This week in the federal parliament myself and Senators Hinch & Storer introduced our Animal Export Legislation Amendment (Ending Long‑haul Live Sheep Exports) Bill 2018 to the Senate.
Our priority in preparing this Bill is to end the shocking cruelty that tens of thousands of sheep are exposed to when they are exported for overseas slaughter. We have been working with animal welfare organisations, the meat workers’ union and other stakeholders to create a transition plan that is better for animals, better for Australian workers and better for farmers and local economies.
The footage that aired from the Awassi Express has created this latest wave of outrage and calls for a transition out of the industry, but this is far from the first horrific scandal we have witnessed.
One crew member and 40,000 sheep died in the 1980 Farid Fares disaster and one crew member and 67,000 sheep died in the 1996 Uniceb disaster. In 2006 live exports to Egypt were suspended after footage of animal cruelty was aired on 60 minutes. There were mass protests after footage of cruel treatment of live exports in Kuwait in 2010 and in Indonesia in 2011. The list goes on and on.
The crimes committed on the Awassi Express have caused a stronger and more sustained outcry of disgust because this time the footage of the suffering and death of thousands of animals was so graphic.
In the federal parliament the Greens have introduced Bills to end live exports in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2017. We’re working to make 2018 the year that the Australian parliament finally acts to end the cruelty and legislates for a transition plan out of the live export industry.
The past ten weeks have been a very interesting time in parliament, with members from across the political spectrum holding meetings, making calls and negotiating the fine print of how we put into legislation our transition plan to end live exports.
What has brought crossbench and major party MPs together is our understanding that the Australian public want to see an end to live exports. Now there is a significant grouping of MPs who have a strong desire to make this happen.
To reveal some of the inner workings of parliament, we actually came very close to passing legislation to end live exports in May this year. Myself, other MPs and animal welfare groups had been in a flurry of conversations and negotiations and it looked like we had the numbers to pass a Bill that would see Australia transition out of live sheep exports.
But on eighth May another upheaval hit parliament. Five MPs resigned due to the Section 44 citizenship saga. And just like that, we lost the numbers to pass this historic legislation.
But parliament is a place of flux. Months after the original footage was aired on 60 Minutes, the public outrage has not slackened. My office, and the offices of politicians across the country, have been inundated with emails and calls from concerned citizens wanting to see an end to this industry. And politicians are listening.
Senators Hinch, Storer and myself hope that we can harness the power of the public calls, emails and letters in parliament in the coming weeks as we introduce and debate our Bill. We are hopeful that because of those calls, emails and letters the Australian parliament will finally be ready to legislate a transition out of live sheep exports.
The cruelty in the live export trade is inherent, it cannot be regulated. No more chances. It’s time to end live exports.