Push to end live ex continues

27 Dec, 2013 01:00 AM
Lee Rhiannon, Adam Bandt, Andrew Wilkie and Kelvin Thomson.
There are a number of sides to the story; it’s not just about the farmers
Lee Rhiannon, Adam Bandt, Andrew Wilkie and Kelvin Thomson.

INDEPENDENT MP Andrew Wilkie says he’s prepared to visit northern Australia to meet with cattle graziers and other live export industry members, as “a matter of courtesy”.

But he’s confident his views - which include wanting to phase out live export over three years while expanding on-shore processing options - are well informed.

Recently Mr Wilkie renewed calls to ban Australian live exports after more graphic video footage surfaced of cruelty towards Australian cattle in the Gaza Strip during the recent Festival of Sacrifice.

The allegations are being investigated by the Agriculture Department but in the meantime Mr Wilkie is making his fifth legislative attempt in three years to end the trade.

He said he’ll be moving a Private Members Bill scheduled for debate early in the new year, to shut down the trade in 2016.

Mr Wilkie said the footage from Gaza “can only be described as shocking” and is “some of the worst animal cruelty footage we have seen - and we have seen a lot of animal cruelty over the last couple of years”.

He believed the live export trade is out of step with public opinion, and moving to expand on-shore processing would help to create more jobs in Australia and yield more benefits for the local economy.

His views are also backed by several Labor MPs and the Greens, who also plan to bring legislative action on next year in both Houses of Parliament to end the live export trade.

Standing alongside Mr Wilkie in response to the Gaza footage released by Animals Australia, the Greens said they’d be reintroducing their Bill that seeks to establish an Independent Office of Animal Welfare in the first sitting week of 2014.

However, live export industry members have been critical of Mr Wilkie and the Greens for wanting to ban live exports, and making repeated public comment without undertaking direct grass roots consultation in northern Australia.

In October, Mr Wilkie warned Tony Abbott against lowering animal welfare standards in the live cattle trade during the new Prime Minister’s first visit to Jakarta, which prompted the Australian Livestock Exporters Council (ALEC) to challenge the Tasmanian MP to start speaking directly to industry about any animal welfare concerns.

ALEC CEO Alison Penfold said Mr Wilkie hadn’t approached the Council for direct briefings or discussions on improved animal welfare standards in export markets like Indonesia.

She said Mr Wilkie’s electorate of Denison in Tasmania “couldn’t be further removed from the realities of the live export trade”.

But Mr Wilkie hit back at his critics this week saying he came from the bush, did three years of agricultural science at high school and had “many friends who are farmers, and I have spoken to them”.

“I am confident that my position is very well informed; not just about farming practices but also about how we need to restructure our economy for the future,” he said.

“And that includes re-opening abattoirs, building new abattoirs and processing these animals in Australia.”

Mr Wilkie said economic research showed Western Australia already had enough spare capacity to process all of the sheep currently being exported, which would create about 2000 jobs in that State, while 1000 jobs would be created around Darwin by processing cattle on-shore.

“There are a number of sides to the story; it’s not just about the farmers,” he said.

“Having said all of that, as a courtesy, I am prepared to go to northern Australia and to meet with this particular group of farmers, and for them to tell me their side of the story, and for me to explain my side of the story.

“I think having a conversation could be a helpful thing.”

Victorian Labor MP Kelvin Thomson has also been a regular outspoken critic of live animal exports calling for a trade ban, in response to animal welfare concerns in export markets.

Mr Thomson said he and other MPs had spoken to many people involved in the live export trade and heard from them directly about their position and the reasons for it.

“I think people are happy to go to northern Australia and speak with people directly but we have had direct conversations,” he said.

But Mr Thomson said transparency “cuts both ways” and the MPs critical of live exports also wanted those people to view the video footage and see for themselves “what goes on in Gaza”.

Colin Bettles

Colin Bettles

is the national political writer for Fairfax Agricultural Media
Date: Newest first | Oldest first


Jen from the Bush
27/12/2013 7:25:37 AM

If WA is not already processing the sheep exported, then it is simply uneconomical for them to do so. The question Mr Wilkie must then answer is who is going to pay the farmer enough money so we can exist or does he intend for most of the cattle/sheep stations disappear as they no longer can exist on the returns Au meatworks will be paying them? Au meatworks will only pay farmers what they are force to do so. That is the trading rule so they will not pay enough. If he doesn't intend to kill off most of the sheep/cattle stations, what is his plan for giving us enough money to survive?
Jen from the Bush
27/12/2013 7:27:36 AM

Holiday to the north paid by taxpayers!!
27/12/2013 7:33:26 AM

three years of ag science in high school?!!! Mr Wilkie - please - don't insult the people who's livelihood you are trying to wipe out...go visit some areas this will directly impact and talk to people who are directly involved involved and talk to the Indonesian companies that are directly involved and who are hurt by your views and accusations- yes there is room for improvement but not decimation.
Alison Penfold
27/12/2013 7:42:07 AM

Mr Wilkie's comments to meet with industry is welcome but he still doesn't understand that live exports is a national industry with sheep, cattle and goats coming from across the country. I guess, though, one must start somewhere.
Farmer's daughter
27/12/2013 7:44:11 AM

What about the customers & what they want Mr Wilkie? I'd imagine that if you can't obtain the item you want from a particular supplier, then you'd look elsewhere for it, wouldn't you, instead of purchasing a product that doesn't meet your needs? I think, as a customer, I would be offended, if I was told that I must buy a frozen chook to feed my family, when what I really wanted, was day old chicks so that I could grow them out, then consume at a time of my choosing.
What about the welfare issue
27/12/2013 10:01:18 AM

I think you farmers are missing the point. This is a welfare issue not a jobs issue. If your industry cannot put animal welfare before profit then you like the car industry will either have to improve greatly or disappear into history.
27/12/2013 11:29:11 AM

And to add to that Farmer's daughter, you no doubt had the available feed supply to do it that way. It's people like Wilkie who don't realise, don't understand or don't want to know that the customer in most cases of the LE cattle have the available feed resource to grow the cattle they buy and then slaughter for their needs when they are in a finished condition, all done on the available feed they have which is usually a leftover feed resource from another agricultural industry. What would the likes of Wilkie have them do with this leftover feed resource, burn it?
27/12/2013 11:37:10 AM

W a t f i, I think you are missing the point that the industry and farmers in Australia are the only ones who are doing something about the issues. They are the only ones out there trying to improve things, unlike the 'animal welfare people' who only seem to want to be critical and tear down. Get out there and help not hinder and you will then be seen as genuine.
27/12/2013 11:44:52 AM

When local processors are prepared to compete legitimately for available stock and not distort the price by manipulating the market place by helping with the banning of the live export trade, then they will be accepted by the producers as a competitor for their stock, not a monopoly buyer.
27/12/2013 11:58:40 AM

LE customers have a cheap available feed resource which they utilize to finish the stock they purchase. This feed resource is a leftover from other agricultural industries and because of this cheap feed source they have available, they are able to pay a higher price than our local feedlots / processors are prepared to pay for these stock they buy. We have people in this country who say these LE customers should not be allowed to utilize this available feed resource, and while doing so provide jobs for people in these developing countries. What just burn the feed and starve the workers.
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