10 May 2018

Long haul live sheep export must come to an end

After much consideration, I will be seconding a Private Member’s Bill to phase out long haul live sheep export which will be introduced into the House of Representatives by the Federal Member for Farrer, Sussan Ley, on 21 May 2018.

The live export of sheep to the Middle East is inhumane and must come to an end.

I have advised the Agriculture Minister of my decision.

As a rural Victorian Liberal MP representing a large farming constituency, I believe the vast majority of my constituents, including farmers, will strongly support my decision.

If any person in Australia crammed sheep into a transport vehicle for 25 days in the searing heat with limited access to food and water, standing in their own excrement, that person would be charged with animal cruelty.

I reiterate that the interests of farmers and rural communities are paramount. The phase out should occur over a considerable period of time and ongoing consultations with farmers and others in the supply chain should continue.

State and federal governments have an important role to play in further developing domestic processing to enable us to do more to meet the 100 export markets to which we already supply carcase, boxed and bagged sheep and lamb.  The biggest challenge is not processing capacity – with appropriate lead times even in Western Australia there is sufficient capacity to process lambs and sheep  – but ensuring there is a sufficient workforce.

In no way will this Bill impact on the export of cattle which traditionally are sent to South-East Asia.

Australian producers are already exporting significant amounts of boxed, chilled lamb and sheep meat into the Middle East.  The further development of this export market will provide new opportunities for our farmers and processors, and for Australian jobs.  It will enhance our reputation as a nation of agricultural excellence.

The latest footage broadcast on 60 Minutes was horrific.  More than 2,000 sheep died in the most abhorrent circumstances.  Unfortunately,  Department of Agriculture records demonstrate that this was by no means an unusual occurrence.

I recognise that Minister Littleproud is working extremely hard to fix this trade; but enough is enough.

Australians will no longer tolerate the systemic failures we have seen over many years from long haul live sheep exporters, including the failure of the industry to regulate itself in order to comply with basic animal welfare standards.

I am also cogniscant of a considerable amount of science which supports the cessation of the long haul live export of sheep during the northern hemisphere summer months by reason of the heat stress suffered by the animals, irrespective of stocking rates, such as recommended by the Australian Veterinary Association in its May 2018 report.

Statement updated 16 May 2018