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Thursday, 14 November 2013
Page: 331

Live Animal Exports

Mr WILKIE (Denison) (14:22): My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, your government has committed to maintaining the live animal Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System. But ESCAS is only an aid to improved animal welfare standards if those companies found to be breaking the supply chain, or acting improperly within it, are brought to heel. Prime Minister, will the government support the strongest possible sanction being imposed on any company found to be repeatedly breaching ESCAS?

Mr ABBOTT (WarringahPrime Minister) (14:23): I thank the member for Denison for his question, and I respect the passion and the commitment that the member for Denison brings to the particular issue about which he has asked me. If I may say so, though, respectfully to the member, the government does support the live animal export trade and we want to encourage the trade rather than discourage the trade. Yes, it does have to take place under the right conditions. But it is an important trade. The live animal export trade is worth up to $1 billion a year, and I would like to think that in the years to come it might be worth more. The live animal export trade employs about 10,000 people, and I would like to think that in the years to come it might employ more, particularly in northern Australia, where it is quite an important industry.

I know there are many in this House who would prefer to see exports of, for instance, boxed beef rather than of live animals, but in many countries such as Indonesia, where reliable power is not always available in some of the more remote places, the only way to get beef to those people, to improve their diets, is through live cattle going to wet markets. So this trade is important for Australia. It is important for countries such as Indonesia, and it should be encouraged, although I accept the member's point that it should be encouraged under the right conditions.

To get to the specifics of your question: the government will always investigate breaches. I believe we are investigating a number of breaches at the moment, and if those investigations turn out to reveal breaches we will take the relevant action. But, in what may disappoint the member, I have to say that we are satisfied with the rules as they stand and we do not intend to toughen them further.