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Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Page: 9410


Senator HEFFERNAN (New South Wales) (17:26): I present the report of the Rural Affairs and Transport References Committee on animal welfare standards in Australia's live export markets and on the Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill 2011 (No. 2) and the Live Animal Export Restriction and Prohibition Bill 2011 (No. 2), together with the Hansard record of proceedings and documents presented to the committee.

Ordered that the report be printed.

Senator HEFFERNAN: I move:

That the Senate take note of the report.

Because there is limited time to speak today and because there are several speakers who want to contribute, let me say that I am grateful to the members of the committee for the way in which they contributed to this hearing. We made sure that, in travelling around the north, we gave everyone who wanted to be heard the opportunity to be heard.

In addition to its terms of reference, the committee dealt with legislation that was before the parliament. This legislation followed on from what I call a perfect ambush of the northern cattle industry by the Four Corners program and Animals Australia. The ambush was designed to shut down the industry, regardless of the financial consequences for a lot of decent, hardworking people who live under pretty difficult conditions in the bush. It worked. Following the ambush the government made a pretty strong call, which I think was driven by panic, to shut down the industry, albeit temporarily. As a consequence of the adversity this caused has come opportunity and a better understanding by people who wanted to inform themselves of the strategic importance of the live cattle business to the viability of agriculture in Australia, including through added tension in the marketplace and the opportunity to present the right sort of cattle to the right market.

I have described the Four Corners program as a perfect ambush of the industry. I congratulate its makers, because the ambush worked. I think the ambush was driven largely by the opportunity for a Walkley award or ratings and by Animals Australia's wanting to shut down the industry. Animals Australia still wants to shut down the industry. However, we are now seeing, as a consequence, some good come out of the ambush. The first good thing that has come out of it for the long-term benefit of agriculture in Australia is the adoption by all cattle producers of the NLIS system. It is a great selling tool for Australia's agriculture that we have full traceability from birth to death. We also have a sharpening by both governments and the industry of oversight of the industry. We can see that in the Middle East now with the sheep industry. We have just gone through a big selling season over there with no events. I am sure, though, to put the parliament on notice, that Animals Australia will come back with a view that they would like to end the industry. This industry is complimentary to the beef industry of the world. To put that into perspective, Australia has about 26 million cattle. We absolutely make use of that protein source to places where it is critical, like Indonesia.

To put the opposite example of that, there are 276 million cattle in the largest cattle-producing country in the world—that is India—where they pat and milk their cattle. There is an illegal trade that competes against us into Indonesia. It is also a great risk to Australia's foot-and-mouth-free status. All of these things need to be taken into account. I would love the opportunity to go through them in great detail but, with respect to my colleagues, I will end my remarks with that.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Before I call Senator Back, I understand informal arrangements have been made for the conducting of this debate. So, with the concurrence of the Senate, we will set the clock accordingly. Thank you, Senator Heffernan; we did not have to sit you down.