Oct 15, 2018

Inspector-General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports Bill 2018 – Second Reading

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (11:26): I rise to speak in support of the Inspector-General of Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports Bill 2018, moved by my friend and colleague the member for Hunter, Joel Fitzgibbon. This would reintroduce an inspector-general, a position that was let lapse by the Abbott government when it was elected in 2013. The reintroduction of an inspector-general would see the further strengthening of our live export regulatory system. It builds upon Labor’s proud achievement of creating the Export Supply Chain Assurance System in 2011, which was in response to a Four Corners report that recorded atrocious acts of animal cruelty within Indonesian abattoirs.

For a number of years now, ESCAS has effectively enforced animal welfare standards in other countries. While ESCAS is a great Labor achievement, more needs to be done to prevent future incidents of animal cruelty. For example, the shocking footage obtained by 60 Minutes on 8 April this year exposed the hideous conditions that Australian sheep were being subjected to during long-haul live export voyages to the Middle East. Unfortunately, this is not a one-off event. The 60 Minutesfootage covered onboard treatment of live sheep over a series of voyages. Upon seeing the original footage, the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud, said:

I’ve seen that footage and I was absolutely shocked and gutted … This cannot go on.

He continued:

We saw sheep that basically died from a heat event that were left and decayed, that were unable to get to water and food, and it disturbs me greatly that this has happened.

If that is the case then the government must commit to immediately halting the northern live sheep trade, phasing it out completely within five years, as Labor has pledged to do. During the five-year transition period, Labor will impose the highest regulatory standards. Labor will work with farmers, unions and industry on a strategic red meat industry plan to do more value-adding here in Australia. This will be good for farmers. It will be good for animal welfare standards and good for the Australian economy. Labor will end the live export of sheep and Australia will be better off for it.

There can be no doubt that appointing an inspector-general of animal welfare and live animal exports is integral to preventing further cases of animal abuse, such as the kind that was seen in Indonesia in 2011 and during long-haul live export voyages earlier this year. Not only does this bill and the appointment of an inspector-general have the support of the caucus of the Labor Party; importantly, it has the support of the live export industry itself. So it’s hard to see why the government is so opposed to this practical measure. The only people opposed to this bill are some of those opposite in the deeply divided rabble that is the ATM government of Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison.

Indeed, it’s a fact that the Liberal member for Farrer, Sussan Ley, introduced her own private member’s bill in May to stop live sheep exports entirely. Ironically, the member for Farrer has now withdrawn her support from voting for this bill. The fact is that a majority of this parliament—of the House of Representatives and the Senate—supports this legislation. So why is it that it is not going through this parliament? This is a failure of our democracy if it doesn’t happen.

Our animals need support and our agricultural sector needs strong and sustainable regulation. Both of these measures can be achieved by supporting this legislation. And the parliament needs to wake up to how angry the Australian population are about these issues not being addressed. Anyone who looks at that footage can’t possibly say that this is okay to just continue. This should not be a partisan issue; we should be bringing on this bill for a vote and we should be carrying it through both houses of parliament. I commend the bill to the House.