Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill 2012, Thursday 11 October 2012
Following Senator Rhiannon's speech, speeches were given by:
Senator STERLE (Western Australia) (16:21): I too want to contribute to the debate on the Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill 2012 put up by the Greens. Before I do, I listened intently to Senator Rhiannon's input. I also listened intently to her reasons, on behalf, no doubt, of the Greens and a lot of other people, why the live export trade should be banned. Before I go into challenging some of Senator Rhiannon's figures and her views, I think it is very important that we take a couple of steps back, and I think it is very, very important that Australia gets the full story.
Not one of us, and I say that without caucusing colleagues from either side of the chamber or the House, supports cruelty to animals.
Every single one of us—and I speak for the nation—was appalled at that video footage that Animals Australia had given to Four Corners. The sad part is that there are some people in this building that knew about that footage—certainly not from the government side, but that is another story.
I also feel absolute abhorrence at the thought that all live animal exports are about cruelty to animals. Unfortunately, we have had some very high-profile video footage, but let us take another couple of steps back. This is not the first time. Let us go back to 2003. At the time the Howard government were in power, and we had another shocking piece of footage put out in the public arena about cruelty to animals in Egypt. I have travelled to Egypt, and I have witnessed the closed loop Sokhna facility that is being built there now to change those terrible, terrible practices. But let us not avoid the truth here. Under the previous Howard government, the live export trade to Egypt was banned for four years. So for four years nothing was done to correct it and get the trade moving again. The Labor government came in in 2007 and we opened up the trade again.
So I want to say to you, Senator Rhiannon, and your supporters that while you are out defending animal rights—and quite rightly; that is not an issue—you have to realise that there are two sides to this argument. Let us take on board what you said about the win-win being what we all want. But your reason for the win-win, unfortunately, is flawed. I do not say that because I am having a crack at you, Senator Rhiannon, but I spend a lot of time in the Kimberley. If it were not for the live export trade of cattle, the Kimberley economy would be in a lot of strife, because if the Kimberley economy tried to survive on tourism then they would be absolutely ruined. There are a number of reasons why, including the high Aussie dollar and everything that goes with it, not to mention—to Senator Rhiannon and those who might not think about what else is going on at the Top End of Australia—that the window of opportunity for tourism is only seven months. If we have a big wet as we did two years ago—the wet season went from December through to May—they do not even have that long. If it is not tourism, do we think that the Kimberley could survive on the pearl trade? My goodness me! That is another depressing story.
So, whether people want to acknowledge it or not, live export and cattle are the big issue in the Kimberley. They are not blessed with a plethora of iron ore mines or coalmines. They have the opportunity for natural gas, but we all know where you stand on that. And everyone should know where I stand on that: if it delivers far better living conditions, education conditions and job opportunities to the people of the Kimberley, I am supporting that, because it is the decision of the traditional owners.
Let us get back to the win-win. Let us not forget for one minute that there is an industry out there with good, decent, hardworking people who are out there in regional and rural Australia in very, very trying conditions: extreme heat, flooding and the whole lot. They commit 12 months of the year to that part of the world, every year, year in, year out. They are not Johnny-come-latelies; most of them are first, second and sometimes even third generation. Let us also not forget that there are a host of other industries that rely on the live cattle trade: transport, mechanical, truck sales, feed—it goes on and on and on.
You would have us believe with your contribution, Senator Rhiannon, that if somehow—I wish it were possible—we could get abattoirs back into the north and we could get a boxed meat market going in place of the live export market then everything would be tickety-boo and it would create all these jobs. Up until I came off the road in 1991, we did have abattoirs in the north-west—I say that to Senator Rhiannon and to those listening. We had abattoirs in Carnarvon, we had an abattoir in Broome, we had an abattoir in Derby, we had an abattoir in Kununurra—only a little one—and there was a very active abattoir in Katherine. What has happened is that all those abattoirs have closed, and you have to ask yourself why they have closed. I will tell you that unfortunately they have closed because the producers have a live export market and, quite frankly, no-one wants to be in the business of reopening an abattoir. There is some talk about AACo wanting to open an abattoir—this has been around for a while. At this stage, what I have learnt from my travels through the Kimberley and the Pilbara and my work on the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Committee is that people want abattoirs but no-one wants to put the money in to build them.
But, Senator Rhiannon, we also have to look and really dig in. I want everyone to listen before I get bombarded by a GetUp! campaign. Feel free to do it, by all means. You will do it. But you do not realise out there the pressure that I have copped personally as the chair of the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee in my support of a live export trade with conditions that eliminate animal cruelty. I am not talking about a campaign from GetUp!; I am talking about the campaign from my own wife and my daughter. I stand there too: nobody supports animal cruelty. But you are completely wrong, Senator Rhiannon, to think that we have the ability to shut down the live export trade and shut down where we supply meat. As we know, our biggest trading partners are Indonesia, China, Turkey, Israel and the Philippines for cattle and also for sheep—and I am still appalled at what is going on in Pakistan. You are wrong to think we can cut off our trade to Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE and it can all be done overnight if we build some abattoirs.
Part of your reasoning, Senator Rhiannon, in defence of banning the live export trade was that we could just put it all in boxes, create jobs here and send it off to Indonesia. Let us also look at what actually happened in Indonesia up until the ban on the live export of cattle—which I fully supported and which Senator Ludwig, as painful as it was, had to do. We had to do something.
Doing nothing was not an option. I know that is still creating a lot of bad blood in the Top End of Australia, but it had to be done. People had to be responsible, and we had to have a system in place so that we could track it back so that we could say loud and clear that it is not acceptable and will not be tolerated and, more importantly, that there could be a system there that could identify where the breakdown is.
Just one thing on the sheep in Pakistan: there is an inquiry going on. I am not going to comment any more and we will wait to hear what comes out of the inquiry. And that is not ducking for cover. I do not know the full story yet and neither does the government.
But you are right in talking about Indonesia wanting to create their own market. Let me help you out, Senator Rhiannon. The Indonesians for a number of years now have had a limit on Australian cattle, a weight limit of 350 kilos. They take our cattle up to 350 kilos. The reason they will not take anything over 350 kilograms is because they want to support their domestic farmers, the 220 million Indonesians and those who rely on Australian cattle for their iron and protein intake. The Indonesian government does this because they want to fatten the cattle in their own lots to give their very small domestic farmers an opportunity for an income. It would be silly to think that on those 2,200 islands around the Indonesian archipelago that if we shut down all our grazing land over there and the Indonesians started all their own that they could supply all their meat on the limited land that they have got. In my view it is just not going to happen.
But you also have to understand, Senator Rhiannon—and those supporters of the bill who do not think about the detriment it will deliver to those people who rely on the live export market of cattle and sheep—that it is not as though Indonesia is blessed with a Coles supermarket, or a Woolworths store, or an IGA on every corner like we are. The Indonesians do not have the pleasure of fridge and freezer facilities that we have. The Indonesian meat intake is consumed normally on the day of slaughter, so it is very disingenuous, Senator Rhiannon, to put the message out there that all of the sudden you are an expert in this trade, that you are an expert in the north-west of Australia on the Kimberley and Pilbara, and that you have this fantastic simplistic solution.
Senator Rhiannon interjecting—
Senator STERLE: You had your turn, Senator Rhiannon, and I listened intently, and the more I listened I thought you were coming from a good heart but, sadly, you have very little understanding of what actually happens out there in rural and regional Australia. And may I reiterate that if it is an animal cruelty issue, everyone supports you on your measures to reduce animal cruelty—none of us want to see that—but you cannot just lead a charge and with your colleagues in the Greens say that you have this fantastic solution and you do not know why anyone is not listening, and you can solve the problem tomorrow.
Senator Rhiannon: I didn't say that.
Senator STERLE: But I also note, Senator Rhiannon, that you have a webpage and you have started a campaign—well, we know that, and you are not the only one, as some of my colleagues support you too. I believe you have been contacted by a lady, a northern cattle producer, a Ms Jo-Anne Bloomfield from Hodgson River Station. Ms Bloomfield, I believe, has challenged you to a debate about the live trade, or banning the live trade industry and export markets. I believe that she has put 25 questions to you of which you have answered 13, and you said you look forward to that debate. I look forward to it too, Senator Rhiannon.
Senator Rhiannon: Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. It would be useful if the information that was shared was accurate. I had accepted to do the debate and Ms Bloomfield, unfortunately, now has declined.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT ( Senator Furner ): There is no point of order.
Senator STERLE: I have obviously touched a nerve, Senator Rhiannon. All I am saying is that I support anyone who will do anything to eliminate animal cruelty. But, Senator Rhiannon, you owe it to a legion of people who are following your every move to provide the truth and to provide the correct facts. It is honourable of you, Senator Rhiannon, to think that you have—
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Sterle! I will have your comments through the chair.
Senator STERLE: As I say, Senator Rhiannon and the Greens need to get out there and get a handle on what they are arguing about. If they can differentiate between their wonderland of ideas that will fix an industry or change an industry overnight and we can dictate to the Indonesians what they will do and what they will not do, while at the same time mischievously misleading those poor devils out there in regional Australia who are very decent hardworking people too and who have a passion for eliminating animal cruelty, the world will be a better place.
But get the facts right. You have no idea. It is typical of the Greens—through you, Mr Acting Deputy President. You do not spend an inordinate amount of time in remote and rural Australia. I know that under your new leader all of the sudden the Greens are becoming the champions of the farming industry, the champions of farmers around Australia. I have seen the Greens' position on agriculture. God help us if they ever do get to make the decisions on where Australia's agricultural industry goes. They are not friends of agriculture. They like to whip up the hysteria—they love that and they wallow in that. They are a marginalised group of people who are anti-employment. They talk about green jobs—yes, fantastic. They talk about all these wonderful other things we can do that will support rural and regional Australia. It would not do you any harm to get off your backsides—if I am allowed to say that, Mr Acting Deputy President—and get out in the regions and talk to the people of rural Australia, talk to rural industries, talk to the agricultural industry. Go out into the bush and talk to the people who rely on this trade and you tell them that you have got this magic solution that will fix it up. It will be a win-win for them and a win-win for all the animal lovers in Sydney and Melbourne—the latte set, the professional protesters—without taking away those people who absolutely love animals, and I am one of them, make no mistake about that.
I will tell you what has disappointed me, and I have said this before. For Animals Australia to get this footage, in one way thank goodness: they were able to get it to highlight to us that the system could not go on the way it was going—we had to do something to fix it. But to deviously sit on that footage for quite a period of time; to deviously make sure that the ABC had it, not the government; and to deviously make sure they ran off to an opposition senator, who is no longer here, to give her a copy of the footage, which she did not deny when she was asked—you tell me if you are fair dinkum about eliminating animal cruelty. In your heart of hearts, could you have sat on that vile footage while you built a political campaign to do everything you could to destabilise government action to try and promote an industry that is important to this country?
I can hear all the chatter going on up the end of the chamber here, and I would challenge you to a debate too. I would love it, and while we are up there we will talk about a host of things. We can talk about the gas plant and whatever you want to talk about, it doesn't worry me! I am up there all the time. In fact, it is easier to get me up there than it is to get me in Perth. But I also make sure I attend the PGA conferences in the Kimberley at every opportunity. I do not run from it, because I want to hear from the people what their challenges are.
I cannot support the Greens bill. I do not support the Greens actions. I think the Greens, as I said, are being very mischievous, and Senator Rhiannon is leading the charge about how she has got the fix. She has not got the fix. It is all very well to run your campaigns against an industry from afar in some trendy part of Sydney or Melbourne or wherever you are doing it. But you have to tell the truth, Senator Rhiannon, because in this business you will get found out. If you have an idea that will eliminate animal cruelty and we can still sustain a very important part of our economy and a very important part of Northern Australia, please bring it forward. If there is a win-win, if it is not smoke and mirrors, or chimes and fairy floss, or whatever you do with it, I will be standing next to you. But this bill is just another example of the Greens having a little issue that they can fluff up without telling the truth because it is so emotive.
It is emotive for me too. I live not far from Fremantle. I am on Leach Highway, which Senator Rhiannon and Senator Ludlam know, and I have been going to and from work on Leach Highway since 1978, so I know, constantly, those sheep carters going backwards and forwards with legs hanging out of the side of the crates. It is not a good look. And I know that many people do not look behind what is the live animal export trade. I know there are many, many people who just see it as cruel. They do not think about the amount of people who rely on this industry and who are absolutely appalled by the images that we have seen on TV.
I want to use the last minute of time I have now to also say that it would be disingenuous of the opposition to use this debate to have a crack at the federal government. We have stood shoulder to shoulder on the live export trade. I know sometimes politically it suits the opposition to give us a whack on the ban, but you know in your heart of hearts that if you were in government you would have had to act too. You had it for four years when the Egypt problem was not solved and that industry was left out there wallowing. You also know that at the stage when that footage was out, 94 per cent of Australia's cattle was going to Indonesia. So I urge whoever on that side is going to lead the debate for the opposition that you speak from the heart, that you support the government and that you see this bill as it is, knock it back and condemn this as typical Greens grandstanding. But we support any motion that will eliminate animal cruelty.
Senator SCULLION (Northern Territory—Deputy Leader of The Nationals) (16:41): I rise to also make a contribution to the debate on this Greens bill, the Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill 2012. I will briefly respond first to Senator Sterle. I gave you a bit of a touch-up on 9 February about this matter, mate, and I think that will probably end it. I think it is time, when the whole industry chain is threatened by this sort of legislation in this place, that we should stand shoulder to shoulder to reject it.
This is about one of those times you remember: where were you when? I can certainly remember when the cessation of the trade happened. I was at Sydney airport and I remember viewing both Julia Gillard and Paul Henderson being interviewed, and I knew in my heart that this was going to have a real impact on the Territory. Whatever the good reasons of the movement were, it was just going to be a big deal. I certainly was not wrong. It had a huge impact, and that impact continues to this day. I know it is not on the news every day and we do not talk about it here every day, but the men and women and their families and communities right across the north of Australia who rely on the live cattle export trade are still in real strife.
We all accept that the vision we saw on the Four Corners program was very disturbing for many Australians. We have just heard from the government and I think they acknowledge that perhaps that decision was not the best possible one. I have undertaken to Senator Sterle that I will not dwell on that too much and I will stick to that undertaking. But we are certainly joined in the notion that we do not tolerate the mistreatment of animals. Everybody has accepted that.
I would encourage the Greens to think about why that is, why in Australia we have a particular affection for animals. It is good to see a couple of kids up in the gallery here and they will certainly know. It is not everywhere in the world that people are brought up with horses that talk. It is not everywhere in the world where kids are brought up with cartoons where all the animals are Disneyfied, where everything we met there is humanised—they talk, they drive cars. It is all part of our affluent upbringing, where we have access to television, movies, comic books and all those sorts of things which characterise a very affluent community, and this Disneyfication of how we see animals has affected our culture. We have an affection, of course, for the animals we live with, whether they are dogs or cats or budgies or whatever.
It is a very close affection.
We can afford to feed a dog or a cat. That is how they stay with us. We love them. In this country we spend quite a lot of money on feeding our pets because we are a very affluent community. In these places we often export to, that affluence just is not there. They cannot afford to have a cat or a dog. They are doing it pretty tough just feeding themselves. People in places like Indonesia, which I know well and visit, are quite astounded to hear that we spend as much as we do on pets, because it is just not part of their culture. But as they and other countries around the world gain more affluence their culture will change. In my life I have seen cultures change. People who thought democracy was so far away now enjoy democracy. So cultures do change.
It is interesting to see how cultures change. Cultures change because they are affected by other cultures. When you talk to other people you are influenced. When you are exposed to your mate next door, another country, another view or another idea, your mind is open to change. The world is changing all the time. Of course animal welfare is going to change in the future. It is behaviour in Australia that has changed much of the attitudes towards animal welfare right across the world.
Whilst I have been pretty critical and not particularly supportive of the move to stop the exports, I suppose in some ways it was associated with being able to demonstrate that we really needed to lever some change with regard to the treatment of cattle, particularly in Indonesia. I am talking not only about welfare, because there are other practical benefits. You would generally describe the people who work in agriculture and the processing sector as practical people—I do not know why I use that term; probably everyone is pretty practical—so we have other things we can sell. It is not only about how the animal feels. If they are not all that interested in animal welfare at the moment you can say to them: 'When an animal is calm, well looked after and you have the infrastructure to move the animal smoothly to the point of processing then that is really good for people because you do not get as many injuries. It is a very practical process.'
You can also explain what we know from our processing. We know that, if an animal is calm, moves calmly and safely and its welfare is looked after, at the point of processing it is not upset, annoyed and full of adrenaline. We know about adrenaline but perhaps we do not know a lot about lactic acid. You know you are a bit sore the next day when you have used your muscles. Lactic acid is what you are trying to get rid of. When lactic acid is not out of the animal's system before it is processed, the carcass temperature is actually increased by up to 10 per cent. You might think that is pretty interesting but for a processor who has to chill that meat that means a significant increase in the cost of power. Welfare is not just a story about exchanging our culture and trying to change the way we do business in other countries; it is also about pointing out the experiences of Australia. Because we have the animal welfare process there is a whole range of benefits.
I can recall pretty much straight away after the cessation of the trade—it was pretty important to us in the Northern Territory—I skipped over to Indonesia. I went through the wet markets in Indonesia with only a smattering of Bahasa. It was not a really good place to be. It was not that people were angry; they just could not understand. There were lots of racks from which meat used to hang. The housewives and the people involved in food production with little stalls around Indonesia arrived in the morning and there was no meat. They do not stay tuned constantly to Sky News so all they knew was that when they got there the meat that their livelihoods depend on was not there. They were asking me: 'Why do you not want to send meat to us? You have always done it. We have always bought it. It is all part of the process. Your nation supplies our nation with protein. We rely on it. We are dependent on it.' It was a very difficult situation.
When I left there, there was a certain feeling in Australia that every time we send one of our live animals to Indonesia it is beaten around the head with a chain and it is all pretty horrible. I will not go into the footage that was shown. I just do not think it is necessary. When I visited some of these processors, what we saw on the footage certainly was not the norm. You do have places where culturally people will allow things to happen. We had been exporting animals to Indonesia for a very long time. By and large it had been done pretty successfully. Clearly, there were those abattoirs and processors that were not recognising the need to ensure that our standards were adhered to. I understand now that, as a consequence of the changes in the Australian culture that we have provided for at least 85 per cent of the cattle, there have been significant changes made.
We need to see the opportunity that this bill does not allow. I know the Greens are pretty keen to stop all live animal exports. I would like people to see the opportunity of animal exports. We are not only exporting animals. Let us start thinking about the export of our culture, about how we go about business and about sharing the technology, as we have done in Indonesia and are now doing in Egypt.
I understand that all those who are passionate about the welfare of animals are also passionate about the welfare of animals all over the world—not only in their backyard. As an Australian I applaud that. I have to acknowledge that I was not brought up in Australia. I saw most animals with a built-in lead and a telescopic sight at their head, but Africa was a different place to be brought up in than here. We saw it as food.
In Indonesia we can really change the culture by going down the road we have gone down.
We have a full chain of procedures that is now scrutinised by everybody to ensure that when the animals leave the farm in Australia, we are able to measure how they are transported on the truck, how they are transported on the boat, the potability of the water, how many times the air changes in the boat every minute. They are all able to be measured and they all meet a very, very high standard of animal welfare. Having been on the vessels, having been in Indonesia, having spent a lot of time on the farms and having spent a lot of time on the trucks, I can personally validate that myself. It is not something that someone has told me, and it is something which the industry is completely focused on. At a time when we are seeing the adoption of our cultural approach to animal welfare and the adoption of significant regulation and assistance not only in Indonesia but anywhere in the world that receives Australian animals, this would seem to the worst possible piece of legislation at the worst possible time.
As I said, I applaud all those people who say, 'Listen, let's look after the animals not only here but everywhere.' But if we stop the trade, if this piece of legislation is enacted and we say, 'Okay, no more live export,' what future are we condemning those animals overseas to, if that is what we believe? We are condemning them to much of the same, which is not our cultural approach or our welfare approach. I think this legislation has been poorly thought-out. Sadly, this involves not only Animals Australia but also the RSPCA. The RSPCA is an organisation that I used to support and that my children used to support as they grew up. Sadly, they do not do so now for a number of reasons. My son is principally involved in duck shooting and my daughter has other reasons. For me it is because the RSPCA has become a subscriptions driven organisation. As with all subscription driven organisations, I have become more and more cynical about why they get involved in processes. If you go onto their website and have a look, the first thing they will tell is how you can give them money. Sadly, I have far less confidence in their motivation.
I will just touch on the wonders that Senator Rhiannon referred to about how much money we are all going to make in the Northern Australia if only we knocked up a couple of abattoirs. Senator Rhiannon, you can commission reports that can tell you maybe not pretty much anything but they will say: 'I don't know what you're doing this for. All you have to do is knock up some abattoirs and kill 400,000 animals a year. We'll have a couple of hundred thousand left over. I'm not sure what you'll do with them. And we're all going to make another $104 million, and we're going to have another 1,600 employees.' As Senator Sterle indicated, we have had abattoirs. We have had them in Broome, Derby and Katherine. They all went broke. They went broke simply because of the cost of labour and a whole range of other issues. There is one being proposed at the moment just outside Darwin by AACo, and we will see how that goes. If the price of the dollar remains the same, I suspect that that will also not be a goer.
People who notionally say that the unions and the RSPCA really support building abattoirs and stopping this trade need to understand that this trade is based on producers and systems in these extensive places. I can drive 100 kilometres along one fence line of one paddock. You only see the cows once a year—'Hi. How ya' going, girls?' They all come in. All the girls have their babies with them. They do a bit of running around. We swap them over. Those that we saw last year will get on the boat. We sort them out. And it is: see you all later. It is not a particularly personal experience. Those are the rigours of the Territory. All that country can do is breed. We can turn over animals; we can produce plenty of animals. But that country will not fatten one animal, because by the time we get to November, the old cracker cows have to struggle through that terrible time between November and December. You cannot fatten them there. So the only way to fatten them is to send them away to a feedlot or to put them somewhere where there is some grass. Whilst it might look wonderful and green in the Northern Territory, it does not have particularly good fodder for cattle. It does not have particularly good feed. It is important to understand that. The abattoirs that are supposed to kill cattle are not killing them. They have not been finished. There is no money in that; there is no profit in that; and there is, frankly, no sense in that.
I will just touch briefly on the issue of self-sufficiency which Senator Rhiannon spoke about. Because there is no trade now and there has been a substantial diminution in the trade, the price has gone up with demand. Local cattle used to make up 10 per cent of the cattle going into the feedlots but that has now increased to 60 per cent. In terms of self-sufficiency, building a herd, this is working in the exact opposite direction. The Indonesian herd is now getting eaten. This is what is happening: it is in reverse. In terms of self-sufficiency, this move has actually made them go backwards. And if we were to accept your legislation in this place, it would make it go further backwards at a greater rate of knots.
I will just touch on some of the damage from the last decision but only in relation to what is being proposed by the Greens. It was not only a personal relationship which I reflected on during my time in the wet market but also what it did to our relationship with Indonesia as one of our strongest, nearest and dearest neighbours. For those of you who do not know who I am or where I come from, I come from the Northern Territory, which is actually South Asia. I go for a weekend to Singapore because it is two hours closer than Sydney. So we live in a place where that relationship is very close and very strong. For the Indonesian government to suddenly hear that we were doing this was a pretty appalling process. I am not sure that Senator Rhiannon has actually spoken to the Indonesian government about what the Greens are proposing, but I think it would add insult to injury if we were to pursue this without reference to the Indonesian government. I suspect that that has in fact been the case.
Senator Sterle very articulately touched on a number of the issues associated with some of the people who really need help and who are emerging as a very vital force in the live cattle export trade, and they are our first Australians—Indigenous Australians. The Indigenous Land Corporation is a great success story in Indigenous affairs. I slap them around a bit from time to time but, by and large, they do a fantastic job. They actually own a herd of about 100,000 cattle.
That is on eight properties located from Queensland through the Northern Territory right across to Western Australia. They own Roebuck Plains Station—massive yards; the most modern yards anywhere. There is a fantastic amount of infrastructure.
That is just one holding with eight properties. They have a workforce of 150 people of which some 60 per cent is Indigenous. There are 50 other Indigenous owned properties across the Top End where we are seeing real reconnection. Instead of disconnection from country, they are reconnected with country. They are reconnected with employment and they are reconnected with all the benefits of life—particularly what a constant stream of income will provide. Now, sadly, they have had a bit of a knock. I have promised not to go into that knock, but that has given a knock to all of us, including government, I suspect. You do these things and you have to learn from these things.
It knocked us off our feet in Northern Australia to hear, 'By the way, it is all gone, there will be no more export of live cattle.' Next time you are up there, Senator Siewert—I know you spend a lot of time up there and I have a lot of time for you—you might wish to explain to some of the Indigenous stockmen you know and have a fair bit to do with why you want to stop their industry. You might want to point out to them some alternative. I am not sure what it will be—combing trees or something. I think it is a really important responsibility you need to take for this. The Greens need to take responsibility for the consequences of the legislation that I suspect they bring before this place knowing that it will never succeed, to somehow say to those who support the RSPCA and other subscription organisations, 'See, we look after animals. We love animals, so perhaps you should send us some money.' I am not really sure of that.
I will just conclude by saying this is an absolutely shocking piece of legislation that could never be supported. What we really need to do is to ensure that we work together to make sure no further piece of legislation like this appears. (Time expired)
Senator SIEWERT (Western Australia—Australian Greens Whip) (17:01): I of course rise to support this piece of legislation, the Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill 2012. I am glad I am a little down the speaking list because it gives me an opportunity to respond to some of the claims that have been made from both sides of the chamber. The reason we are having this debate is that the government and the industry have not been able to demonstrate that they can deal with the consistent cruelty we see in this trade. Last year we had a very substantive debate about export of live cattle—and I will go into some of the details of that in a minute. As a result of that debate, changes were made that were supposed to ensure that these sorts of things do not happen again. Yet playing out just recently we have seen the extremely cruel and tragic images of sheep being subjected to cruelty. The fact that those sheep have been subjected to that cruelty shows very clearly that the processes the government has put in place to supposedly ensure that this trade is no longer cruel have simply failed.
This bill will put an end to the horrific treatment of Australian livestock that are currently transported overseas and processed in overseas abattoirs. We are the ones that prompted the wide-ranging inquiry into the live export industry that was carried out by the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee last year that did open up the trade to parliamentary scrutiny.
There have been a number of claims made during this debate about organisations that have held onto images and supposedly planned this attack on the industry. The likes of Animals Australia and the RSPCA have for years and years been trying to highlight the cruelty of this industry. They have looked at the numbers of sheep and cattle that have died while being transported overseas—and I will go into some of those numbers shortly. For years these organisations have taken images that they have managed to get to ministers on both sides—both previously under the coalition but also under the ALP—and for years ministers and governments have ignored those images. Of course, organisations like Animals Australia and the RSPCA took those images elsewhere to try and get somebody to pay attention because governments and industry would not.
Senator Scullion says, 'Senator Siewert, you go and explain to the Northern Territory pastoralists and to Aboriginal pastoralists why the ban was put in place and why you are seeking to change this.' Well, I put it back to the industry. Industry had responsibility to make sure that their industry was not cruel and that these measures were put in place, and they simply have not been able to do that.
This sort of legislation is needed because there is an ongoing failure by both industry and government to be able to ensure, control and maintain welfare standards. The appalling treatment of animals in Kuwait markets, the stranding and the repeated filming and vision of mistreatment highlight yet again that we are not able to ensure welfare standards. The recent stranding of the 22,000 sheep offshore from Bahrain and then their subsequent treatment in Pakistan are the most recent and graphic examples of the failures of the new Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, the ESCAS. I understand we still do not know what has happened to the remaining animals. We know that about half of them were killed in what is reported to have been very cruel circumstances. We actually cannot find out what has happened to some of those remaining animals.
It just shows that we cannot control what happens in other countries. We cannot guarantee that animals are treated humanely, that the process is cruelty free and that we are maintaining welfare standards. In other words, we cannot trust that the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System is working. We have to continue to rely on investigations and revelations by animal welfare groups like Animals Australia, the RSPCA and investigative journalists to reveal this cruelty. Their work highlights what is going on. It gets back to my point that is these organisations that are highlighting it. If government will not listen then of course organisations are going to go elsewhere and show this footage and highlight what is going on.
On that vision that we saw last year, people have been trying to raise this issue for years and years to no avail. I do get extremely frustrated when there are scurrilous attacks made on these organisations that are unfounded, when it is those organisations that have raised awareness and succeeded in getting adequate—no, not adequate they are still inadequate, but at least better—controls put in place than would have previously been there. Yet it is those organisations that get attacked. If those organisations had not got that footage and shown that footage those practices would still be happening right now. And we are still seeing cruelty. The Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System was put in place as a quick fix. Really it was about saving face rather than significantly improving the conditions for Australian animals.
We said at the time we had very, very strong concerns. We said at the time that this would not fix the issue. We expressed very strong concerns, for example, that it did not include preslaughter stunning. The assurance system is based on OIE standards, which are basic standards essentially prepared for developing countries. With that in mind, they are the minimum basic standards. The OIE guidelines offer significantly less protection than animal welfare standards enforced in Australia. They allow practices to take place in foreign markets that would be illegal in Australia. These guidelines do not require animals to be stunned before slaughter and do not prevent the roping, tripping and casting of animals.
Ultimately the Australian Greens believe that there is no way to implement safeguards that can guarantee the humane transport and slaughter of animals in overseas markets and we do not believe that the implementation of a traceability system will adequately prevent Australian animals from cruel treatment. We can see this in the latest debacle that has unfolded before our eyes, where sheep are sent over, claims of disease are made and then what we do we do? 'Oh, we'll take them to Pakistan; we can guarantee the safeguards there, can't we?' No, we cannot—we have seen that.
My office certainly received a huge number of phone calls and emails from people expressing their concern—and I know the export company concerned did. Well, I am relying on media for that. We have seen media reports where they also received a large number of concerns. I am sure they were very frustrated, because they could not control what was going on. They could not guarantee the sheep under their control were being appropriately treated. We cannot guarantee that.
We need to look at how to improve and increase processing in Australia. We should be able to support local producers and jobs. The community benefits of processing meat in Australia have been underestimated for too long and have been talked down by the live export industry. Live exports compete and undermine Australia's ability to look at domestic processing, both in the beef and sheep markets. This leads to lost processing opportunities in Australia. Senator Rhiannon, when she was opening the debate on this legislation, referred to some work that was done by ACIL Tasman on the opportunity to do processing in Australia. A report in 2009 by ACIL Tasman reported that WA sheep processors estimated that the number of jobs in meat processing would increase to about 4,000 from the 2,000 then employed in WA if sheep were processed domestically rather than exported live.
Taking into account multiplier effects, it is likely that the increase in employment would in fact be much higher than that. In 2012 ACIL Tasman estimated that the construction of an abattoir in Northern Australia, which would provide Northern Australian cattle producers with an alternative market for their cattle and eliminate their reliance on the live cattle trade, would create about 160 to 170 jobs directly and an estimated 1,300 jobs indirectly in the region.
Senator Sterle touched on this issue and was implying that we had rocks in our heads if we thought that that sort of thing was going to happen and also highlighted the importance of jobs in the Kimberley. I could not agree more with him about the importance of jobs in the Kimberley. But if you look at where the jobs are being generated in the Kimberley, if you look at where the highest employment rates in the Kimberley are, the four biggest industries by employment in the Kimberley are healthcare and social assistance, public administration and safety, education and training and the retail trade. Followed closely behind retail trade is accommodation/tourism and food and construction. So food is in there but lower down. That is where the job opportunities are.
My point here is that we should be investing in alternatives to live cattle exports. If we did we would generate more jobs. Why isn't the government looking at the tariffs, subsidies, quotas and other distortions of the market in the countries to which we export that actually distort the market, so it is more favourable to them to import live cattle or sheep rather than meat? The government need to be reviewing barriers in the countries that we export to and start discussing with these countries removing those barriers to the meat trade so that there are not the inappropriate distortions which favour live export rather than the chilled meat trade.
Where the recent debate started of course was over the appalling treatment of cattle that we saw last year. The debate has focused heavily on that trade to Indonesia. A couple of years ago, as was very quickly touched on, the Indonesians brought in a rule that you could no longer trade in cattle over 350 kilograms because they wanted to take those cattle and fatten them up in Indonesia. Around that time they clearly said that they wanted Indonesia to be self-sustaining and they would then base their decisions, on live imports or on bringing cattle in, on that. Of course, this year they made that announcement and the industry seems to be shocked by it. We need to be looking at how we can be processing our meat in Australia rather than being shocked every time the Indonesians think about how they make their own trade sustainable. That is why we believe government needs to be doing more to look at what are the barriers to our being able to improve our exports of chilled meat or processed meat, which would generate jobs in Australia rather than exporting those jobs overseas. There is some work that has been done on that and we need to be doing more.
I would also like to touch on the issue of the Greens and agriculture. I find in particular Senator Sterle's comments rather a joke, quite frankly, coming from the government, coming from Labor, who do not understand agriculture, do not understand the bush, have wrecked Caring for our Country funding, have moved away from a sustainable approach, are moving away from a planning approach, are moving away from a landscape scale planning approach and landscape scar repair, have moved away from funding research that is absolutely critical to agriculture if it is going to move into the future and have moved away from funding extension officers—all the very things that are going to keep our agriculture sustainable into the future. They are not adequately addressing the need for research which is going to be absolutely critical in the future.
I am really sick of arguments that try to denigrate the Greens rather than actually deal with the issue at heart: a truly sustainable agriculture that is competitive. We need that research so that our agriculture is competitive, but it has to be sustainable. It has to have that leading edge. Where is the money for investment in that research? That has been cut and I have had a lot of farming organisation representatives at my door talking about the need for improved research and about the need to make our agriculture sustainable and competitive. We do understand that clearly and we also understand about generating jobs in Australia and not exporting them overseas, which is what the live export trade does. We believe we need to be processing much more in Australia and we need to be focusing on how we can support further processing facilities in Australia.
Articulated economic analysis shows how we can improve job prospects in Australia and we can benefit producers if we can do more processing in Australia, and that, of course, will help regional communities. We support the development of these facilities that are sustainable, meet environmental development standards and are supported by local communities. We believe we need support across the board for this to happen and for investment to be made in the long-term future of the livestock industry. We believe that we can build up a market that demands high-quality frozen meat and that Australia needs to be able to step up and help generate and meet that demand. Processing animals in Australia protects them from inhumane treatment that we would otherwise continue to see because we cannot guarantee that welfare standards are met. We have seen that we cannot rely on the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System. We have now seen that we cannot rely on that. Yes, the government is carrying out an investigation but it cannot adequately enforce these standards overseas.
We need to be moving to ensure that the cruelty that happens to these animals does not continue to happen. There needs to be a multipronged approach to this. I accept that the processing market needs significant investment and that it needs time to develop, but we do not want to see the continuation of deaths, like those of the 19,000 sheep that died at sea in 2011 or the 1,000 cattle that died in transport, and we do not want to see images of the cruel and inhumane treatment that occurs in some overseas abattoirs to the animals that do survive those journeys splashed across not only Australia but also across the world.
The government wanted us to think that when they put this assurance scheme in place cruelty would end and we would not see it anymore. Well, it did not end. It has continued and nobody can guarantee that it will end, because we cannot ensure enforcement of this system overseas. It is unfortunate, and it distresses me immensely, that we cannot and that we will see those images again. As I said, we do not know what has happened to those remaining sheep that were alive just last week. We just do not know what has happened to them.
This sort of trade cannot continue. We need to be looking at how we can foster truly sustainable agriculture in this country. That requires thinking outside the box. That requires investment. That requires talking to our trading partners and looking at those barriers. We are 'supposed' to be doing that in this country, and our agriculture has suffered because of that. Talk to the apple growers, and we were talking in this chamber earlier today about pineapples. We need to be doing things differently and we need to be protecting animals while growing sustainable agriculture in this country.
Senator FURNER (Queensland) (17:21): I firstly rise to indicate that I concur wholeheartedly with the comments of my good friend Senator Sterle in his contribution to this debate on the Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill 2012. In his contribution he made the relevant point that we in this chamber love animals. I love animals so much that at one stage, when all my children were at home, I was fearful that, rather than having a home, we were looking at having a zoo because of the number of animals we had at our place. No-one in this chamber would have been unmoved or untouched by those significant and horrific scenes that Four Corners aired not long ago or by the recent media about what occurred with sheep in Pakistan.
I also rise to speak against Senator Lee Rhiannon's bill to introduce a complete ban on the live export trade. We need to look at some of the factors involved in this. It is not an opportunity to say, 'We stop live export trade and we fix this problem.' There is a multitude of issues. The contributions made both by Senator Sterle and by Senator Scullion this afternoon were relevant and touched on the important parts of why this is such a problem.
Our government is committed to live export trade where acceptable animal welfare outcomes can be achieved. It supports jobs, which was focused on this afternoon—certainly Senator Sterle and Senator Scullion reported on the number of jobs in this industry. The figures that I am aware of relate to 13,000 Australian jobs, which contribute $1.8 billion to Australia's GDP each year. I think it was Senator Scullion who reflected on Indigenous employment in the north of Australia. I can relate to that with regard to employment in North Queensland. As you would be aware, Madam Acting Deputy President Boyce, in North Queensland there are numerous Indigenous stock men and women who work in the meat processing industry. If we do away with live exports, what will happen to those jobs across that industry? What will happen to the Indigenous jobs in those areas and to the training for them? The list goes on in respect of what will occur in those rural communities across Northern Australia that rely on the live export trade for income and employment.
Then, of course, there is the flow-on. What will happen to the flow-on, incidental, areas that rely upon this trade in some of those small remote towns in northern Australia should you wipe out this industry? Does it come about that you wipe out those towns as well? We know what happens when you take major industries out of some of those small locations in the country: some of those towns become ghost towns.
The government's reforms have placed animal welfare at the heart of the livestock export trade by seeking to ensure that adverse animal welfare incidents are minimised. We acted decisively when we became aware of the footage that showed what was occurring in the abattoirs in Indonesia. The reforms have provided for a regulatory process to address incidents if they do arise in order to minimise the disruption to trade and improve animal welfare outcomes. The Australian government does not support action such as that proposed by this bill, which will restrict agricultural trade and undermine both the flexibility of our industries and the food security of our partner countries. The Australian government also plays a role in opening up new markets and in maintaining market access to all agricultural exports, including boxed, beef and other livestock exports.
Australia supports animal welfare, with capacity building for importing countries. Some markets prefer to import livestock. Some of the comments made this afternoon have referred to cultural and religious parts of livestock exports. I had time this morning to get hold of a friend of mine who came from the Middle East, a Muslim, Moustefa Obeid. I rang him and said: 'Moustefa, what is the issue about live exports? What is your opinion on this subject?' He indicated to me some of the processes in the Middle East. I asked him: 'If you were still in the Middle East'—because he is now an Australian citizen—'what would happen if you were going to market this morning to pick up your meat for this evening's meal?' He said that his preference would be to purchase meat on a day when he could buy fresh slaughtered meat in the market. The main reason for this, and it is indicative across the board in many locations, is that in some of the small towns and villages they do not have capacity for refrigeration or storage of frozen or chilled meat.
They also have a preference for fresh, slaughtered meats. In fact what will soon happen in the Middle East is an event that Moustefa explained to me is called Eid al-Adha, which means in English 'sacrifice day'. That will occur soon, and around 3,000 Muslims will slaughter sheep, goats and cows. Who are we as Australian citizens to judge what should occur in a different culture or what should occur in a different country? Who are we to cast upon them our opinions, our beliefs, our culture that they should accept only frozen or chilled meat as their choice for their meal? It is not our position to do that. We should be learning from their culture and be understanding that what they wish to have is from a different culture, and we should accept that. I think that is a point we need to recognise. It is not just a case of changing their diet, their culture or their position on how they wish to have their meal of an evening, whether it be in the Middle East or whether it be in Indonesia, our closest Muslim neighbour.
After that horrific event in Indonesia, the government's position on stunning became quite clear. We believe that stunning delivers better animal welfare outcomes when used appropriately. That is one thing we acted upon decisively, to ensure that animals were slaughtered humanely and appropriately in those abattoirs in Indonesia at the time that the Four Corners footage was aired. Also, the government must be sensitive to cultural and religious needs both domestically and internationally.
I want to raise another point about the Middle East. I have been fortunate enough to travel there on a couple of occasions. In fact, I was in Afghanistan last year. You look at the environment, you look at the markets when you are going through the capital of Afghanistan, Kabul, and you accept that that is their position, that is their culture—that is, how they kill their meals, how they kill animals to supply their meals for the day. Once again, we should not cast aspersions or create legislation dealing with how we control the way their culture should occur or should change. The other point goes to the Muslim culture. It is a growing population across the globe. We need to recognise that this is going to be a growing industry, the live export industry, for the Muslim religion and for Muslim communities across our globe. I forget the figures in respect of Indonesia, but the number of Indonesians up in that region who no doubt rely upon this particular trade is quite significant.
With regard to Indonesia, I make these points. Once again, the demand for beef is growing. They do not have enough local cattle to meet their requirements, so really Australia is ideally placed to supply Australian cattle, such as Brahmins, and we are well-suited to the tropical conditions of Indonesia. In 2010, 521,002 head, or 60 per cent, of all Australian cattle were exported to Indonesia. We need to be aware of what our environment is and what our neighbours need. As an appropriate trading partner, we need to make sure that we do not disadvantage them or disadvantage the trade we have between Australia and Indonesia. On that note, I will stop there because I am aware that Senator Gallacher is wishing to make a contribution to this debate.
Senator BACK (Western Australia—Deputy Opposition Whip in the Senate) (17:31): I am delighted to contribute to this debate on the Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill 2012, and obviously I will oppose the legislation that has been put before the chamber. I wish to speak on three or four issues: the sheep in the Middle East, the cattle in North Australia, the economics, the welfare and the risks for Australia.
Let me start with the sheep situation. I can correct some of the misapprehensions and I can alert the Senate to the facts with regard to questions raised by Senators Rhiannon and Siewert this afternoon. First of all, the animals that left Fremantle in early September on the two ships—the Al Shuwaikh and the Ocean Drover—were of the highest quality. And I can assure Senator Rhiannon that the veterinary services and those overseeing those livestock were of the highest order; they were highly reputable people with many, many years experience. I can also assure the chamber that it is a time of year, particularly in a year when we have not had the best of late winter and early spring rain conditions, that produces fantastic quality sheep for the market.
The first of the vessels, the Al Shuwaikh, was offshore at Bahrain for seven hours. It became apparent to Kuwait Livestock, who operate the vessel, that because of political and other market opportunities in Bahrain, the shipper had no opportunity to sell sheep and so they went straight on to Kuwait and the sheep were offloaded in Kuwait. This allows me to make the point that the Kuwaitis have been purchasing livestock from us for 42 years. They are not fools. If the quality of the product that arrives at the other end is poor, there are plenty of other buyers in the market.
Let me now come to the Ocean Drover. The Ocean Drover, run by Wellard, first of all offloaded sheep in the port of Mina Qaboos in the city of Muscat in Oman. The condition of the sheep? Excellent. The ship then went on to Qatar, where the second consignment was offloaded. The condition of the sheep? Excellent. The losses on board were negligible and minimal, and in fact the shipper was very, very proud of the consignment. I have been into both of those ports over the years, and I know the value of the product regarded by those buyers. The sheep got into Bahrain and there were certain circumstances, beyond the control of the shipper or the exporter, associated with what I would call political and market institutions in Bahrain. The decision was taken to not send the sheep into Bahrain, so the Ocean Drover went on to the port of Karachi. I do give DAFF and the minister credit for the work undertaken for that port to be accredited.
Let me assure the chamber that the sheep were offloaded. They were in perfectly good condition. They went into the feedlot via a very trusted buyer, PK Importers, and at no time were those sheep of any concern. That particular organisation, ironically, runs an abattoir beside the feedlot built to Australian and international conditions of the highest order. What this chamber must understand is that those sheep—this was days after the Ocean Drover had left to come back to Australia—were hijacked from Wellard and from the buyer, PK. They were hijacked and the Australian and Pakistani overseers of those animals were driven out of the feedlot at gunpoint. So we are not talking about a breakdown of ESCAS or anything else; we are talking about an illegal activity.
To help Senator Siewert and answer her question: as recently as 5.25 this afternoon, not 10 minutes ago, I spoke to the senior manager of Wellard, who assures me that all of the sheep—he was standing in the middle of the sheep when I spoke to him 10 minutes ago—were fine. He said to me: 'The sheep are in excellent condition. All feeding, all drinking and all established.' There was a period of five to six days when illegal activities took place, until such time as a veterinary panel examined the sheep and found them to not have any signs of disease. Samples have gone on to Pirbright in England. I am not in a position at this point in time to alert the Senate as to what the results of those particular tests have been, but I do not have any cause for concern.
I do want to note that it is no different to the human circumstance. As we all know, we have terrible circumstances with hijackings and kidnappings around the world. We deal with them but we do not look to try to close something down. We did not try to close down our involvement in the International Criminal Court in Libya when Melinda Taylor in July was unfortunately detained until such time as we were able to get her out, or when Pippi Bean, an aid worker in Libya, was detained in September. This is no different to that circumstance. These animals were illegally taken away from those responsible.
Let me go onto the question of the live export trade and trade in the north of Australia. Abattoirs in the north of Australia all closed well before the live export trade started.
The first shipment to go out of Darwin was in early December 1991, regrettably the day of the Dili massacre. By that time the abattoirs, as listed by Senator Sterle—in Broome, Derby, Wyndham, Kununurra and Katherine—had all long closed. Because of the quality of the animals and the economic circumstances and the seasonality of the industry in that place, they could not be sustained.
As a result of the brucellosis and TB eradication program of the 1970s, all of the old Bos taurus cattle, the British breed cattle, in that area were removed and replaced by the Bos indicus animal. Features of the Bos indicus, or Zebu or Brahman type animal, include surviving well in tropical conditions, tolerating heat, and looking after their calves tremendously well. But, more importantly, the young animal does not fatten in the shortened season in the north of Australia. Therefore, across the Territory, across the Kimberley or across North Queensland, we are not going to see a plethora of abattoirs re-established. If AAco can set up an abattoir to kill old bulls and cows, that is fantastic. If others can set up abattoirs in limited areas, that is fantastic.
But let me dispel the myth that seems to be around this place that all that pastoralists and farmers want to do is produce a product for the live export trade. We all know that farmers, pastoralists and graziers want to produce a product that realises the best possible return to their operation. If that happens to be putting them through the meat chain, that is all well and good. If it happens to be putting them through the live export trade, that is all well and good. My point is that, because of limited seasonality, because of the very short supply of labour in abattoirs across Australia generally, we are not going to see, economically, abattoirs being re-established in the north of Australia. So, for the purposes of breed, for the purposes of economics, we are not going to see it.
Mention has been made here today and in other places about Indonesia wanting to be self-sufficient. Agriculture Minister Suswono said in Darwin in 2011 that he saw Indonesian self-sufficiency being the breeding of the cattle in the north of Australia and the fattening of the cattle in Indonesia. Unfortunately, as a result of the banning of the trade last year and as a result of the halving of quotas this year, what have we seen? Senator Siewert would understand this as well as I do because she has studied animal breeding and animal production. The animals that should have been put into the reproduction and breeding programs were, in fact, put through the meat chains. Therefore, we have seen cows and heifers that should have been used to build up their breeding herds being slaughtered because we did not have the supply.
Through you, Madam Acting Deputy President, to Senator Rhiannon: I do not know where you got your figures from that say we have seen a significant increase in the export of meat to Indonesia this year. You may have heard a question I asked Senator Ludwig only in the last sitting period where I asked him to explain why it was that the number of live animals halved since last year and the supply of beef halved since last year. That brings me to the point associated with the question of meat versus live exports. It is not meat versus anything. The simple fact of the matter is that much of our trade in meat, particularly to the Middle East markets over years, has followed and been complementary to our live export trade. When, for political reasons in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s, when I was involved in this trade, we lost the live export trade to Saudi Arabia, the simple thing that happened was that our sale of meat to Saudi Arabia also stopped. We have seen it in Indonesia this year, we have seen it in the Middle East in the past, and that will be the circumstance.
If I may, let me address the question about meat and live exports. The simple fact I learnt this afternoon in my inquiry is that, at one of our biggest sheep abattoirs in Western Australia, at the moment you have to wait six to 12 weeks to get animals into the meatworks in Katanning. So, the assertion that we have the circumstance that abattoirs are sitting around with nothing to do because animals are being exported is simply not the case.
I heard Senator Rhiannon in her contribution talk about the fact that chilled meat exports were $5.7 billion versus $845 million for live exports. Of course, that is the case for a couple of reasons. The first is that the live export sales are right down because of the problems that we have encountered. The $5.7 billion of chilled meat exports are not to the markets that we might otherwise have been providing, such as the Middle East and Indonesia; that is the increase in beef sales to places like the United States of America, Korea and Japan, and let us hope that goes on.
I could show any number of graphs to this chamber which show emphatically, particularly now that we have the figures out of Queensland, that over a long period of time, the number of animals exported live do not impact on the number of animals that are sent to slaughter. These are points that must be addressed in this particular debate.
I turn to the quoting of the infamous ACIL Tasman report, which some of our colleagues have mentioned here this afternoon. Let me tell you about the ACIL Tasman report very simply. First of all, it was a desktop exercise done on a computer. There was no consultation at all with any Western Australian sheep producers, who were apparently going to be far better off. There was no acknowledgement of the fact that for 40 years the competition between the live export trade and the meat trade underpinned pricing. At a committee hearing last year, at which Senator Siewert was a participant, the President of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association, Mr Gillam, gave us evidence. In that very week he sold live sheep to the live trade and to the meat trade—the same line of sheep—and the price was 18 per cent better for those that went to live export. Therefore, there is no case to say that the ACIL Tasman study has any credibility.
If I may, let me debunk completely the credibility of that study. This is what they surmised and assumed: if you have two buyers in a market—in this case, the meat trade and the live export trade—and remove one of those, that being the live export trade, there will not be a change of price from the butchers buying for the meat trade.
Well, I do not know how much ACIL Tasman know about the meat trade, but it has always been said that the butcher is one of the best dressed and best conditioned people in the town. The simple fact of the matter is that there would never have been a commodity in which, when pricing is competitive, when one competitor moves out of the market, the buyer continues to pay at the same level.
In the time available to me, I wish to go back to the question of welfare, because it is critically important to this whole debate and discussion. You have heard me say it in this place and I will go on saying it—that is, of the 109 countries which export live animals around the world, there is one country, and that is Australia, that has invested time, money, people and effort for donkey's years in our target markets to try and improve standards of nutrition, husbandry, management, welfare, housing and transport. There is one country that has done that over time. Why is it that this is the country that is being vilified so damningly in this circumstance?
If I go back to feedlot conditions, the quality of the feedlots in Indonesia today is world's best. Why? It is because Australian expertise helped them. When you look at the ship transport, the country that leads the world in standards of ship design, ship maintenance, is Australia, and one of my pleas and hopes over time, as the oil industry has moved to double-skinning of their ships to avoid leakage and to avoid contamination, has been that, using the guidelines of AMSA, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, and others associated, we may be able to do what we have done in the rest of the live export world, and that is to be the catalyst for improvements in standards of shipping around the world.
I have heard Senator Rhiannon refer to an accident which occurred offshore Brazil this year with a ship. But, of course, it was not a ship that had anything to do with Australia. It was not registered in Australia, it did not come to Australia and they were not Australian stock. Senator Rhiannon was probably quite right to draw attention to the fact that an accident had happened with livestock on a Brazilian ship. I would have hoped that Senator Rhiannon might have gone on and said, 'But it wasn't anything to do with Australia.'
That brings me to the point of mortalities at sea. The figures that have been presented each six months in this place indicate that 0.2 per cent mortalities occur with cattle in transport around the world from Australia—
Senator Rhiannon interjecting—
Senator BACK: I am about to give you the sheep figures, thank you very much, Senator Rhiannon. It is 0.8 per cent. I can assure you, Madam Acting Deputy President, because I have done the figures often enough, that the mortality rate of sheep in the paddock is no different to that on the ships. Senator Rhiannon, through you, Madam Acting Deputy President, I have travelled on the ships. I have watched the increase in body weight of the consignment of these particular animals. You must accept an invitation, get on a ship and go and experience this for yourself.
It is probably the only issue I will take with Senator Sterle, as a matter of fact. He mentioned the circumstance with Egypt when the previous Howard government banned the trade. It took a veterinarian to come into this Senate and to have a look at that footage from 2007 to realise that neither were they Australian cattle. They had no link to this country. They were Friesian bulls. We do not export Friesian bulls. I then made my inquiries to find out that in that year of 2007 we had not exported a single animal to Egypt. Yet, at that time, the decision was taken.
Have we been able, with others, to increase standards? Of course we have. Do we need to continue increasing standards? Of course we need to increase standards. But is this going to happen if Australia exits the trade? Of course it is not going to happen. As Senator Furner just said, what sort of an insult would it be to any of us if we went to buy a commodity or a product and someone said, 'You will have that product as we see fit.' We just would not buy it. And let me address this question about frozen and chilled meat, and the question of subsidies and tariffs, as I have heard them mentioned this afternoon. Why is it that these Middle Eastern countries subsidise the live product? It is because it goes to low socioeconomic families in the Middle East and in Indonesia—those who do not have refrigeration. So there are two good reasons. One is their own preference and the second is the lack of refrigeration.
Let me assure the chamber that we are not the only supplier of product into these markets. We now find Sudan has taken away Australia's market. We find that Georgia is now in there selling. South Africa is in there selling. The Argentine is in there selling. Hungary is in there selling. Does anyone think for one minute that if we are caused to exit the live export trade we are going to see anything other than a diminishing of standards in those countries? I can assure you, Madam Acting Deputy President, if we lose the live export trade, we lose any opportunity for the boxed meat, be it frozen or be it chilled. I can assure you that that is the case. We will lose that particular trade.
One of the most disturbing things I have learned in the last few days is that the country of India has now become the world's biggest exporter of beef. It happens also to have the world's largest number of animals. You might ask me: 'Why is that important, Senator Back?' The reason is simple: India is endemic for foot-and-mouth disease, and we know from our own research going back many, many years—and if you are interested or concerned, I can show you the information and the evidence—that, when meat goes into a target market from a country that has foot-and-mouth disease, the risk and the fear is that foot-and-mouth disease will follow, that foot-and-mouth disease will go from India and back into Indonesia, where it was until the 1980s, and that it will not be long before it is in this country.
If anyone is concerned about animal welfare, animal cruelty and the impact of a disease on animals, one day I will come into this chamber and I will explain to you the clinical signs of foot-and-mouth disease in cloven-hooved animals. We do not know what the impact would be. We do know, however, that the estimation in the first year alone would be a $16,000 million direct impact on this economy. That is nothing to do with tourism, incidentally. That is the direct cost.
I oppose the bill for the reasons I have stated.
Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (17:52): I have listened with great interest to this continuous debate on the Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill 2012 and applaud the comments from both sides of the argument. But I go back a bit in history to the First Fleet, which arrived here with a bull calf, four cows, a number of pigs and chickens and sheep. Since then, our civilisation has grown alongside a livestock industry. We will note that in 1894 the Queensland herd was reduced to 2½ million from seven million. They had a drought.
If you want to talk about animal cruelty you have to look at the implications of not being able to export your product, to get your stuff to a market where there is a demand. Can you imagine the catastrophic vision if we were to see two or three million cattle or sheep dying in a drought in this country because we had closed off a viable market? It would be absolutely catastrophic. If we are really on about animal cruelty, and if we really do care about feeding the populations to the north of us and the population of Australia, we need to be a little bit fair dinkum about this bill.
I do not doubt the integrity of the people who want to change the world in terms of the way civilisation deals with cattle, sheep, pigs, chickens. I took my granddaughter down the backyard the other day to pick some peas and carrots, and she was thrilled. A generation ago you might have plucked a chicken out of the coop and chopped its head off. That does not happen anymore. Society has changed its view about slaughtering. Most of us would be appalled if we went to an Australian abattoir—and we have the highest standards. As Senator Furner said, we do get our food—our meat and produce—from a Coles or Woolies on almost every corner. As he very eloquently said, that is not available to the populations to the north of us where they struggle to get the proteins necessary to survive the day.
This is absolutely well intentioned legislation but in my humble view catastrophic in its effect. Senator Back is a man of great experience in this area. I chaired the investment committee of the TWC, a fund which had an investment in the Colonial Agricultural Company which was overseeing the production, if you like, of 125,000 to 128,000 head of cattle. They only knew how many cattle they had when, after the wet season, they would do a muster and count them. Very quickly they would take those low-weight cattle that were so lean they were not really fit for slaughter at an abattoir and the production of boxed meat. They would take the cattle on the safest and quickest route to a port and, in those days, export them to the Philippines, Indonesia or whatever market was available.
The reality is that we have coexisted with agricultural husbandry for the whole length of Australian settlement. We have not always had a great record in it but we are the world's leaders. Were we not to export to Indonesia or any of our northern neighbours then that void would be quickly filled. Argentina and Brazil are two countries. It is unlikely there would be protests in Argentina or Brazil against the export of their cattle. We have put in place systems which are world class. We know through the contribution of Senator Back and the contributions to a number of inquiries that we are world leaders in this space.
If we were to go to the economic impact, I have spent a reasonable amount of my time in the Northern Territory, long enough to have witnessed the Gurindji strike at Wave Hill where Aboriginal stockmen struck for the right to get award wages. They were good, efficient pastoral workers. Unfortunately, that strike did not give them the ultimate outcome that they wanted, but we do see increasing numbers of Aboriginal stockmen. We see increasingly Indigenous employment in this area being a successful life-changer in Indigenous communities. We all know that the day a person gets a job is the day that the household changes. Were we not to export in the northern half of Australia, as Senator Sterle and others have said, it would be absolutely catastrophic for Indigenous employment.
On top of that, what about the people who came to the livestock inquiry in Darwin and who poured out their heartfelt tales to the inquiry? They were people who spent their lives in the pastoral industry, who had a great commitment to animal husbandry, had a great commitment to world's best practice and had great relationships with Indonesia. Are we to throw generations of work, and the opportunity for future generations of Indigenous people, away because we cannot enforce our standards on another market? We do not attempt to do that in any other area. We do not attempt to tell anybody how they should buy their product or in what shape it should be.
We have a good, genuine, progressive responsibility to ensure there is maximum animal safety, that there is maximum productivity through that chain being efficient, to enable those animals to be transported safely. I know that every livestock carrier in the north of Australia is paid on the basis that he gets the cattle there in a good shape. They do not just get in a truck and roar off. You do not transport animals that way. You are paid on the basis of getting everything in full in one piece to the appropriate place. As we speak there are probably hundreds of trucks transporting cattle around the rural parts of Australia and they do it very efficiently. Would we throw all of those people out of work—people who supply the tyres and the oil, and those who work as mechanics on those trucks?
It is an integral part of rural Australia. We do very well from slaughtering cattle. We do very well from boxed meat. Where it is the appropriate type of animal for that product to be boxed and exported then we do that. The latest statistics from August 2012 say that we slaughtered 597,000. (Time expired)
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Order! The time for this debate has expired.