Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill

September 10, 2018

I rise to speak on the Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018.

Like most of Australia I have been shocked at the vision we have seen over the past months.  I know that every Australian agricultural producer would be equally shocked at these scenes of cruelty.  We understand that. 

It is time this cruelty stopped – it’s time we support the industry to transition.

Thankfully live sheep exports have been in decline for many decades.

But we need to support our sheep farmers – to make sure they are sustainably profitable – and to create more jobs in Australia.

I was brought up in St. George in the Balonne Shire in Western Queensland.  The first dollar I earned was working in a shearing shed with the McCoskers at Dundee Station.  I know the importance of supporting our farmers and making sure we get the balance right.

The major primary industry of the Balonne Shire when I was a kid was the sheep, wool and beef industry.  It has now become much more diversified.  Things like cotton have taken off.

I grew up surrounded by hardworking Australian sheep producers, graziers and shearers – I know how hard they work and I know that the welfare of their livestock is their paramount concern.

Sheep Producers Australia in a media release in April this year said:-

“Producers want best animal welfare outcomes. We want to know the same high standards of animal care are maintained once our sheep leave our properties. We are pleased that the livestock export industry is moving to make changes and we look forward to the trade’s animal welfare outcomes being improved in future.”

Supporting the sheep industry to transition from live exports will not only ensure the welfare of our livestock but it will provide more Australian jobs.

I am the son of a butcher; two of my brothers were butchers, my grandfather was a butcher and my uncle was a butcher, so for me, supporting the transition away from live exports will mean more jobs in Australia, with the meat producers having more to do with the slaughter of animals.

Treating our animals properly and keeping jobs in Australia are things I care passionately about, and I’m sure most Australians would support them.

We shouldn’t just back this just when it is politically convenient; we need to back this piece of legislation because it is the right thing to do.

This Bill was introduced by the Member for Farrer and seconded by the Member for Corangamite.

The Member for Farrer has been firm in her support for this Bill.

In a speech in Parliament on 21 May she said:-  “built on the suffering of animals” and “The case for continuing long-haul live sheep exports fails on both economic and animal welfare grounds.”

Where are those Members now?  It would appear that they’ve sold out their convictions for political promotions.

They have put their own political welfare above animal welfare.

They’ve chosen self-interest over doing the right thing by farmers and their livestock.

They’ve abandoned their Private Member’s Bill to phase out the live sheep trade and support farmers in that process.

They have forgotten the shocking treatment of 60,000 sheep who suffered on board the Awassi Express in the height of the searing Middle East summer.

They’ve forgotten the outrage in the community after being confronted with those shocking scenes.

I haven’t forgotten and neither have my Labor colleagues.

This problem is not going to solve itself.

There are three inherent flaws in the current business model for live sheep exports:-

First, it’s reliant on the retched Northern Hemisphere summer trade.  There is no way to reconcile appropriate animal welfare standards with that trade.

Second, the cruel conditions imposed on livestock promote higher payments to sheepmeat producers engaged in that trade, and disadvantages domestic processors here in Australia.

And thirdly, the community will not tolerate the cruelty being inflicted on Australian animals in this live export trade.

The reality is – this trade can’t continue.

I applauded the Member for Farrer for introducing this Bill.

It is important that there is an organised transition so that Australian sheep farmers are supported and that markets adjust appropriately.

But, once again, we’ve seen that Members of the Coalition, whether they are Liberal or National or Liberal-National – won’t stand for anything that gets in the way of their own political ambitions.

While the Members for Farrer and Corangamite will no doubt be celebrating their promotions to Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Territories and the Assistant Minister for Social Services, Housing and Disability Services, respectively – this Bill will lay abandoned.

The convictions that were so strongly advocated just a few short months ago – quickly tossed aside.

We need to make sure we get the balance right.  We need to look after Australian jobs, and to do that we need our sheep to be slaughtered in Australia appropriately under Australian conditions.