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Monday, 20 August 2018
Page: 7893

Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (18:01): Ending live export is an issue that is important to my community of Mayo. Since the 60 Minutes report that highlighted the atrocious conditions that sheep endure while on export ships aired in April, I have been contacted by thousands of constituents—and I really mean thousands—who want to see an end to the industry. There is no future for long-haul sheep export from Australia. Time and again we have seen that exporters are unable or unwilling to comply with Australian animal welfare standards, and that the regulator is simply powerless to enforce the regulations.

The sheepmeat industry is worth $5.23 billion yet live exports only account for $250 million of this value, and it is diminishing. At present, the live sheep trade exists primarily to three countries—Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey—who, between them, take over 75 per cent of all sheep exported from Australia. As the member for Farrer noted, the reality is that demand for live sheep in the Middle East comes in no small part from its cheap retail price due to government subsidies. Opponents of this bill, the Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018, point to the Middle Eastern countries requiring live animals for religious reasons, yet Australia exports halal accredited boxed meat to all relevant countries to which we export live sheep.

This bill takes a measured approach to phasing out the industry. It is not prudent to implement an immediate blanket ban on live exports, and nobody here in this place is suggesting that. A phase-out over five years with an immediate ban on exports to the Middle East during the northern summer is an appropriate balance. It would allow farmers and the government to put the pillars in place for a transition away from live exports and would be a great opportunity to grow our chilled meat processing industry.

I also want to comment on the suggestion that farmers are opposed to ending the live export trade. The farmers I know take great care of their livestock. I have spoken to several farmers in my electorate who were disgusted in the way the animals were being treated on export ships and some of them said, ' Rebekha, we need to end this industry.' I believe that, if the government works with Australian farmers, the transition from live export to expanded meat processing will be positive and will lead to greater competition and better farmgate prices. It has always been my preference for meat to be processed onshore and then exported.

The passage of this bill and the phasing-out of live sheep experts will create an exciting opportunity for Australia's meat processing industry. The industry directly employs 35,000 people and another 100,000 directly. I want to keep those jobs in Australia and I want to see that industry grow. My electorate of Mayo has numerous examples of the opportunities to be gained by transitioning away from live exports and towards onshore processing. The Thomas Foods facility in Lobethal provides employment for more than 700 people. It now has two shifts. In Normanville there's a disused abattoir that the local council has approved for upgrade so it can commence production. Reopening the abattoir will see around 70 jobs for the region, but it needs some state and federal government support to improve roads and water access. On Kangaroo Island there's a desire to get a small abattoir up and running. I met with the project managers just last week. A meat-processing facility on the island would provide a huge economic boost to our community and allow us to brand KI lamb. Kangaroo Island is a small place, with just 4,700 people living there.

The phasing out of the live sheep trade, as well as proper planning and support from government, would create an opportunity for these examples from my community to be replicated across the country. It would mean real jobs—real regional jobs. Let's pause and look at New Zealand's example. It shows you don't need live sheep long-haul export to have a thriving industry. New Zealand lamb is prized around the world because they control their product right the way through the supply chain.

I support the bill of the member for Farrer, and I commend the member for Farrer for bringing this bill to the parliament. It takes a great deal of courage to come from a regional area and do that. I urge the government to allow a vote on this legislation. The live sheep industry is already a dying trade. The Australian public expect us to show leadership on this issue, and they expect us to take action to end this trade.