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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 2136

Mr BRUCE SCOTT (MaranoaSecond Deputy Speaker) (21:30): I rise this evening to call on the government to provide more support and a greater effort in working with the kangaroo industry, or macropod industry as it is more technically referred to in the industry. I want the trade minister, particularly, to lift his effort in trying to re-establish the very valuable markets we have had in Russia, and also the dialogue that had been established between Australia and China, because they are two very important markets that have shown a great deal of interest. Russia in the past had been a market that was opened up, but we have lost it. I do not know why this trade minister has not given it more attention.

The kangaroo industry has a very strong presence in my electorate of Maranoa and across many parts of rural Australia. It is a significant employer for many rural communities in southern Queensland. In communities like Blackall, Longreach, Charleville, Mitchell, Winton, Barcaldine, Cunnamulla, Quilpie, Thargomindah, Windorah, my home town of Roma, Surat, St George, and many other little communities in between, the industry provides employment opportunities, not only in the harvesting sector but also in the processing sectors. In some of these communities 30 to 40 per cent of the jobs are related to the harvesting of the macropods in that area. There are at least 2,000 licensed kangaroo harvesters in Queensland. They operate under licence and have a quota arrangement. They are professional people.

Given the three almost consecutive seasons we have had of record rainfalls in Queensland, we have seen a massive increase in the number of kangaroos. My understanding is that the harvesting quota for the forthcoming year has been increased by something like 800,000. I will stand corrected on that number, as I may have one zero too many, but it is something of that magnitude. Why? Because of the record seasons we have had, kangaroos are in plague proportions in many areas.

Kangaroo meat is an organic meat product. It is a beautiful product. I know that overseas countries are demanding it, but we have got to lift our effort when it comes to trade and bilateral relations with these countries. The other thing is the leather. Kangaroo leather is one of the finest leathers in the world. In fact, any reputable soccer team will play with kangaroo leather soccer shoes. Anyone in the World Cup soccer would be playing in kangaroo-leather shoes, such is the reputation of kangaroo leather.

The industry has gone through some changes in the last two to three years. Phytosanitary issues have had to be addressed as well as the traceability of the product from harvesting right through to the processing plant. They have gone through a very expensive process of implementing regulations related to phytosanitary issues, because if kangaroo meat is going to be coming into the human consumption chain it has to meet the strictest of standards. The industry is meeting those standards. They have implemented those changes, but we are now finding that we do not have the markets available to meet the number of kangaroos that will need to be harvested. There will not be sufficient markets unless it goes into the pet food industry. That is a tragedy because kangaroo meat is better than a pet food industry product. It is much better and has a place in the human consumption chain.

I do not want to see a situation where the federal government, as they have done with the camels in the Northern Territory, just pays $19 million to shoot camels just to reduce their numbers. They are doing something similar with wild goats in Victoria at the moment. Just shooting them and leaving them in the field when they could have been harvested. This is a most valuable product. I call on the government to ensure they put an increased effort into opening up those markets in Russia and China and making sure that our marsupial industry, the macropod industry, has a brighter future than it has had in the last two to three years. They are in plague proportions out there and they need to be controlled. I call on the minister to lift his game.