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Speech: Australian Livestock Export Corporation - Consideration

Speeches in Parliament
Lee Rhiannon 12 May 2017

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Senator RHIANNON (New South Wales) (18:50): I move:

That the Senate take note of the document.

The funding agreement from 2017-2021 between the Commonwealth of Australia and the Australian Livestock Export Corporation goes through many aspects of the work of this industry; from research and development to one issue that we really should have should have got on top of by now, which is the live export trade. Here we see some of the key players, like LiveCorp and Meat and Livestock Australia Limited, and the role that they play. How they see their future is set out in detail in this document in various ways.

This reminds us of the gross failure of successive governments—Labor and Liberal-National—in dealing with this industry. It is where we could so easily have a win-win—a win in terms of ending the extreme cruelty that is involved in the live export trade, and a win for Australia in terms of jobs and the economy, particularly in regional areas. The standard-bearer for those who back that trade is the Deputy Prime Minister himself, Mr Barnaby Joyce. He is out there saying how much effort he will put into ensuring that this live export trade grows—and every time he says that, he is further selling out regional and rural Australia, who have been done over. When this industry was largely the boxed chilled meat trade—which was just getting off the ground—the abattoirs supplied the domestic meat trade in Australia. It really killed that off. So many abattoirs were closed across northern and regional Australia—thousands and thousands of jobs were lost. It was so irresponsible. The Liberals and Nationals really have got so much to answer for on this.

On the issue of cruelty, we need to remind ourselves of how ruthless this trade is. And when I give these figures, it is a reminder also of how unnecessary it is. Every day, thousands of animals are enduring terrible suffering, often dying on horrific ship journeys from Australia to the export markets. In recent years, we have seen some real horror stories about the cruelty that happens when animals from Australia reach the export markets in a number of countries. But the cruelty starts when they get on the ship, often within Australia; I acknowledge that. Those ship journeys are just so extreme: with the stress that it puts the bodies of these animals under, day after day; with many animals subject to a very slow death after enduring great agony with broken limbs; and with their fear of where they are and the distress that comes with being packed in. Across the decades, tens of thousands of animals have also been burnt alive on ships—73,000 sheep in just one fire on the Maysora in 2011, just six years ago. This trade is ruthless. And it is unnecessary.

I want to move onto the other area where we could have a win—as I have said, we could have a win by ending the cruelty. But we could also have a win by expanding the boxed chilled trade in meat from this country—that is where the international growth in meat is. Australia is missing out on it, because of the obsession that people like Barnaby Joyce—and others in his party, and some in the Liberals—have; people who, for various reasons, want to push and push this live export trade that is selling out regional and rural Australia.

A 2015 industry conference was told that the business case for supporting live exports to Indonesia had collapsed. The costs had increased by up to five times in the previous eight years to 2015 to produce a kilogram of beef through importing and feeding cattle than it did to import chilled, boxed, beef. The Indonesian issue was the one that blew up when Prime Minister Gillard was in office. What happened then in Indonesia is a reminder, too. I understand that they have come under enormous pressure, probably from the likes of Barnaby Joyce, but from various groupings within Australia, insisting that part of the deal in the Australia-Indonesia relationship has to include an expansion of the live export trade, when Indonesia itself had a long-term plan to phase out live exports so they could be more independent and have their own beef cattle in their own country. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.

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