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Thursday, 10 May 2018
Page: 3786

Ms O'NEIL (Hotham) (11:08): Shortly after I was first elected to parliament in September 2013, I stood in the House to speak about the deep concerns that I have about the live export industry. Since then, I've continued to speak out over further incidents of animal cruelty during live exports, of which there have been many in the five years that I've served in this parliament. I called on the industry to get its act together. I called on the minister for agriculture to do the same. But the animal cruelty has continued.

The footage broadcast on 60 Minutes recently which showed the condition of sheep being transported on the Awassi Express was shocking, and I think it's a turning point in this debate. To see sheep rotting in their own excrement, their bodies falling apart, and lambs being stuck in a bog, unable to get access to food and water and under clear and extreme distress, was like watching something out of a nightmare. We know that on that voyage more than 2,000 sheep died in transit.

I say that the voyage and the footage was shocking but, as many of my constituents have pointed out to me, was it really? We've known about the condition of sheep being transported to the Middle East for a long time. This debate has been going on since the 1980s, and it was in 2006 that former Prime Minister John Howard decided that he would suspend the trade because of these same animal welfare concerns. The breaches and the promises that things will be better have been constant. Yet in the five years I've been in parliament nothing much has changed.

I have had enough, and my party has had enough. Live sheep exporters have been given every opportunity. They've been given every chance to fix their activities, and recent events have shown us the reality—that is, that it's not possible to fix it. The animal welfare issue at the heart of this trade is not one of regulation; it's the voyage itself. It's too far, it's too hot and it cannot be made humane for the animals being transported. So Labor is going to assist with the phasing out of this industry. We're going to do it in a planned and calm manner to ensure that people who depend on this industry have the opportunity to adjust. The live export industry has been given enough opportunities to stick to the rules but they have failed to stick to those rules so many times now. It's time to phase out this industry and shut it down, and that's what Labor will be doing when we're next in government.

I want to say something about the people who care about this issue, because I've heard people in this debate deride this issue as a concern of some kind of trendy leftie environmentalists, and that's absolutely not the case. I've had more than 1,000 of the people I represent email me about this issue. It matters to them a great deal. I have never been contacted by my constituents on any other matter with the form and volume of emails that have come to me on this question. I want to say to the people who wrote to me that this is your democracy at work. I've read your emails and I've heard your calls, and we've answered those calls by agreeing that we will phase out the industry, because animals cannot be protected through this voyage.