families who have been let down by a government that not only does not understand rural and regional Australia but does not care. The reason it does not care is quite simple. A very cynical government, desperately trying to cling to power, believes that, if country people do not vote for it, it should not have to govern in their interest. We are taken back to the time when the Prime Minister did not want to increase the rate of pension because, as was reported at the time, she did not believe that the majority of pensioners voted for the Labor Party. I suppose the same goes for defence force personnel and the like. Country people can see through the spin and see through the uncaring cold stare of the Prime Minister. They know that their futures and those of their towns are in jeopardy.

I turn specifically to the issue of the suspension of the live cattle trade. What the government does not understand is that reacting in such a kneejerk way—having a one-size-fits-all approach, a panicked response in suspending all trade to Indonesian facilities—is doing extraordinary damage not just to the personal finances of these farming families but to an industry that is very significant, an industry worth $320 million. With the stroke of a pen they have done this, with very little regard to people who have survived, in many cases, 10 years of devastating, soul-destroying drought, through some of the worst floods in living memory, waiting to experience a bumper year of good prices. What are those people now looking at? They are looking at possible economic devastation. And in parts of Australia where there is beef cattle production we are already seeing prices fall by about 10 per cent in anticipation of a glut of cattle coming from the north. The longer this ill-conceived, knee-jerk suspension of the live exports to Indonesia is in place, the more prices will fall and these hard-working families will see the profits they have been expecting and relying on just dwindle away.

There is simply no reason that this ban needs to be imposed. The industry has put forward a proposal that would see cattle slaughtered only in approved abattoirs, which would meet the strictest of animal welfare standards. Let us not forget that the best thing we can do to ensure the humane treatment of animals is to ensure that Australia has a role in the export of live cattle to Indonesia, to these particular facilities. We are the only country putting our own money into raising standards in Indonesia and we have done so for some time.

I urge the Prime Minister on this one instance to govern in the national interest and to accept the Leader of the Opposition's offer to meet to develop a solution to this problem so that trade can resume before any more damage is done. I can hold out hope but if I were a betting woman I would say the Prime Minister will not accept this offer.

The problem is that with everything the Prime Minister touches she seems to have the reverse Midas touch and it turns to dust. We saw only four months ago in a desperate attempt to find some sort of empathy, some sort of belonging, some sort of approval, when she caught a plane across the Tasman, she told the New Zealand parliament that she was going to lift a 90-year ban on the importation of their apples. Did the Prime Minister know that the New Zealand apple industry is plagued by the devastating fire blight disease? Did she know that her announcement threatens to destroy altogether our domestic apple industry or is she just so desperate for this approval? There is an emerging pattern here. The Labor Party slashed a whopping $35.8 million from quarantine and biosecurity budgets and, at the same time, opened up our borders to this particular threat. (Time expired)