Producers urged to keep fighting

30 Jun, 2011 04:00 AM
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The live export protest march in Geraldton last week.
The live export protest march in Geraldton last week.

THE rallies against the Federal Government's decision to ban live exports to Indonesia continued with 300 people turning out in Geraldton last Friday.

Pastoralists and farmers along with politicians, including Liberal MP Barry Haase, Member for the Agricultural Region Brian Ellis, Member for Kimberley Carol Martin and Shadow Agriculture Minister Mick Murray gathered to help send a message to Canberra that the live export trade needed to be reopened.

Not only did farmers support the trade, they also threw their support behind Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).

The rally also condemned Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig for his lack of organisation and lack of urgency to fix the problem which is affecting hundreds of producers throughout WA.

Mr Ludwig wasn't the only politician who was put under pressure with questions raised over Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Prime Minister Julia Gillard's involvement in the live export ban and how much they were doing to help solve the situation.

Producers said Mr Ludwig was "too slow" to visit Indonesia, with WA Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman travelling to the country before the Federal Minister.

The crowd also said they were angry Mr Rudd had not gone to Indonesia yet and said he should have been there immediately to help repair the relationship between Indonesia and Australia, which many believe has been severely hurt because of the knee-jerk live export ban.

The group said the Federal Government had reacted too quickly without looking at the implications of a ban on Australia and Indonesia.

Pastoralist and Graziers Association (PGA) chairman Rob Gillam said he was impressed with the turnout and wanted to get the message across to Canberra.

"I thought it was a very successful day," Mr Gillam said.

"Our objective was to give all those involved in the associated industry whether it is the truckies, the pastoralists or the blokes loading the ships to be there and show some support for the industry."

Mr Gillam said it was the biggest gathering of pastoralists and farmers ever held in Geraldton and the message was clear.

"We want our industry back," he said.

"This ban is not only crippling the WA cattle industry, but is also destroying the livelihood of thousands of regional workers and their families whose only source of income has now been removed."

Mr Gillam said he was very disappointed that none of the WA Federal Labor Ministers or Senators came to the event.

"This includes Prime Minister Gillard who was in Perth for the WA Labor conference," he said.

"Perhaps the Prime Minister and her WA Federal Ministers should take a hard look at their State Labor colleagues who are able to put aside political posturing and honestly listen to the needs of their electorate."

Mr Gillam said producers were also coming to the realisation MLA was not the one to blame.

"MLA chairman Don Heatley came over for the rally and his response was very good, considering MLA has been criticised very heavily," he said.

"I have been to a couple of meetings now, one in Katherine and one in Broome and I think during the course of time people have come to understand MLA's position much better and the producers are very much behind MLA and Don Heatley."

Mr Heatley said his main priority was to get the trade re-opened so producers could continue to work.

He said the Federal Government's decision to ban live export was the greatest knee-jerk reaction he had ever seen and producers were paying the ultimate price because of it.

He admitted there was work to do in Indonesia, in training the workers and getting the abattoirs up to standard but MLA was working towards it.

"There is only one company who is doing something in Indonesia to try and fix this situation and it's your company, MLA," Mr Heatley said.

"There will always be more to do in Indonesia, but they have been importing cattle since the early 1800s, so it is not a new trade, but there is only one company which has invested into animal welfare standards and equipment over there and that's MLA."

Mr Heatley said Australian beef travelled to 100 abattoirs in Indonesia, but there were 732 abattoirs in the country in total.

He said if the trade was to be reopened, it would be restricted to just 25 abattoirs which was about 40 per cent of the industry.

"Five abattoirs are already up to standard, another five are only a short time away from being up to standard and the other 15 are only a short time after that," he said.

"At this stage, we think those abattoirs could handle about 40 per cent of the industry and we think we could get that up to 60 per cent."

He said the other 75 abattoirs which MLA had been working with would not be forgotten, but said it was important to prove to Mr Ludwig that they had a system which worked before they opened the rest.

Mr Heatley said he was angry about the way Mr Ludwig had dealt with the ban.

"I sat with the Minister four days before he evoked his suspension," he said.

"I asked him, I almost pleaded with him to do two things, one, was to allow us to clear the pipeline that was in place from the wharf, back to the paddock, to let us get the cattle out of the system.

"Secondly, I asked him to please consider the geopolitical fallout of his actions, when 22 million white men shut off the trade to 240 million non-pork eating Muslims just across our border, who heavily rely on this important source of red meat protein."

Mr Heatley said the only response he got from Mr Ludwig was "you have 24 hours to give me a plan".

Mr Heatley reinforced to producers his confidence that MLA had nothing to hide.

"There may be some concerns from producers on a review of the live export industry and MLA," he said.

"But I can tell you this much, the Bill Farmer review - bring it on. The senate inquiry - bring it on.

"Because your company and your industry has nothing to be frightened of, not a bloody thing."

Southern producers will get the chance to have their say with the?PGA holding a Katanning rally tomorrow.

The meeting will start at 1pm at the Kennedy building, behind the Kobeelya Conference Centre, on the corner of Kobeelya Ave and Brownie St, Katanning.

It will be followed by a sundowner at the Katanning Hotel at 5pm.

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READER COMMENTS

Marian Rumens
30/06/2011 7:32:37 AM, on Farm Weekly

It is my understanding that Warren Truss, leader of the National Party, exempted the Northern Territory from tracking tags while he was in government. Since a lot of the holdup is to do with tracking tags, I don't understand why the government doesn't tell the people involved instead of copping all the blame themselves.
borodini
1/07/2011 9:26:07 AM, on Farm Weekly

If you blind duck pastoralists want a geopolitical fall out as a result of the cattle export ban just let Heatly loose. His quote "22 million white men shut off the trade to 240 million non pork eating Muslims" indicates that his social skills lack intellegence. He is not only a avid racist but a chauvinist as well. Roughly half of Australia's population exhibit female characteristics thereby indicating that they are "women or girls" Sail off into the sunset you idiot and take Gillard, Ludwig and the Greens as your crew.

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