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Monday, 20 August 2018
Page: 7897

Ms STANLEY (Werriwa) (18:20): Since the media again highlighted the awful conditions under which Australian sheep are exported from this country, my office has been inundated with inquiries and concerns. Months after these horrific stories aired, constituents that I represent still regularly contact my office by email, letter and phone to express their horror at what they saw and subsequently what they have learnt about the live export trade. What seems clear to them and to me is that the current licence holders have not been able to transport sheep humanely, especially during the hot northern summer. Advice provided to the government by the RSPCA and the Australian Veterinary Association clearly shows that the transport of live sheep is not in the best interests of the animals.

Since my election, there have been very few issues that have elicited more responses to my office. Not only has this issue seen the most responses but, most surprising of all, it has been almost all one-way traffic. An overwhelmingly majority of the responses are that the live sheep trade should stop. This is surprising. As other members would be well aware, with any other issue that your constituents might comment on, there are normally responses from all sides of the argument. This has definitely not been the case with the live sheep trade. Furthermore, many constituents have emailed me on multiple occasions to express their concerns.

There are times where, despite opposition, we must lead the debate in our communities, but there are also times when we go with the overwhelming view of our constituents. It is clear to me and clear to my community that the trade should stop. I recognise, though, that any ceasing of the trade must be done carefully and in a planned way. The last thing our farmers need are further pressures on their farms and businesses. I note that the worsening drought is causing so many problems and distress. With all of New South Wales drought declared, any changes should be done with the consultation of farmers and exporters, with a plan to introduce markets that value-add to our sheep and red meat export products.

A Shorten government announced it would, at the first opportunity, put an end to the northern summer live sheep trade and would phase out the balance of the trade in a period of no longer than five years. The science is clear—the live summer trade and animal welfare standards are not reconcilable. A five-year transition period would allow the government to work with farmers, the unions and the industry on a plan to do more value-adding here in Australia. More processing here is good for our farmers, good for animal welfare standards, and good for the Australian economy with jobs for Australian workers. Labor is also trying to achieve the phase-out plan quicker, with its amendments to the government's penalties bills currently before the parliament. That is why it is important that this bill be brought forward for a vote. It is time that we provided certainty for our farmers but, more importantly, for the humane dealing of livestock. I acknowledge the member for Farrer for moving this bill and I acknowledge all speakers, and particularly those concerned members of my electorate who have taken the time to contact me.