DISSENTING calls to ban live sheep exports within the Coalition government have been backed by the Greens but rejected by Agriculture and Water Resources Minister David Littleproud who says ending the live trade would cost 10,000 jobs and reduce global animal welfare standards.
NSW rural Liberal MP Susan Ley revealed her break-away plans today to introduce a new Private Members Bill into federal parliament that’s looking to set a date for the trade’s phase-out, starting with sheep.
Her Bill is a sharp reaction to the views of farmers and other stakeholders in her electorate, to the recent revelation of issues, through video images broadcast on 60 Minutes, concerning heat stress mortalities for sheep exported to the Middle East, out of WA.
In a statement today, Ms Ley said “the live sheep export trade has been “put on notice many times before” and “we now need to ‘call time’ on this cruelty, for good”.
“Today I advised the Minister for Agriculture of my intention to introduce a Private Members Bill, with the aim of setting a date to phase out all live sheep export to the Middle East,” she said.
“I absolutely recognise any cessation of this trade will need to be done in consultation with producers and the wider industry.
“Having been a farmer, and represented rural Australia and sheep producers for 17 years, their interests will always come first.
“With cross party support, my Bill intends to amend up to three different Acts and associated regulations, so as to logically and effectively phase out live sheep exports to this part of the world.”
Ms Ley said she wanted to again stress that her legislative move didn’t not seek to halt or alter the short-haul export of live cattle into Australia’s traditional Southeast Asian markets
But she said “tastes are changing in Middle Eastern nations”.
“There is no fixed, firm demand for live sheep – our exporters are already sending significant numbers of sheep carcasses and boxed lamb to the region,” she said.
“While Minister Littleproud has taken firm steps since the latest heartbreaking footage was made public - and I commend him for doing so - the level of outrage in the community indicates ‘enough is enough’.
“Enough inquiries, enough of introducing more layers of regulation.
“It is time to admit the export of these animals, over that length of time, in those conditions, is impossible to fix.
“Let’s show the humanity that is needed here and set an end date by which we permanently cease live sheep exports from this country.”
Greens Melbourne MP Adam Bandt announced his party - which has a critical place on the Senate cross-bench - would provide cross-party support for Ms Ley’s Private Member’s Bill.
Mr Bandt said the Greens had been working to end live exports for years and “we welcome members from the major parties joining us in standing up for animal welfare”.
“We have introduced Bills in Parliament to end live exports four times since 2011 - it is encouraging to see that members across the political spectrum are now in agreement that live exports must end,” he said.
“We’ll support Sussan Ley’s Private Members Bill to end live sheep exports to the Middle East and will continue to campaign for the entire live export trade to be transitioned to a chilled, boxed meat trade.”
But live exports industry sources say the estimated number of non-Australian originated animals that are captured by Australia’s live exports trade and gain welfare benefits from ongoing investments in systems and processes like the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS), is three to four times the number exported from Australia.
Last year about 3 million live animals mostly sheep and cattle were exported from Australia to overseas markets like the Middle East, Indonesia and Vietnam valued at about $1.4 billion.
Aussie live export improves animal welfare globally, now that is something I’ve been proud to be a part of. Need continual accountability and improvement, but with good leadership, this is possible and happening.— Catherine Marriott (@roseycatherine) April 19, 2018
Littleproud warns of economic and animal welfare losses of trade ban
Mr Littleproud told Fairfax Agricultural Media there was a “couple of big issues with saying we just get rid of it” as Ms Ley and some in Labor have demanded.
He said there was no processing sector in WA and if the live trade was removed, WA sheep farmers would have to compete with eastern producers and processors, even if they had a local processing sector, and they’d still have to transport stock across the country.
Mr Littleproud said, “WA is totally different to the eastern states and we’ve got to remember that when we make national policy”.
“WA needs to be looked at and we need to give them the support around making sure that we get these ships right and I’m committed to that,” he said.
“But also for northern Australia if you took away the northern trade you effectively take away the livelihoods like we saw in 2011 (Indonesian cattle export ban) of those farmers in the north who export cattle.
“They have a totally different production system to the east and you need to understand that.
“But I’ve also seen research from ABARES that suggests in fact if you took away live trade, it would actually cost $300 million to the industry and the benefits we’d gain by solely having processing in Australia would only give us $100 million - but we’d lose 10,000 jobs.
“We’ve got to make sure we do this sensibly but above all that, the reality is there’s a demand right around the world for live trade and if we’re not in it, then someone else will be and that someone else may not have the same (animal welfare) standards we do.
“We have a responsibility to do the right thing and to make sure we get this right and value animals in the way that we have and we do that by having the supply chain and processes that we are expected to have.”
Despite improving welfare outcomes for millions of non-originated Australian animals, the RSPCA has maintained calls to ban the Australian live trade industry in response to the video footage taken from the 2017 voyage from WA to the Middle East involving Emanuel Exports where 2400 sheep died, that was used by 60 Minutes.
RSPCA Australia Chief Science and Strategy Officer Dr Bidda Jones said today “Australian taxpayer dollars should not be spent trying to achieve ‘cultural reform’ in the live export industry, which has profited for decades off animal suffering and repeatedly dodged every possible opportunity to improve or change”.
“That money should be spent protecting farmers as they adjust their businesses and exit this trade once and for all,” she said in backing subsidies for farmers impacted by a trade ban.
“It’s a business model that can’t make money if animals don’t suffer,
“Live exporters have had decades of chances to show leadership in animal welfare, and they have failed time and time again - there’s always another disaster around the corner.”
Australian Greens Animal Welfare Spokesperson and NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon said the live export industry appeared to be taking the concerns of the Australian public seriously, by considering the establishment of an Inspector General for Animal Welfare but said the Labor policy was “flawed”.
“We need to end all live exports and establish a truly Independent Office of Animal Welfare - what we don't need is Labor’s plan which puts the office under the Department of Agriculture - the very Department that has failed to uphold any animal welfare standards,” she said.
In 2017, Australia’s live sheep exports, of close to 2 million head, reached $249 million and is the nation’s largest exporter of live sheep accounting for more than 85pc of the total volume.
WA rural Liberal MP and Katanning farmer Rick Wilson said he was open to looking at tougher shipping time-frames - with reforms likely to be driven through a short, sharp independent review of exporting standards during the Middle Eastern summer ordered by Mr Littleproud - rather than backing Ms Ley’s view.
“I think perhaps we could look at restricting shipments in the July through September period for vessels that don't have the most up to date ventilation systems,” Mr Wilson said.
“Incidents like this put the entire trade at risk - we need to act expeditiously to ensure that it doesn't happen again.”
In announcing another response to the latest controversy that included an investigation into his own Department’s handling of live exports as the industry’s regulator, Mr Littleproud said there was also a Bill before parliament that doubled, in many cases, the penalties imposed on exporters.
“But I believe…we need to go further on that, and I personally believe that penalties and prosecutions in terms of both financial and in terms of jail time to company directors, to those company directors of these businesses, should also be explored,” he said.
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The story Liberal MP and Greens live sheep export ban demands rejected first appeared on Farm Online.