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Tuesday, 13 March 2012
Page: 2731

Mr GEORGANAS (Hindmarsh) (22:15): On behalf of many constituents in my electorate I rise to convey to the House their overwhelming desire for an immediate end to live animal exports. Many constituents have contacted me in the last few weeks since the dreadful scenes we saw on the ABC. I have received hundreds of emails from people across my electorate who are angry and upset at seeing more footage emerge of animal cruelty overseas. They have written to me to express their frustration at seeing cattle in abattoirs overseas not only failing to be stunned but actually being cut up while still alive. This was horrendous vision for any Australian viewing it. It was terrible to watch and we can only imagine the pain and suffering those animals endured.

Whilst we have not yet confirmed the origin of those animals, the message was clear—you just cannot guarantee Australian welfare standards in a country that is not Australia. I think anyone who saw the footage would be horrified. There is absolutely no excuse for that kind of cruelty. I am glad that the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry reacted swiftly by launching an investigation. We spoke with the minister's office, who confirmed that they had launched an investigation. The frustrating thing is that, if we did not have live exports, there would be no need for such an investigation.

Last year when the issue first arose I was one of the first to call for a ban, as was the member for Wills, who is here in the chamber. We did succeed in having a temporary ban imposed, but of course live exports soon resumed despite a lot of lobbying from me, the member for Wills and many other members of the Labor caucus. We now find ourselves in a distressing groundhog day situation. There have been some improvements, and I am pleased that there have been and I am glad the minister has put them in place. Before, we did not have a way of tracking where cattle had come from and now, with new supply chain standards, we do. But this is no excuse for the way animals are being treated, based on the footage we saw on the ABC a couple of weeks ago.

There have been improvements in aspects of the animals' welfare, but the fact remains that the only way to guarantee the welfare of Australian animals is to keep them in Australia. It is time to bring our meat processing fully onshore. Let us turn a bad thing into a good thing. Let us stop exporting cattle and start processing them here in Australia and value adding. Let us turn a basic product into a premium, value added one. Let us do that not only because it makes absolute economic sense but because it is the right thing to do. I do not agree with those assessments that say a ban on live exports will put cattle producers out of business. I do not believe that for one moment. Just think about the opportunities that fully onshore meat processing presents for jobs—it means more jobs in regional communities and regional areas. It will mean more money staying in the local economy rather than going offshore. New Zealand has been able to do this. There will be a big expansion in our chilled and frozen meat exports, which could open up new markets overseas. It will mean that Australians can be satisfied that our animals are treated humanely when they are slaughtered here in Australia.

Just last weekend Minister Emerson—we saw reports of this in the Australian newspaper—was talking about the fantastic opportunities we have as a nation to become the world's food bowl, particularly in terms of the demand for meat. He spoke about the increasing demand for beef and lamb in China and other countries where the middle class is rapidly expanding and the appetite for animal protein also continues to increase rapidly. The time is right to make this transition—it is up to us to seize the opportunity with both hands. The message from my electorate and the wider community is crystal clear: end live exports now. (Time expired)

The SPEAKER: Following a note that he sent me, I now give the call to the honourable member for Moncrieff, one of our more senior members both in chronological terms and in years of experience.