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Monday, 16 November 2009
Page: 11838

Mr RAMSEY (8:23 PM) —I rise to support the member for Kalgoorlie’s motion. This motion supports the industry and acknowledges the significant contribution it makes to Australian farmers. It acknowledges that our non-participation in the trade will not lead to a cessation in the global sense, or even in its likely reduction. It recognises that many pastoralists do not have the opportunity to diversify and it also recognises the fact that there is a very high-level and not-so-truthful campaign run against the live sheep trade.

I must start by taking the member for Fremantle to task somewhat. The member for Fremantle represents a port, and ports survive by putting freight over their wharves. In fact, if the people of Fremantle do not particularly like ports perhaps they should not have chosen to live in the port area in the first place. It is a little along the lines of the right to farm: where an industry exists, those who enter that area enter it at their own peril. What I hope to bring to this debate this evening is a little of my background as a farmer, because I have produced sheep for most of my life and prepared them for domestic slaughter, for wool production and for export.

The live sheep trade in South Australia, unfortunately, is but a shadow of its former self. I can remember many years when I sold my livestock to live sheep exporters when in fact they were the only buyers in the market; they were the only people we could sell our livestock to. And it comes as no surprise to me, or to many farmers, that the national flock of Australian sheep has fallen from 190 million to 70 million. Many of us never thought we would see the day. In the end, farmers are a reflection of the economic environment, and they will and they must sell their livestock to the highest bidder. Anything else is a restraint on trade, which should be fully resisted.

I despair, particularly as one who has handled livestock, at the high-level heartstring campaigns and the scare campaigns that are run against this industry. To allege that someone of my ilk does not care for the animals that I rear for human consumption is an insult. I have spent most of my life caring for animals. In fact, there are times when I have had to put my sheep into a feedlot situation on the farm to ensure their survival. A feedlot is in fact very similar to a boat trip for sheep. They might be locked up for six weeks, eight weeks, even some months at a time. Try as we might, there are always some fatalities. Try as we might, when we bring sheep into a yard on any occasion there are often injuries and fatalities. It is not a bloodthirsty sport; it is just a fact of life that where you have livestock you will, in the end, inevitably, have dead stock. We do everything within our power to avoid that outcome.

As a former debater, I always think it pays to check the Oxford dictionary, because it always brings a little clarity to the situation. And when I see the word ‘cruelty’ used in relation to the live sheep trade—I will bring to your attention that ‘cruel’, as in ‘cruelty’, reads:

Disposed to inflict suffering; indifferent to or taking pleasure in the pain or distress of another; hard-heartedness and pitiless; causing or making by great pain or distress.

None of those clauses are relevant when it comes to people who care for the livestock in the live sheep trade—those who care for and raise animals in their paddocks and who deal with the shipping of animals overseas—because in the end every loss is a dead loss to the pocket. If Australia does not compete in the live sheep trade we will not see the end of it, we will just be replaced by other suppliers around the world. In fact, the way we raise our animals is a utopia compared with the way they are raised in many other parts of the world, so we should be encouraging these exporters. If indeed, as the RSPCA alleges, there is better money in slaughtering this livestock in Australia, let those people who wish to slaughter livestock in Australia pay the price that will buy them the stock and the privilege to do so.