Andrew Wilkie’s speech on the latest reports of brutality in the live animal export industry.
Australia can sometimes be a cruel and selfish country. Too many people are happy with, or at least prepared to turn a blind eye to, the government’s asylum seeker policy. Some people actually think the government’s May budget was fair, and, frankly, how many more episodes of animal cruelty are needed before the government shuts down the live export trade? To that end at least the previous government did improve things a little by introducing the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System. Even after ESCAS has been running for over two years there has not been a single charge laid against any exporter despite the repeated revelations of systemic cruelty in the live export industry. Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce claims that ESCAS has been an incredible success. Minister, it is not an incredible success when the atrocities keep happening, nor is it an incredible success when cruelty is inflicted again and again on Australian animals and no-one is held to account.
This is the reason why, in January, I travelled to Darwin at the invitation of the live export industry and accepted an offer to travel on a cattle ship to Indonesia. Of course the industry quickly reneged on the invitation and came up with every excuse under the sun as to why it could not go. Clearly this is an industry with something to hide. This is also why, in February this year, I introduced the Live Animal Export Prohibition (Ending Cruelty) Bill 2014, which would put an end to live animal exports from 2017 and would put in place improved animal welfare safety safeguards in the interim. This is my fourth legislative attempt to end the cruelty, and it is a terrible shame that the government did not care enough to list the bill for debate.
Live exports are systemically cruel, not in Australia’s economic self-interest and lack popular support. It is being left to organisations like Animals Australia to keep bringing the atrocities to people’s attention, even though it is in the government’s power to remedy things virtually immediately. Instead the government chooses to do nothing to end the cruelty, preferring instead to celebrate every growth in this vile trade. Such inaction is actually not in the government’s best interest because it will continue to face broad public condemnation so long as the cruelty continues, nor is inaction in the industry’s best interest because it will not survive over the longer term unless it is seen to be operating ethically. Inaction certainly, and most importantly, is not in the animals’ best interest because, after, all they are the ones who are suffering terribly.