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Monday, 18 June 2018
Page: 3000

Senator HINCH (Victoria) (10:41): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

I seek leave to table the explanatory memorandum relating to the bill.

Leave granted.

I table the explanatory memorandum. As an intro to this now, sadly, repetitive debate about a cruel, barbaric practice—which I promise you will end very soon and, on that, Hinch's hunch has never been so confident—I have to go back to my record-breaking first speech, or maiden speech, delivered in September 2016. I know I spoke for 47 minutes when I should have bruised your ears for only 20 and I, belatedly, apologise for my unprecedented verbosity. But I mention it today in this debate on the Animal Export Legislation Amendment (Ending Long-haul Live Sheep Exports) Bill 2018 because I had been accused by some Labor critics back then of using my first speech to jump on the live export bandwagon because 'some of us have been campaigning on this since 2012'. In my first speech, I said:

As for jumping on the live export bandwagon, I brought my first petition to Canberra, urging the federal government to ban live exports, in 1981. I handed the then primary industry minister, Peter Nixon—

in the Rose Garden—

a petition with 30,000 names on it …

Thirty thousand names—and that was well before social media, Twitter and Facebook campaigns. Now, millions of Australians support a ban on live exports. Back then, we were protesting against the live exports of horses to Japan and live sheep to the Middle East. That was 37 years ago. It was prompted by a maritime disaster off Fremantle when more than 40,000 sheep took up to four days to die in a fire aboard an overloaded multideck carrier, which had been abandoned by the crew.

It was around the same time that some of us were protesting against cruelty to circus animals. There were not a lot of us. I think that at Burnley Oval in Melbourne on a cold winter's night there was me, Lynda Stoner and a couple of others and a dog—because bloody animal lovers were all nut jobs back then, remember? More recently, I also supported New South Wales Premier Mike Baird's decision to ban greyhound racing from 2017, and I said I hoped that eventually it would have a domino effect and lead to a phased-in ban in all states of Australia. They had had decades to clean up this corrupt, cruel sport and they did not, would not or could not do it. Of course, Baird caved to National Party pressure, and then he quit his job. But a greyhound racing ban, I believe, will eventually come in. As Gough Whitlam once told me about the republic: 'It's not revolutionary, dear boy, it's evolutionary.'

Back to my first speech: unlike Senator Hanson's first speech—when all the Greens ostentatiously walked out in protest, making sure they avoided the first exit door and trooped out behind her camera—for the record, only one senator walked out on mine. That was the Nationals' braces-clad Senator Barry O'Sullivan, when I started talking about banning live exports.

At a recent estimates committee hearing, where he was the chair, I reminded Senator O'Sullivan about this. He said, 'I walked out because I had to stand my ground.' I did gently point out that, by walking out, he actually hadn't stood his ground, but maybe it was a touch subtle.

Anyway, this bill to ban the export to the Middle East of live sheep: as Kiwi actress Rachel Hunter would say, 'It won't heppen overnight, but it will heppen.' And that's the truth. It will happen. The Lyn Whites and Lynda Stoners of their passionate and compassionate world will win.

Even if the Libs hadn't blinked in 'the other place' last month and pulled their supposedly urgent and important legislation about increased penalties, the writing was then on the wall.

And, as I said on PM Live on Sky News—the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources (who, remember, had beaten his chest in protest and said the cruelty to sheep en route to the Middle East during the northern summer was 'bullshit') that minister, David Littleproud, had very little to be proud of.

I am pragmatic. I know, in hindsight, the Gillard Labor government's decision to instantly ban live cattle exports to Indonesia after that savage, damning Four Corners report was wrong. Knee-jerk reactions to any situation are usually not wise.

And, in fact, back then on Melbourne radio, on 3AW, I said to Lyn White and her cohorts: 'Don't pop the champagne corks just yet. This ban will not last.' And it didn't. I think it held for four to six weeks.

And looking back here, if we are all being really honest, that instant ban was wrong. It hurt many farmers—it hurt them financially; it hurt them emotionally. It probably, also inadvertently, caused some animal cruelty, to stranded, superfluous cattle.

That is why this time we are being more practical. We must have a phase-out period. The Greens wanted two years. I wanted three. I have talked to Labor's Joel Fitzgibbon, a passionate Labor shadow minister who wants this evil trade ended as well and has bravely, I believe, been streets ahead of his own party leader. So, I say thank you, Joel. And thanks to Craig Emerson, the former Labor minister who feels so strongly about this issue it has led him to break down in tears on TV—and that vulnerability has seen him mocked on Sky News.

Let me be blunt here. This live sheep trade is putrid. There are crap arguments being put up all the time—for example, 'We need it for halal killing.' Well, halal killing has been going on here in Australia, I'm told, for about the past 40 years. 'There is no refrigeration in the Middle East.' Bulldust. Check out their supermarkets.

The other one: 'If we don't do it this way, other countries will.' Well, let them. I don't intend to make my standards of decency, morality, anticruelty, be dictated to by some other country's traditions or lack of decency, morality and anticruelty. What? If we're not cruel jerks, somebody else will be? WTF.

In conclusion, I truly believe this is the last time that thousands of stressed sheep will leave Australian shores on what have become maritime ovens, to die agonising deaths—cooked alive. We couldn't have stopped it this year anyway (despite the Animals Australia court case which I shall stay out of) because even if Sussan Ley's bill had been introduced into 'the other place' it would have failed with the dual citizenship dissolution of Labor supporters. And, even if it had passed, it could not have achieved royal assent until near the end of the northern summer, anyway.

But, as I have said, as I have pledged, this is the last summer these ships of shame will set sail.

That is my pledge. I've been campaigning in Australia and the United States on this issue for nearly 40 years, and I now say with full confidence: victory, finally, will be ours.