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Monday, 15 October 2018
Page: 9832

Ms SWANSON (Paterson) (11:36): Today I speak in support of the Inspector-General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports Bill 2018. My colleague the member for Hunter and shadow agricultural minister has formulated legislation that would make Australia a world leader in animal protection in live export industries. The former speaker, the member for New England, boasted that 99.7 per cent of animals reach their destination in a better state or the same state in which they left. Well, if that figure is indeed true, then point 3 certainly troubled many Australians. I and many of my colleagues and those across the chamber have received hundreds, if not thousands, of emails about this. It has been one of the issues that has engaged people like none other. People who live in the bush and produce have also sent me emails saying, 'We don't want to see the animals that we produce treated this way.'

Coming from a radio background, I distinctly remember the dark days in 2011 when the switchboards lit up as people across Australia saw the horror unfold before them in the Indonesian abattoirs. It was visceral. People reacted because they, on some level, thought, 'This is not how we, at the top of the food chain, should be treating the animals that get there.' No-one is suggesting that we shouldn't eat or consume meat—that's a big thing and that's what we do—but we have to treat those animals with respect. I think that's why we've seen such an incredibly heartfelt response from the people of Australia over this issue. We know we're better. We know that we have the capacity to treat the animals with dignity that we and others consume.

Whilst Labor supports the sustainable live export industry, where acceptable animal welfare standards can be achieved, the Australian public are becoming increasingly concerned about breaches to the current regulations. People in my electorate want guarantees that animals exported from Australia will not be subject to the types of abuse most of us have seen on our TVs, on our phone screens and on the internet. Abuse of livestock, particularly in the live export industry, is not new, but what has changed is technology, and investigative journalism has brought us pictures that we never saw in the decades before. We know that this has potentially been going on for as long as the trade itself has been going on, but what we have now is images and that's what make it all so very confronting. Public sentiment shifted dramatically following that ABC Four Corners program which screened the terrible acts of animal cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs. Community outrage forced the government's hand and the live cattle export trade was suspended, pending improvements in the industry. There is no doubt that this was an extraordinarily difficult time for producers and exporters alike, but we responded, not like this government, which turns tail and does nothing. No-one, including producers, wants to see those animals mistreated. Producers are often the first ones on the phone and on the email to say, 'This is not what we want to happen to the animals that we've produced.' But this environment paved the way for the establishment of the Export Supply Chain Assurance System, known as ESCAS. Internationally it was recognised as a good animal-welfare assurance, or guarantee.

Over time it became evident that more needed to be done, and in 2013 Labor announced that it would establish the inspector-general for animal welfare and live animal exports, or IGAW. The IGAW's role would be to review the regulator's processes and systems to ensure that the regulator was working with the regulatory framework. This would include the regulator's processes and decisions under the new ESCAS reforms.

True to form, in October 2013, that same year, when in government, the former Prime Minister, the member for Warringah, and his then Minister for Agriculture, the member for New England, scrapped the inspector-general for animal welfare and live animal exports. The Abbott-Morrison government subsequently scrapped two parliamentary committees committed to contributing to animal welfare strategies. The former agriculture minister has nothing to boast about in terms of the agricultural industry. At his best, he was absent and, at worst, obstructive in improving this space, handballing responsibility to the Australian veterinary authority, which has neither the resources nor the leverage of government.

This private member's bill calls on members to support the re-establishment of the independent statutory officer, and I recommend it strongly to this House. This do-nothing government should do something about this. (Time expired)