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Thursday, 11 October 2012
Page: 8065

Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (17:52): I have listened with great interest to this continuous debate on the Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill 2012 and applaud the comments from both sides of the argument. But I go back a bit in history to the First Fleet, which arrived here with a bull calf, four cows, a number of pigs and chickens and sheep. Since then, our civilisation has grown alongside a livestock industry. We will note that in 1894 the Queensland herd was reduced to 2½ million from seven million. They had a drought.

If you want to talk about animal cruelty you have to look at the implications of not being able to export your product, to get your stuff to a market where there is a demand. Can you imagine the catastrophic vision if we were to see two or three million cattle or sheep dying in a drought in this country because we had closed off a viable market? It would be absolutely catastrophic. If we are really on about animal cruelty, and if we really do care about feeding the populations to the north of us and the population of Australia, we need to be a little bit fair dinkum about this bill.

I do not doubt the integrity of the people who want to change the world in terms of the way civilisation deals with cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens. I took my granddaughter down the backyard the other day to pick some peas and carrots, and she was thrilled. A generation ago you might have plucked a chicken out of the coop and chopped its head off. That does not happen anymore. Society has changed its view about slaughtering. Most of us would be appalled if we went to an Australian abattoir—and we have the highest standards. As Senator Furner said, we do get our food—our meat and produce—from a Coles or Woolies on almost every corner. As he very eloquently said, that is not available to the populations to the north of us where they struggle to get the proteins necessary to survive the day.

This is absolutely well intentioned legislation but in my humble view catastrophic in its effect. Senator Back is a man of great experience in this area. I chaired the investment committee of the TWC, a fund which had an investment in the Colonial Agricultural Company which was overseeing the production, if you like, of 125,000 to 128,000 head of cattle. They only knew how many cattle they had when, after the wet season, they would do a muster and count them. Very quickly they would take those low-weight cattle that were so lean they were not really fit for slaughter at an abattoir and the production of boxed meat. They would take the cattle on the safest and quickest route to a port and, in those days, export them to the Philippines, Indonesia or whatever market was available.

The reality is that we have coexisted with agricultural husbandry for the whole length of Australian settlement. We have not always had a great record in it but we are the world's leaders. Were we not to export to Indonesia or any of our northern neighbours then that void would be quickly filled. Argentina and Brazil are two countries. It is unlikely there would be protests in Argentina or Brazil against the export of their cattle. We have put in place systems which are world class. We know through the contribution of Senator Back and the contributions to a number of inquiries that we are world leaders in this space.

If we were to go to the economic impact, I have spent a reasonable amount of my time in the Northern Territory, long enough to have witnessed the Gurindji strike at Wave Hill where Aboriginal stockmen struck for the right to get award wages. They were good, efficient pastoral workers. Unfortunately, that strike did not give them the ultimate outcome that they wanted, but we do see increasing numbers of Aboriginal stockmen. We see increasingly Indigenous employment in this area being a successful life-changer in Indigenous communities. We all know that the day a person gets a job is the day that the household changes. Were we not to export in the northern half of Australia, as Senator Sterle and others have said, it would be absolutely catastrophic for Indigenous employment.

On top of that, what about the people who came to the livestock inquiry in Darwin and who poured out their heartfelt tales to the inquiry? They were people who spent their lives in the pastoral industry, who had a great commitment to animal husbandry, had a great commitment to world's best practice and had great relationships with Indonesia. Are we to throw generations of work, and the opportunity for future generations of Indigenous people, away because we cannot enforce our standards on another market? We do not attempt to do that in any other area. We do not attempt to tell anybody how they should buy their product or in what shape it should be.

We have a good, genuine, progressive responsibility to ensure there is maximum animal safety, that there is maximum productivity through that chain being efficient, to enable those animals to be transported safely. I know that every livestock carrier in the north of Australia is paid on the basis that he gets the cattle there in a good shape. They do not just get in a truck and roar off. You do not transport animals that way. You are paid on the basis of getting everything in full in one piece to the appropriate place. As we speak there are probably hundreds of trucks transporting cattle around the rural parts of Australia and they do it very efficiently. Would we throw all of those people out of work—people who supply the tyres and the oil, and those who work as mechanics on those trucks?

It is an integral part of rural Australia. We do very well from slaughtering cattle. We do very well from boxed meat. Where it is the appropriate type of animal for that product to be boxed and exported then we do that. The latest statistics from August 2012 say that we slaughtered 597,000. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! The time for this debate has expired.