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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 66


Mr FITZGIBBON (Hunter) (15:53): I second the amendment. I support the amendment for three very key reasons. Members of the House of Representatives should be given the opportunity to vote on this matter before we go to the next federal election, for three key reasons. First of all, the Australian community has broadly made its views on this point very well known. There is a growing concern about animal welfare issues in this country, and it is a concern that stretches across each of the 150 electorates represented here in this place. There is a particular concern about the inability of the live sheep export trade to continue while also meeting what are reasonable community expectations on the animal welfare front, and I will return to those issues.

The second reason is Australia's reputation. The most important thing to our agriculture sector in this country, the thing that brings us our key competitive advantage, is our reputation as a provider of clean, green, safe, high-quality and, importantly, and increasingly so, ethically-produced food. The longer the live sheep trade continues—inconsistent with community expectations, not just in Australia but internationally—the more damage will be done to that reputation and to our key competitive advantage.

The third reason is the will of this parliament. The Senate has been given the opportunity to express its will today, and a majority of senators have chosen to reflect the view of the broader Australian community, which I have no doubt is in favour of phasing out this trade. I challenge anyone on the other side, in response to this amendment, to stand in this place and challenge that proposition—to challenge the idea that a majority of Australians now believe that it's impossible to reconcile the live sheep trade with community expectations. We are elected to this place to represent our people. I do understand the role of the executive in the Westminster system, but here is an opportunity for the executive to let the members have their say—to allow the members to properly represent the views of their constituents.

As the member for Watson has pointed out, this is a vote that would only require a simple majority of the parliament, not an absolute majority and the 76 votes that would usually be required. I worked this out quickly, and the member for Watson will correct me if I'm wrong, but, at the moment, if the Labor Party secured the support of all members of the crossbench—and I would be very confident, given they are now gathering, of strong support on the crossbench—there would only be, at best, one vote in this. That would be the case if the members for Farrer and Corangamite go back on everything they've said in this place with respect to the live sheep trade. What they should do today, in response to this amendment, is stick to their principles, as enunciated here, and join with the Labor Party and the majority of the crossbench to support this amendment, which is about giving members of this place a say and, eventually, a vote. That is not an outrageous proposition by any stretch of the imagination.

The members for Farrer and Corangamite, stoically supported by the member for La Trobe at a subsequent press conference, spoke on their private members' bill in this place very, very passionately. Given the short notice of this amendment—in other words, the short notice of the Leader of the House's motion—I haven't had the opportunity to drag out quotes from the speeches of the members for Farrer and Corangamite, but I can assure the House they were passionate, they were heartfelt and they left every member of the Australian community and every member of their own electorates in no doubt that, given the opportunity to vote on this matter in this place, they would be voting to give effect to an immediate cessation of that dreaded northern summer trade and to phase out the live sheep trade within five years. That's what they stood here and told the Australian parliament, it's what they told people in the broader community and it's certainly what they told the members of their own constituencies. To have now accepted promotions to the very junior ranks of the Morrison ministry, knowing that they would then be able to argue that they were no longer in a position to stand by their convictions, will come as a great disappointment to the many constituents who are relying upon them.

The Leader of the House is indicating to me that if I leave my comments at this point, members of the crossbench will have an opportunity to make a contribution, and I will give way to them. I thank the Leader of the House.