Mr WILKIE (Denison) (10:17): I move:
That this bill be now read a second time.
In essence, this bill would put an end to the live animal export trade from 1 July 2017 and in the interim would put in place improved animal welfare safeguards, and, in particular, between now and 1 July 2017 permits would only be granted for the export of Australian livestock if they were to be sent ultimately to overseas abattoirs that would stun animals before slaughter.
This is my fourth attempt in my short time in this place to restrict the live export trade and the third attempt to phase it out. Regrettably, none of the previous attempts were successful. On only one occasion did a bill ultimately come before this place for a decision and it was supported only by the member for Melbourne, and I thank him for that support. This time around, though, the bill really must be supported. It is beyond time for the live animal export trade to be wound up.
There are three compelling reasons why this bill must be supported. First and perhaps most important is that the live animal export trade is systemically cruel. In just the last three years, in fact, there have been at least 12 episodes of cruelty to Australian livestock either en route to or in other countries. In particular, in May 2011 there was a horrendous expose of cruelty to Australian cattle in Indonesia. In August 2011, it was sheep and cattle in Turkey; in February 2012, cattle again in Indonesia; in September 2012, sheep and cattle in Kuwait and Qatar; in October 2012, sheep in Pakistan; in December 2012, sheep in Israel; in January 2013, cattle in Mauritius; in February 2013, sheep in Kuwait; in May 2013, cattle and goats in Egypt and Malaysia; in June 2013, sheep in Lebanon, Jordan and Israel; in October 2013, sheep and cattle in Kuwait, Jordan and Mauritius; and, in December 2013, Australian cattle in Gaza.
Surely we do not need any more episodes, any more exposes, to see that the system is systemically cruel. The system is broken. If there had just been perhaps the episode in Indonesia that Four Corners famously publicised some three years ago now, if that had been a one-off, then perhaps we could have a different response to the trade. But, when you have episode after episode after episode in countries as diverse as Egypt, Israel and Turkey on one side of the globe, through to Pakistan, in South Asia, through to Indonesia, just near our borders, how much more evidence do Australians need to understand that the system is systemically cruel and has to be shut down?
Secondly, this trade is not in Australia’s economic self-interest. Every time a ship leaves our shores with live Australian stock on board, it is effectively shipping overseas the jobs of those who might process those animals in Australia. There is no doubt that the trade has, in effect, cannibalised the Australian processed red-meat industry. There is now not a single abattoir in Australia north of a line from Perth through to Townsville that is licensed to export meat overseas. There used to be numerous abattoirs in that half of Australia; now there are none.
Fortunately, the Australian Agricultural Company is in the process of building an abattoir just outside Darwin, which goes to show that, when a company puts its mind to it, a persuasive business case can be made for building abattoirs, reopening abattoirs, processing those animals in Australia and giving jobs to the Australians that might work in those abattoirs. Good research shows that, if the sheep that currently are shipped from Western Australia were in fact to be processed in Western Australia, that would create as many as 2,000 jobs in that sector in that state alone. If all of the cattle that are currently shipped out of the Northern Territory were processed in the Northern Territory, that would create as many as 1,000 jobs in the Northern Territory. It is clearly in our economic self-interest to process those animals in Australia.
There is no good reason why we do not do this. The Australian Agricultural Company, as I say, has made a business decision based on its assessment that it can be done in Australia, and it is building that new abattoir outside Darwin. I wish that company the best of fortune, the best of luck, with that business endeavour. Some people say that the animals have to be sent overseas live to be killed overseas on religious grounds. What the industry will not tell you, will not publicise, is that just last year some 450,000 sheep were processed in Australia in halal accredited abattoirs. The point is that it can be done; it just needs the political will to push the industry in that direction.
The third point I would make is that the trade lacks popular support. In August 2011, some 15,000 Australians protested nationally, voicing their opposition to the live animal export trade. In October 2012, some 20,000 Australians protested around the country, voicing their concern with the live trade. Opinion poll after opinion poll shows that a clear majority of Australians oppose this trade.
So why on earth is it so hard to get support in this place for a reform that would phase out and eventually shut down the industry and shift the industry completely to processing animals in this country? Why is it so hard? It escapes me. It is clearly systemically cruel. It is clearly not in Australia’s economic interest. It clearly does not have popular support.
So I would ask that this time—my fourth attempt to move legislation successfully in this place—all members get behind it and see the good sense in it. I am sure there are enough people of good heart in this place who care about animal welfare. But even if you do not care too much about animal welfare, at least care about Australia’s economic interest and employing Australians, getting Australians back into work in an area where they used to be very much employed.
I am mindful of the people who are involved in this industry. About eight per cent, I understand, of Australian cattle that are killed for meat are in the first instance exported live and processed overseas. In fact, only a few weeks ago, in late January, I flew to Darwin and I met with a number of people from the industry, including producers. I understand their concern with people like me and the member for Melbourne. I understand their concern with those of us who are trying to shut down the live trade and have those animals processed in Australia. I respect their point of view but I do not agree with it, and I ask those people who are currently depending on the industry to understand that their industry does not have a long-term future unless those animals start to be processed in this country. If they persist with the way the industry is currently operating, ultimately the industry will fold. I have no doubt about that. There are too many good reasons why the industry has to be wound up. So I say to those people in the industry: if you want to have a sustainable long-term prosperous future, then make the decisions now. Stop exporting these animals live; start insisting they go to abattoirs where they would be slaughtered in Australia.
I probably sound like a broken record in this place. It does escape me why, after so many attempts, there is so little support. I suggest that members in this place are completely and utterly out of step with the majority of public opinion. I suggest that the people in this place who are very quick to talk about the Australian economy, about getting people to work and about creating jobs are in fact missing the point when they get behind this industry which has been a job killer. If you want to get thousands of people back to work, then shut down the live animal export trade, get those abattoirs open and build new abattoirs. The Australian Agricultural Company at least sees the sense in it. That is where our future lies. Those who are continuing to support the trade as it is are flogging a dead horse, so to speak. They are supporting something that is fundamentally unsustainable. It will fold one day; it is just a matter of when. Thank you very much.