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Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 9502

Mr BRUCE SCOTT (9:49 PM) —I rise this evening to record my protest against this Labor government’s culling of camels in the outback of Australia. This Labor government is spending some $19 million to cull the wild camel population, which is estimated to be over one million head. It is believed we have the largest herd of wild camels in the world and that they carry some of the world’s purest breeding lines. The news that this Labor government would spend some $20 million to cull around 650,000 camels made headlines around the Western world. Indeed, one American news anchor branded our Prime Minister a serial killer for launching air strikes on camels. This particular news anchor made note that almost $1 billion in meat and milk products would be wasted.

I obviously would not endorse those comments in relation to our Prime Minister, but by simply culling these animals we are wasting a perfect opportunity to take a significant step in Australian production and trade in camel meat and milk. I acknowledge that camels can inflict serious damage on Australia’s habitat, but so too can wild pigs and kangaroos. And to solve the problem by simply culling them from the air is a quick fix solution from a government that has not properly considered the potential trade opportunities for camel meat and milk.

Camel meat is a lean source of protein and low in cholesterol. Camel meat is considered to be healthier than cows’ milk and contains five times more vitamin C and less fat. It is also a good choice for diabetics and the lactose intolerant because it contains less lactose and more insulin. Camel meat and camel milk have been consumed for hundreds of years in the Middle East and both are still popular. In fact, there is even a quality chocolate made from camel milk.

We can take advantage of the Middle East’s familiarity with camel products by trading in camel meat or by the live export of camels. By adding camel meat to our beef, lamb, venison and kangaroo meat industries, we would help to increase the job opportunities for many rural communities, in particular the Indigenous communities based in our outback. Whether it is the harvesting stage or the processing stage, there would be many jobs created in rural communities. An abattoir in the Northern Territory has begun processing camel meat. In fact, an Egyptian meat-importing company hopes to build a designated camel abattoir in South Australia, which would cost around $15 million to build and could process up to 100,000 camels a year.

Indeed, the Kangaroo-harvesting industry is a perfect example of taking advantage of a large meat source instead of simply culling the marsupials in large numbers. Kangaroos, like camels, can wreak havoc on properties by damaging fences and competing with livestock for food. There is nothing new in that. But they also provide an alternative meat source for Australian families and for restaurants both here and abroad. The Kangaroo-harvesting industry has provided jobs for professional shooters as well as boners and packers. If we were to apply the same approach to the plague numbers of camels as we do to kangaroos, we would be able to provide another income stream for rural communities which have long been struggling with the drought.

Of course, the culling of camels is not just an issue of wasted trade opportunities. Shooting them from helicopters, as happens, means that their corpses are left to rot in the sun, which attracts feral pigs and wild dogs—two pests that pose a far worse problem to agriculture than do camels. They will spread diseases and attack small mammals in that part of Australia. In fact, wild pigs are estimated to cause agricultural and horticultural losses of some $9.2 million and wild dogs almost $50 million, plus they carry diseases.

We must remember, too, that Australia’s expansion across the outback was not without the aid of the ships of the desert. Before the introduction of rail, camels were a key mode of transport for outback pioneers. After their uses became very limited compared to those for motorised transport, they were released into the wild and are now considered a pest. But if we were properly to utilise the potential of this huge camel population we could alleviate this potential pest and turn it into a win-win. The contribution of camels to Australia is not over yet and we should embrace their economic potential rather than doing what this government is doing, which is to spend millions of dollars shooting them from the air, leaving them to rot in the hot sun in outback Australia. (Time expired)