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Tuesday, 8 May 2018
Page: 3283


Ms CHESTERS (Bendigo) (15:49): Neither of the previous government speakers have actually stood here and apologised and recognised that it was the former ag minister, the member for New England, who has helped create this crisis. It was the member for New England who abolished Labor's independent Inspector-General of Animal Welfare. It was the member for New England, when he was the ag minister, who abolished the animal welfare committee and created the culture in the department of 'Don't rock the boat'. There has been no acknowledgement of what their side of politics has done to create this situation, which is allowing rogue operators to export live sheep in a very unsafe way. Everyone's saying the footage is terrible—60,000 sheep crammed on. It wouldn't have happened if the previous minister had not abolished the committee and the Inspector-General of Animal Welfare. Where is this side taking responsibility for their actions of placing their own constituents in the situation that they're in?

Labor has called for work with industry to phase out live sheep exports. It's to work with industry; it's to work in partnership; it's to talk about a transition to. We on this side acknowledge that means developing markets. I have a tier 1 abattoir in my electorate. They say that the cost barriers, the extra compliance required to increase their exports, particularly to the Middle East, is something that financially they can't do. They are interested. There is an opportunity for government to work with industry to help our tier 1 abattoirs step up to that tier 2 stage.

We've also talked about the importance of jobs. The jobs issue cannot be underestimated. There is work we need to do to ensure that Australians are given first opportunity to work in the meat processing industry. We currently have a problem in the meat processing industry, where they are staffed predominantly by backpackers. There's an opportunity there to create good, secure Australian jobs for permanent residents, for people living in regional areas. That's another part of this plan. If we want to phase out live export we can work towards creating good secure jobs in the regions, developing the trade, as I've said, and working to remove those non-trade and tariff barriers that exist. These are issues we need to address.

We need to look at domestic transportation. Because Labor started to talk about this and create the office of animal welfare, we started to get the data in about what's been happening in live animal export. But we don't have good data on what is happening in domestic transportation. Just outside Ballarat there was a crash not long ago where hundreds of sheep were killed. In my electorate of Bendigo, when two trucks collided, 800 sheep were killed. And then, in the Bendigo stockyards on a very hot day, 20 sheep were just dumped; they had died of heat exhaustion. We have to look at how we transport sheep in our country. We talk about chickens—that's another area where we have a challenge—dead on arrival. There are stacks and stacks of issues that we have with our own domestic transport.

These are issues that we need to address in a constructive way, to work with industry to ensure that we are meeting not just animal welfare standards but also the standards that our consumers expect. Australians are horrified not just by this footage that they're seeing in the media but also by the stories that they're learning about how this continues to happen. This is why we need to work with industry to phase out live sheep exports.

I just want to pick up on another point the minister made. Labor is not talking about the beef trade. We are not talking about live exports of cattle, because the markets are fundamentally different. This is the point the government is missing. The distances are shorter. The reforms that Labor brought in in the live cattle trade are working. This is Labor saying that we need to work with industry to phase out live sheep exports, just like they have done in New Zealand. The world hasn't collapsed, farmers haven't gone broke in New Zealand, where they have phased it out. We need to work with industry to develop markets, and we need to work with abattoirs to ensure that they're employing locals and they're able to export. This can be done and it can start now.