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Monday, 20 August 2018
Page: 7894

Mr WOOD (La Trobe) (18:06): I rise today to speak on the Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018, which restricts the long-haul exports of live sheep and for related purposes. I would also like to congratulate the member for Farrer for bringing this bill forward. Just a few months ago, I, and many Australians, saw the footage from the 60 Minutes program which showed Australian sheep that were dead, dying and suffering from overcrowding and heat stress, unable to move in a thick bog of their own waste or to access food and water. They were simply shocking and disgusting conditions.

This wasn't one bad journey, one bad exporter or a few animals that had slipped outside the system. It is what happens to animals routinely under Australian standards under live export companies and in the live export industry. This is in regard to live sheep exports from Australia. Over the years I have been a member of parliament, since 2004, I have met with the live animal sheep export industry and warned them time and time again that Australian people do not want to see sheep and animals suffer. So many times I have been given reassurances that I wouldn't see it again.

A voyage to the Middle East takes an average of 21 days. That is 500 consecutive hours in which sheep travel in hot and cramped conditions by sea and road transport. The conditions are unavoidable, stressful and dangerous. Lengthy voyages can be a death sentence. Sheep risk a slow death from starvation, illness and injury. After weeks on ships, they can emerge caked in so much excrement that they are barely recognisable.

New evidence reveals not only that the live sheep export trade is breaking the law but that animals are being denied the most basic needs: proper access to food, water, rest and veterinary care. I congratulate the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud, for his efforts in calling out the industry and acting immediately. The government announced sweeping changes on 17 May 2018. The space allocated to sheep on live-export ships to the Middle East will be increased by up to 39 per cent, and directors of live-export companies who flout the rules will face up to 10 years jail. However, after meeting with Dr Portia Reading, a veterinary surgeon resident of Dewhurst in La Trobe, I have the following recommendations—I have said this personally to the minister before. We must have independent vets on boats so at each time there is a thorough and proper investigation and call out immediately those who are doing the wrong thing. We must stop long-haul live exports between May and October, from Australia's winter into the Middle Eastern summer. In Kuwait, the biggest market for Australia's sheep, the average temperature in May is 34.3; in June, 34.7; in July, 36; in August, 35.6; and in September, 32.6. This is combined with humidity across these months that ranges between 40 per cent and 60 per cent. Sheep suffer severe heat stress as they travel from cooler months in Australia to these very hot conditions. In addition to the air temperature, the water in the gulf can reach 41 degrees Celsius. The ship's engine and constant lighting create additional heat, while ventilation merely recirculates the hot air. The impact of extreme heat causes the vast majority of deaths in live sheep exports.

I've met sheep producers and the live animal export groups. They need to have in place a future for the farmers—and I absolutely support our farmers—but they do need to be aware that, eventually, this industry will stop, and they need to have transitions in place to make sure our farmers get the full support. I know that farmers in the electorate of La Trobe and farmers right across the country—in particular, those in New South Wales and Queensland—are really struggling. We heard the speech the other day the deputy chair made. We want to support our farmers. I know the farmers care about the sheep. However, we do need to call this industry out because it's causing ongoing suffering for animals. It is simply wrong, and they don't deserve it.