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Thursday, 17 April 1980
Page: 1568

Senator McLAREN (South Australia) - There are two matters which I wish to raise on the adjournment today and they are related. One is the export of meat on the hoof and the other is the export of meat after it has been processed. The first matter I refer to is processed meat. On 20 March I put a question to Senator Scott as Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon), without notice. It seems that a practice is developing whereby Ministers write letters in answer to questions. I received a letter from Senator Scott under the date 15 April in answer to my question dealing with the false labelling of export meat in Western Australia. In reply, Senator Scott said that he undertook to seek a response from Mr Nixon on the matter, and he has now replied to me in the following terms:

Investigation by the Australian Federal Police established sufficient evidence for action to be initiated against the company involved. Proceedings were instituted under the Exports (Meat) Regulations and the Company was fined.

I ask Senator Scott whether he could have that answer incorporated in Hansard so that it is on the public record. I also ask him to do that if he can, because some of these meat export companies in Western Australia are now having problems because there seems to be a doubt in the minds of some people as to which company was apprehended and had proceedings instituted against it and was fined. I think, to clear the air of doubt over there, that the offending company should be named, and the amount that that company was fined should be published, so that other companies which export meat will not be under the cloud of suspicion that they may be one of the companies which infringed the export Act by falsely labelling meat. I ask Senator Scott to take those remarks of mine into consideration and endeavour to provide me with an answer next week.

The other matter which I raise is that of the export of live horses to Japan. I was very pleased to hear on the news this morning- although I could not find it mentioned anywhere in the Press- that Japan, because of the outcry from Australian citizens, is not going to enter into any further negotiations to import horses from Australia. But quite apart from that, I think that the matter of what has transpired since 4 April needs to be raised in this Parliament. Firstly, I want to place on record my gratitude to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to the waterside workers and to the people responsible for featuring the plight of these unfortunate animals on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program Nationwide on Tuesday night last.

Nationwidewas able to bring this matter to the attention of many people who may not have been aware of the grave cruelty that has been inflicted on these horses by their export. Of course, we know that cruelty is exercised not only on horses but also on cattle and on sheep which are exported live from Australia. I was astounded when I read the Australian of Friday,

I I April, to see on the front page a photograph of a horse, which can be described as little better than a skeleton, being unloaded from the Australian Seatrader. This publicity was brought about only because of the vigilance of the waterside workers in Melbourne, in conjunction with the RSPCA, to bring this terrible atrocity- as I would call it- against dumb animals, to the attention of the authorities.

I am very disturbed that that heading also said that the Government rebuffed the RSPCA 's plea for financial aid. Honourable senators will find, if they look in last night's newspaper, that the RSPCA has had to launch a public subscription fund to care for these 40 horses which are now on agistment somewhere in New South Wales. I think the figure quoted last night in public subscriptions to help to care for these horses is somewhere in the vicinity of $ 1 5,000. 1 will quote from a Press statement issued by the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Nixon, on 1 1 April, in which he said: . . the Bureau of Animal Health was maintaining a very close supervision of the horses unloaded in Sydney from the 'Australian Searoader'. These horses were shipped from Melbourne on 5 April and intended for slaughter in Japan. . . veterinary examination in Sydney on 9 April after arrival of the 'Australian Searoader' had shown that at least some of the horses were not in a satisfactory condition to travel to Japan. All the horses were unloaded and transferred to an RSPCA refuge in Sydney which is approved for temporary quarantine . . .

One horse was destroyed on board the ship between Melbourne and Sydney and a second after unloading in Sydney ... the horses are expected to remain under strict veterinary supervision in Sydney for some weeks, and under no circumstances will these or any other horses be allowed to be shipped overseas unless judged fully fit to travel.

That begs the question of why the Australian authorities allowed these horses to be shipped from Melbourne in the first place. If it had not been for the vigilance of the waterside workers, these horses would now be on board ship somewhere between Sydney and Japan, probably half of them dead and the rest in a very unsatisfactory condition. That is the cruelty to those dumb animals which has exercised a great deal of comment throughout Australia. People have shown their concern in no uncertain manner at the way in which people who want to make a quick dollar are not prepared to take proper care of the livestock they are dealing in to make a profit.

I think the Government is duty bound to do something about this, not only with regard to the export of live horses to Japan, although I understand that it will not be faced with that problem if the news item I heard this morning is correct, that is, that the Japanese will not buy any more horses from Australia. Mr Nixon went on to say:

Continuation of the live horse export trade will be dependent on all health and fitness requirements being met at embarkation and satisfactory shipboard facilities for proper care during transportation.

The transcript of the television program Nationwide of 1 5 April 1 980-1 saw part of that program as did many other people- provides evidence of the deplorable conditions under which horses are transported out of this country. Time does not permit me to go into full detail, because one of my colleagues has some remarks that he wishes to make before the suspension of the sitting. Peter Barber, who was the member of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and who appeared on Nationwide, said:

We'd say that all the horses actually suffer. They are standing in 2 foot 6 wide stalls for a minimum of 12 days and that's actually the sea travelling time and prior to that as well, maybe a day on each side of that, and if there are any hold ups, more time again. It is inconceivable to us that those animals aren't undergoing some sort of stress.

Then we had the amazing statement made by Mr Warren Grant, the meat trader responsible for shipping these horses. He is probably getting a financial reward for his part in the export of these horses. David Ransom, who was the interviewer on Nationwide, asked the question:

Is there any cruelty in the fact that the horses are standing up for the entire voyage?

Mr WarrenGrant, the meat trader, said:

No. There is a lot of veterinary opinion that in fact the horses only lay down when they are in either a sick or an ill condition. Horses don 't lay down as part of their normal way ona

If we look at the conditions on this ship, we find that the space is only 2 feet 6 inches wide. They could not lie down whether they were sick or tired. They would have to fall down if they were sick. We have a statement from the meat trader in order to bolster his case that everything is fair and above board.

Senator Primmer - I suggest he has never seen a horse in its natural habitat.

Senator McLAREN - Of course, he has not. As Senator Primmer says, no doubt Mr Grant has not seen a horse in its natural habitat. Of course, it lies down to rest, the same as a human being does. This person went on to make a further statement about horses. He said:

They have a mechanism in their front leg that enables them to lock their stifle joints and I think they take about 65 per cent or 70 per cent of the body weight on the front legs so they are standing, they're sleeping while they're standing, they eat while they 're standing, standing up isn 't a problem.

That is the type of answer one gets from these meat traders. Then we see that David Ransom poses a question to the veterinary surgeon:

.   . Rick Walduck has accompanied one shipment of horses to Japan.

Rick Walduck replied:

Yes, I feel after the trip that I 've recently been on which I approached with some reluctance, that I was certainly quite reassured at the end of the voyage, particularly the last few days of the voyage, the horses were not in distress, they were certainly not cruel.

What qualifications did that veterinary surgeon have? Was he a student or a fully qualified vet with vast experience in handling livestock to qualify him to make the remark that they are in good condition and well cared for, despite the fact that we saw this photograph which I held up showing the type of horses that are loaded on to these ships? I then go on to a further statement made by Mr Nixon on 12 April dealing with the horse exports. He said that there was a clear responsibility for owners and shippers of livestock to have them fit and healthy for travel. He further said:

Because of this responsibility, the Commonwealth will seek to recover from the owners all special costs incurred with the holding and the care of these horses in Sydney.

That is the question I now pose to Senator Scott. Can we have an assurance that the Government will pursue to the bitter end attempts to recoup these costs for caring for these horses from the people who exported them and that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Sydney will be reimbursed in full for any costs that it has incurred in caring for those horses? Mr Nixon went on to say that he had instructed his Department to review urgently livestock export legislation, including owners' and shippers' responsibilities, travelling conditions and general care necessary for the welfare of animal exports. He further said:

Any deficiencies present in current legislation would be corrected.

I again ask Senator Scott: Will he make some inquiries and inform the Senate next week of how soon that legislation could be introduced into the Parliament so that we will not see any repetitions of the terrible cruelty that was handed out to these horses? An article appeared in the Sydney Sun of Wednesday 16 April 1980 headed 'Horse Owners "Fooled" on Sales'. In that article claims are made by the Australian Draught Horse Stud Book Society that these buyers, meat traders, are asking its members whether they can buy the horses, saying to them that they will find a good home for the horses. Invariably these horses end up, as we have seen, being shipped under deplorable conditions to Japan for human consumption.

As time is running out, although there is much more that I would like to say, I will leave that until next week when I get the answers from the Minister. I may need to raise the matter again at the appropriate time next week, not only in the interests of dumb animals who are exported under very adverse conditions but also in the interests of people who do great voluntary work for the RSPCA which in many instances has had to fund its organisation on voluntary contributions. I am very concerned to find out whether the Government will fully reimburse the RSPCA for any costs it has incurred. I say again and place on record my appreciation of the action taken by the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, the RSPCA and the people responsible for the Nationwide program for drawing this to the attention of all concerned people in our community.

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