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Wednesday, 15 June 2011
Page: 6200

Mr CROOK (O'Connor) (19:55): The federal government's blanket ban on live exports to Indonesia is creating shockwaves across regional Australia. While I was shocked and appalled by the footage of Indonesian abattoirs featured on Four Corners earlier this month, I am also incredibly concerned about the federal government's knee-jerk reaction to this issue. As a former sheep producer for 30 years, I can attest that no producer of livestock wants to see animals in the horrendous conditions witnessed on national television earlier this month. There is no denying that animal welfare must be paramount in any discussion we have regarding live exports.

If the animal welfare standards can be guaranteed—and they certainly can be in many abattoirs throughout Indonesia—then live exports should immediately be resumed to those approved abattoirs. Those abattoirs that are unable to meet international standards should remain barred from receiving Australian livestock and must be given assistance to raise their standards to an international level if they wish to receive Australian livestock again. A blanket ban will set animal welfare standards in Indonesia back decades and could also prove detrimental to animal welfare within Australia.

With the Indonesian market closed, many pastoralists in the north of Australia have been left with thousands of animals they are unable to sell. This will lead to overgrazing, animal welfare issues and land degradation if not managed properly, not to mention financial hardship for our producers. The domino effect of this blanket ban will also be catastrophic to the small businesses that service the livestock industry across Australia.

It must be recognised that there are many abattoirs in Indonesia who have been doing the right thing and operating at international standards. It must also be recognised that a six-month blanket ban will effectively halt cattle production for nine months, due to the seasonal nature of the cattle industry in the north. Due to this seasonality of cattle production, the establishment of an abattoir in Australia's north will not be commercially viable. Shipping frozen meat to Indonesia is not a viable option, as the majority of the population live on very low means, without access to electricity or refrigeration. The export of livestock also provides the people of Indonesia with a valuable industry, creating employment and boosting their economy.

I would like to propose to this House a solution which will address all of these above issues, while continuing to ensure that animal welfare is paramount. I call on the federal government to establish an independent government watchdog tasked with inspecting Indonesian abattoirs on an individual basis to ensure they meet international standards, with a view to lifting the blanket ban and resuming live exports immediately. I urge the federal Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Joe Ludwig, to continue to liaise closely with all relevant state ministers and industry stakeholders to immediately resolve the animal welfare and financial issues that this blanket ban has created. Furthermore, a new independent watchdog should also be assigned the role of auditing and maintaining the standards of certified overseas abattoirs. There is no denying that Meat and Livestock Australia and LiveCorp have dropped the ball on this issue in relation to animal welfare, but the federal government must also be held accountable for the loss of income and any animal welfare and environmental impacts that arise as a result of this knee-jerk blanket ban.

As I stated earlier, animal welfare must be paramount for us to move forward and re-establish the live export trade as quickly as possible. I am currently aware of an abattoir based in Jakarta that can humanely slaughter 600 to 800 cattle per day and has an attached feedlot that can hold 12,000 head of cattle. It is a world-class operation, and it is available for inspection by the Australian government today. It is vital that we re-establish the live export trade effective immediately. I have presented the House with an appropriate solution that safeguards animal welfare as the most important factor. It is now imperative that the federal government address this issue with the urgency it demands. It is vital for our Australian producers, it is vital for our regional communities and, above all, it is vital for the welfare of Australian animals overseas and at home.

House adjourned at 20:00