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Tuesday, 8 May 2018
Page: 3286

Mr RICK WILSON (O'Connor) (16:04): I rise today to defend the hardworking farmers, truck drivers and stockmen who work across my electorate of O'Connor. I'll start by supporting the minister on his stance, and I take offence at the comment that he was showing faux outrage. I think anybody who saw the minister's response could tell that he was genuinely moved and upset by the scenes depicted on the footage that we saw on the 60 Minutes program. I share his concern, and I know that all members on this side—particularly those from the farming communities who are sitting around me here today—share those concerns. My community exports around 50 per cent of the live sheep that leave this country. Around 20 per cent come out of South Australia, and the member for Grey's electorate makes up a large proportion of that. The member for Durack's electorate would probably supply about 30 per cent of the sheep to the market, and my electorate supplies around 50 per cent.

When I drive between Perth and Albany, as I do on a regular basis, I drive through the blue ribbon merino sheep breeding heartland of Western Australia. I drive through the town of Boddington, which is in the seat of Canning, and through the towns of Williams, Kojonup, Cranbrook, Mount Barker, all of which are blue ribbon merino sheep producing areas. I'd invite the member for Fremantle to get out of the latte strip one day and come down to the Wagin Woolorama and the Williams Gateway Expo and have a look at the pride that the merino breeders of that area put into their sheep to present them at shows and to breed absolutely top-quality stock. I extend that invite to you, Member for Fremantle, because you would then understand that every farmer would have been absolutely appalled by the way the sheep in that particular cargo were treated.

The industry is very important to those said farmers. In terms of financial return, we're looking at between $50,000 and $100,000 per sheep operation across my electorate that comes from those sales into the live sheep trade. It's been suggested that the local processing market could pick up those sheep and process them locally, and we'd send them off in a chilled box to the Middle East. There is some market for chilled mutton in the Middle East, but consider this: the 1.6 million sheep out of Western Australia are heavy shipping wethers, between 50 and 70 kilograms. While they make up one-third of the numbers, they would probably make up about 50 per cent of the weight of product. If you'll pardon the pun, that would put an enormous weight on the domestic producer market. What we'd see, and what I've seen estimates of—and I think they're quite correct—is that it would put a dampener on the price of around $30 per head on not just live shippers but new mutton and lamb as well. If you extrapolate that across around five million sheep that are processed in Western Australia, which are all sold live, you'd be looking at about a $150-million hit to the industry as a whole. That's real money to very hardworking farmers in my electorate.

The member for Hunter didn't really seem to have his heart in it today. He lived through the 2011 fiasco, and I suggest that he's probably thinking that this could end up the same way. But the Left of the party are obviously pushing very hard, and they've got this MPI up. But I'd just like to point out, Member for Fremantle, some comments from the Western Australian Premier, Mark McGowan, in an article by Nick Butterly in The West Australian. Premier McGowan has split from federal Labor over its plan to end live sheep exports, saying many Western Australians rely on the trade for their livelihood. Mr McGowan said that the government should be working to weed out 'bad apples' rather than closing it down entirely. I think that's exactly what the minister at the dispatch box said a few minutes ago. Mr McGowan said that a lot of Western Australians who drive trucks, run farms, work on the port, or work in feedlots, rely on live exports for a living. I applaud the Premier for standing up for his constituents, for Western Australians, because that is exactly what will happen here.

In the last few minutes I just want to talk very briefly about the way forward. The improvements in the live export trade over the last 20 years have been quite dramatic. The average mortality on a ship back in the early 1990s was around 1.9 per cent per cargo. That has been reduced in the last four years to 0.7 per cent per cargo. That's a dramatic decrease. We can do better. I know that, while the minister is waiting for the McCarthy review, ALEC have already instigated some measures that they were talking about making. We can reduce these mortality rates and avoid these sorts of incidents. (Time expired)