21 May 2018

Speech: Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018

It is my pleasure to second the Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018, which has been introduced by the member for Farrer. I also want to acknowledge the support of the member for La Trobe. I congratulate the member for Farrer on the stand she has taken, which takes courage, and I’m proud to join with her in our proposal to end the export of live sheep to the Middle East.

It is significant that we both, as Liberal members of parliament representing large regional electorates including many farmers and agribusinesses, have taken this stand. Overwhelmingly, the people of Corangamite are saying, ‘Enough is enough.’ After decades of noncompliance, after decades of inhumane treatment of sheep, after decades of tolerating a trade which continues to tarnish our international reputation, Australians are saying, ‘Enough is enough’. The scenes on the Awassi Express, where more than 2,000 sheep died—many literally cooking to death—were utterly horrific. The government response has been swift and strong, and I commend the agriculture minister on his efforts to fix this trade and hold rogue exporters to account, but we need to do more. The bill proposes an end to long-haul live sheep exports only—not cattle or short-haul exports—over five years. This is a measured and responsible lead time, in stark contrast to Labor’s overnight shutdown of the cattle trade, which had dramatic consequences.

The interests of farmers and rural communities on this issue are paramount. If the bill is passed, it will provide our farmers, processors and the extended supply chain with the appropriate time to transition completely to chilled lamb and mutton exports to the Middle East, to grow our sheepmeat processing capacity, to invest with certainty, to protect and enhance our reputation as a nation of agricultural excellence and to invest in more Australian jobs. There must be proper consultation with farmers and industry. This transition is, in fact, already underway. Where the live sheep trade is in rapid decline, we are seeing a dramatic increase in the export of Australian chilled lamb and mutton by air to the Middle East. This can, of course, only continue. Western Australia has the processing facilities to make this transition. The challenge is in securing and training the workforce, and that’s where governments can play a major role.

The bill also proposes that from 2019 there will be no export of live sheep to the Middle East during the hottest summer months: July, August and September. The highly credible scientific evidence from the Australian Veterinary Association is that sheep deaths and heat stress cannot be avoided during the extreme temperatures and humidity of a Middle Eastern summer, even with improved ventilation and lower stocking rates. It is incredibly disappointing that the McCarthy review has not followed the science and recommended the prohibition of live sheep export during the summer. If any person in Australia crammed sheep into a transport vehicle to stand in their own excrement for 25 days in the searing heat with limited access to food and water, that person would be charged with animal cruelty. The time has come. Backed by the science, the facts and the economics, this is a trade which must come to an end. I commend this bill to the House.

Debate adjourned.