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Speech: Department of Agriculture and Water Resources: Consideration

Speeches in Parliament
Lee Rhiannon 24 Mar 2017

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Senator RHIANNON (18:58): By leave—I move:

That the Senate take note of the report to parliament on livestock mortality during export by sea for the reporting period 1 July to 31 December 2016.

This is another troubling report about the livestock industry. Again we see—the figures are there—the inherent cruelty in the livestock export industry. It is a further reminder of the failed government policy in this area. It is a failed government policy, particularly in terms of animal cruelty and also in terms of the industry itself, because while we are exporting cattle overseas we are robbing jobs from regional Australia—thousands of jobs, in fact. That is why, if we had a government that had a commitment to rural and regional Australia, to jobs growth and to addressing the issue of animal cruelty—which goes hand in hand with this industry—we could have a win-win. So, about the report itself: Landmark Operations, on 27 April 2016, is linked to a number of deaths of the cattle it was exporting. Pneumonia and bloat were causes of death in the animals, both obviously extremely distressing for the animals involved. Also, what is not explained is that 35 cattle were euthanized in port due to being unfit to be discharged and, obviously, then slaughtered in that country for meat. Why did that happen? What were the conditions under which those animals were kept and treated while on board? What I found concerning in the report is that it states that the department took no regulatory action in relation to these mortality events.

Then there is Emanuel Exports from July last year. Heat stress is a common cause of death in live export ships and that was the main factor with regard to deaths here. The department, in this case, did require the exporter to amend what they call a comprehensive heat stress management plan, but what they are calling for should already have been in place. They are saying there should be further reduction in stock density on vessels, industrial fans to assist with ventilation and changing of the port rotation, and other aspects in the way the animals are treated. But this is where the whole ESCAS process—the Export Supply Chain Assurance Scheme—that has been put in place is just an absolute miserable failure. Here they are saying this is what should be done, but the ESCAS process has been in place since 2012 and we still have the department telling the exporters, 'You have to clean up your game.' Meanwhile, more animals die and more animals suffer. The North Australian Cattle Company was another one that is named in this report.

I want to go back to the ESCAS scheme, because it now coming into fifth year. We are know why ESCAS was brought in: to justify the live export trade. It was a way for the government to have an out so they could say, 'We have a scheme to address cruelty.' You cannot manage cruelty and the live export trade from a desk in Canberra—we have seen that time and time again, and these figures are further proof of that.

When I read these reports, they remind me of the work of Dr Lynn Simpson. She is a live export vet who was on 57 long-haul live export voyages and was eyewitness to much of the extreme suffering that is linked time and time again with this trade. It really highlights the Nationals, Liberals and Labor—but particularly the Nationals—not addressing this problem. Let's go directly to where the problem lies: the Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce. He has a conflict of interest here. He is so close to the big live-export traders that he is not willing to put effort into transitioning the industry to one that operates in Australia. This is where we could have massive jobs growth. Tens of thousands of jobs could be created if the government was willing to build more abattoirs. Abattoirs that once existed have been closed down to drive the live-export trade. It is time that the government got behind the chilled-box-meat tray. That is where we can drive jobs and reduce the animal cruelty that goes with this industry. (Time expired)


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