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Monday, 18 June 2018
Page: 3017

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (12:07): I rise to contribute to debate on the Animal Export Legislation Amendment (Ending Long-haul Live Sheep Exports) Bill 2018 put forward by Senator Hinch and the Greens. I don't think one Australian, or anyone around the world, would condone the treatment of the sheep on the shipping line we saw on the television program Four Corners—appalling treatment. It was overcrowded, had a very poor sewage system, had a lack of ventilation and so on. But surely we should learn from the 2011 kneejerk reactions from the Labor Party and the Greens, when they were in government, to ban the live export of cattle to Indonesia when, once again, there was appalling behaviour in the abattoirs over there. Why they would want to bruise the animals before slaughter is beyond me. But, of course, the Labor Party just banned the whole export of live cattle. They put a freeze on it. Senator Joe Ludwig was the minister at the time. I don't think it was Joe Ludwig's decision. I think it was forced on him from above—by the Prime Minister et cetera at the time. But the effect was terrible on Indonesia. At the time they had nine A-class abattoirs, as good as anything in Australia, and many B-class abattoirs that could have been raised to those standards. We should have banned the export of cattle to those bad abattoirs but not holus-bolus. We've now got the trade going again, and it's going well. ESCAS is working; it's doing its job. We're one of the few countries who take responsibility for the animals when they land in the other country. What other countries who export live animals do that?

I'll take it back to live sheep exports. We've got the Greens here now wanting to ban live sheep exports. I'll tell you a bit of history about my time in the sheep industry. The Greens might listen to this. I'm taking it back to 1990-91. We had 170 million to 180 million sheep in Australia; it's down to about 70 million now. We had an oversupply in the market. We had 4½ million bales of wool held in wool stores, and of course the wool market crashed et cetera.

What do we have to do with excess sheep when they get old, when they are six or seven years old? The first-cross ewes I sold just last week might have been nine years old. They can live a bit longer and produce lambs a bit longer. My brother Peter and I had to get rid of 1,000 sheep off the farm in about 1991. Winter was coming and the lambs were coming on. We had marked the lambs and so on. We had to get rid of 1,000 sheep. Senator Bartlett should listen to this. We literally gave away 500. We did not get one cent for them. We drafted off the 500 with the best condition and gave them away. The trucks came in. We gave them to the abattoir. We did not get a red cent for them.

What did we do with the other 500? I'll tell you what we did. We built a temporary fence in the corner of a paddock amongst the gum suckers and a few trees. I stood there with a semiautomatic 22 with a 10-shot magazine in it and I shot the sheep one by one—500 of them. It was not a very good experience I can tell you. I wonder if Senator Bartlett or Senator Rhiannon have ever had to stand in the corner of a paddock and shoot sheep one by one. I'll bet you they haven't. What did we do the next year? Opened up the fence and marched another 500 sheep into the pen and shot another 500 sheep one by one. It got to the stage where the barrel of the rifle was almost glowing hot. It was the worst job I have ever had.

Sadly, when this was going on around Australia some of the farmers after shooting their animals turned the rifle on themselves. That's what happens when you stop overseas markets. If you cut the market off, that's the effect it has on the people here. The Greens and Senator Hinch would never have been through what I've been through in this patch of the woods. For them to stand up here and be popular in saying, 'Let's just ban the industry,' is disgraceful. Why don't we just improve the industry? Ban from carting livestock the shipping line that had the appalling treatment of the livestock. I think Minister Littleproud has handled this tremendously well. He now has inspectors on every ship going overseas and a commissioner here to report back to. Get it right: don't overcrowd them; give them space; give them ventilation; give them feed; give them water.

Mr Acting Deputy President Bernardi, you come from South Australia. So do I. Back in the 1970s when I was driving semitrailers I would cart loads and loads of sheep and wethers to Outer Harbor, where they would be loaded onto the boats. There might be 330 or 340 wethers to a truckload. We carted them from everywhere—the Flinders Ranges, the mid-north and you name it. When those sheep were placed on ships like the Danny F, which had 70,000 at a time, they put condition on when travelling to the Middle East. They improved their condition. I can tell you that animals under stress do not put condition on; they lose condition. They did a good job with the good diet, the good feed, and the good ventilation. We sent millions upon millions upon millions of sheep to the Middle East with no problem, through the hot months as well.

Mr Acting Deputy President, I have seen in South Australia 50 degree heat in the sun and sheep in the middle of a paddock without a tree, because the country was never timbered, like in the Jamestown country where I grew up. The sheep will stand in the middle of the paddock with their heads under each other's bellies, shading their heads. They cope with it no problem at all. They have fresh air, feed and water. The heat is not a problem as I see it on the ships. It is the fresh air, feed, water and ventilation that are the problems.

The footage we did see of the treatment of the sheep was disgraceful and appalling. We certainly don't condone that at all, but we shouldn't stop the industry and cut out our markets—and there is constant marketing of 1.8 to 2.3 million sheep overseas. It's not reducing. It has been going on for years. It has stabilised since 2012. As Senator Georgiou said, it's not the farmers' fault. They are excellent at growing good feed in this country, whether it be beef, sheep, lamb, cattle or vegetables. Australia's reputation for growing food is second to none in the world.

There is the claim that, if we stop the live exports, they'll take the chilled meat. No, they won't. Kuwait has made it quite clear: ban the live export of sheep and we will not buy your chilled boxed meat. They will simply get their sheep elsewhere. We see sheep being supplied from South Africa, Sudan and Ethiopia. They will fill the gap if we stop supplying live exports to these countries. It's just amazing that the Greens run the populous line: 'Chill the meat and process them here.' They said that with the beef. AACo kicked off the abattoir in Darwin, and a few weeks ago they closed it. Why did they close it? Because they lost tens and tens of millions of dollars operating an abattoir in Darwin. But I suppose the Greens have probably never visited an abattoir or been through one.

It's obvious. In the Top End of Australia we get the wet season. You can't transport stock off the stations when the monsoons are on. You would bog your trucks. We had enough trouble in South Australia in the Flinders Ranges. I tried to take my boys down there a couple of weeks ago to show them some of the stations I carted livestock out of in the Flinders Ranges. One I remember well is Umberatana station, which is 100 kilometres out from Copley. It took us six hours to drive that 100 kilometres empty and longer loaded when we took two decks of sheep out. You couldn't take three decks of sheep out; you'd tip the semitrailers over.

But the Greens would not be aware of that, because they have never done any of this work. They sit there and just say: 'Let's squash the market. Let's cut them off. Let's stop the live export of cattle and stop the live export of sheep. Let the other countries fill our gaps and take our market away. Two million sheep a year at $120 is $240 million to the farmers? That doesn't matter. Wipe their income out. We don't care about them on the land. We don't care if they go broke.' It's just amazing how the Greens and others in this place can simply take a rushed decision. Didn't you learn from the Labor Party when they were in government in 2011 and saw what they did to the beef industry? What a disastrous mess they made of that. How many people in the Top End went broke and how many families broke up because of the pressure they were under? Think of the people as well as the animals.

As I've said, we now have inspectors on the ships, and they report back to the commissioner. I think Minister Littleproud has done a great job here. Now we want to increase the fines and the punishment, but Labor are playing political games with that. We've got the RSPCA and the NFF supporting us to increase the fines and punishment. It's simple: keep the industry going and do it properly. Don't shut it down. Don't cut out people's markets. I told you earlier on when I started this speech what I had to do with my brother Peter when it came to shooting the sheep, but probably no-one else in this building has had to do that. It is not a very good time, not a very good experience.

Get it right. As I said in the media, we've had thousands of human beings killed in plane crashes. We didn't ban aeroplanes; the manufacturers simply did their work better and made them safer to the stage where now it is safer—much safer—to fly an airplane than it is to drive a car down the road. You can shake your head, Senator Bartlett. You probably have never been out on a sheep property. Have you ever worked out there? Have you had to shoot any? No, you shake your head at it. Don't worry about the farmers. That is why they despise you Greens so much.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Bernardi ): Order! Address your comments through the chair.

Senator WILLIAMS: I will; good point. That's why the farmers despise the Greens so much. They go out there and put laws on them like native vegetation laws where the farmers can't even spray weeds, clear country or do anything, all to appease the Greens and the Greens supporters in the cities. They have no idea of the actual growing of food. The problem they've had is that they've been spoilt in this country. Perhaps if, like in many other countries, they were to go hungry for a few months, they might get a bit of an idea of who actually grows the food in this place. Then again, when it comes to beef and lamb, that may not affect their diets much at all anyway!

So be a bit realistic here. To call for the banning of live exports—can't they see it? It's clear: if we don't supply those two million sheep of live exports, they'll be kept here, abattoirs will overflow with meat, the market will be oversupplied, the price will fall and, most importantly, we'll lose our box sales. Those are sales like the ones that the great Roger Fletcher's works do now, exporting to over 100 countries with box meat. And other countries will fill the gap. Can't the Greens see that? If we don't send those sheep to the Middle East, who are importing nine million live sheep a year when we are doing about two million sheep, other countries are going to do it. Do you think you're going to stop live export of sheep to the Middle East? No, you are not. But whose are the best cared for? Whose are the best presented? Whose are the best prepared? The Australian sheep. The Australian graziers who look after them and produce so well that we've had one bad shipping line, one bad shipping experience.

Of course you get dead sheep. When you run livestock, you'll always have dead stock. Sadly, on our farm, when my wife and I run 300 or 400 sheep, we get the odd dead one as well. And these days, especially with the value of them, it's terrible. It's a tough time out there now in the drought. Many are buying feed from even as far as South Australia. But look after the industries we've got. Preserve them; don't shut them down.

Debate interrupted.