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Monday, 20 August 2018
Page: 7896

Mr GOODENOUGH (Moore) (18:15): In contributing to the debate on the Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018, I will begin by saying this issue has generated a great deal of interest within my electorate, with a significant volume of correspondence received over the past few months. Like all Australians, I was appalled at the evidence of the mistreatment of sheep and the high mortality rate aboard a shipment to the Middle East. My approach and response has been to ascertain the facts in as objective a manner as possible before making a considered and informed decision regarding an important agricultural industry which is vital to the economy of Western Australia.

At the time the member for Farrer first proposed this private member's bill, I said publicly, on the record, that the legislation had merit and the industry had a narrow window of opportunity to self-regulate to ensure that instances of cruelty did not recur, because the consequences of a repeat occurrence would be a groundswell of public support for parliament to legislate to phase out the industry. Since then, the McCarthy review has taken place and has resulted in a series of recommendations to protect animal welfare, based on the principles of veterinary science, and reduce stocking densities. I held meetings with the stakeholders from the Western Australian Pastoralists and Graziers Association in my Canberra office, as well as with representatives from Emanuel Exports, to better inform myself of the details and facts surrounding the issue. I accepted an invitation to go on board a live export vessel, the Al Shuwaikh, which was moored in the port of Fremantle, in order to view firsthand the condition of a typical livestock export vessel. On the day I visited, the vessel was being loaded with sheep from semitrailers. I viewed the lower decks and observed the stocking densities and conditions. I must admit that, although it was not the most pleasant of experiences, I found the conditions and animal welfare standards to be not dissimilar to a typical agricultural feedlot setting.

In 2017, of the 1.7 million live sheep exported by sea, 99.29 per cent were delivered in good health into suitable facilities approved under the Export Supply Chain Assurance Scheme. We need a sustainable live export trade which has good animal welfare outcomes. The trade provides for an estimated 10,000 rural Australian jobs and was worth over $1.4 billion in 2016-17. The report of the McCarthy review into the Middle Eastern summer sheep trade was released on 17 May, along with the department's response. All of the 23 recommendations were accepted, subject to further testing and consultation on the heat stress risk assessment recommendations. In response to other McCarthy recommendations, the regulator has reduced the allowable stocking densities, which means sheep are getting up to 39 per cent more space, with stocking densities reduced by up to 28 per cent; established mandatory investigations of any voyage on which more than one per cent of sheep perish; ensured that all vessels carrying sheep to the Middle East during the Northern Hemisphere summer are equipped with automated watering systems; and placed on all voyages independent observers who are to report back to the regulator.

The government's Export Legislation Amendment (Live-stock) Bill 2018, currently before the House of Representatives, contains proposed amendments to increase criminal penalties, introduce offences for directors of companies, and introduce new regulatory options. Under the current legislation, penalties for wrongdoing in live export are five to eight years imprisonment and/or fines ranging up to $100,800 for individuals. For a company, the maximum fine is $315,000.

For the reasons which I have just outlined, I am supporting the government's legislative position in the first instance. As legislators, we have a duty to make balanced and informed decisions. In this case it involves balancing animal welfare with the livelihoods of farmers in the agricultural industry, ensuring that the rural economy can operate whilst maintaining acceptable animal welfare standards. We must not make irrational decisions that will cause significant financial hardship and economic loss for rural communities, as was the case during the live cattle export bans in 2011, but, at the same time, we must be firm in upholding animal welfare standards that prevent cruelty.