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Tuesday, 26 June 2018
Page: 6490


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (17:02): I'm very pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this private member's bill brought forward by the member for Farrer, the Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018, and to acknowledge that this is not a partisan debate. In fact, there are people from both sides of the House who support this bill. I understand why. In my area, I have had over 1,600 individual constituents email me with their great distress and concern about what is happening in this industry. I'm sure many of my colleagues around the chamber have had similar levels of contact. In fact, I've never seen that level of engagement on any issue during the time that I've been here. In total, I have had over 4,800 emails on this subject, so some people have emailed me on more than one occasion, generally speaking first when they've seen a round of reports in the media, and images that have caused them distress, and then again when they see that repeated. I think that's what's taken its toll on people's patience with this particular aspect of the industry. I want to acknowledge each and every one of those individuals, many of whom took the time to write quite extensive personal comments in their emails about why they felt that this live sheep long-haul export trade, particularly in the summer months in the Northern Hemisphere, has to stop. I don't know that anybody could have seen the vision that was reported, including, I know, many in the farming industry, without feeling it was a completely unacceptable reflection of what we as a modern nation should see as an acceptable part of the industry sector.

I'm sure the member for Farrer thought long and hard about bringing this. She's a country-based member herself, and I acknowledge that. I have no doubt that it wasn't lightly that she brought this private member's bill before this parliament. It certainly has my support, as it has Labor's support. It would be good if we could actually bring this bill to a vote, in keeping with the expressed clear wishes of our community—certainly my community. I think it would be the view of all of those people—over 1,600 of them who emailed me from my electorate—that we actually have a vote on this and address the issue. But, of course, we require an absolute majority to bring the vote forward and we would require government members to cross the floor to enable that process to happen. To date, there hasn't been an indication that that would be supported, but I do think it is the will of many communities, and most certainly mine, that we get on with voting on these issues.

A particular round of the emails that I got came in after the McCarthy review was completed and reported. There's a lot of frustration in what people feel is the science that was laid out in that and the recommendations that were made. The Prime Minister did say he wanted to take a science-based approach to this very difficult issue, but he's actually ignored the advice of the Australian Veterinary Association and the RSPCA, and we haven't seen the response that the community expects to the McCarthy review. That's certainly the feedback I've had very, very strongly. It is Labor's view that we need to have a plan in place to transition the industry, not just to stop the transport of the sheep in these conditions, but also to support and transition the industry into a more viable method of production. That includes our strategic red meat industry plan to help farmers make that transition to sustained profitability and viability, but to recognise that this industry has lost the support of the Australian community. They do not see the component of that that involves sheep being treated in the way that we've seen as being in any way acceptable. They have my support.