13 September 2018

Speech in Parliament: Long haul live sheep exports must end

In the face of another grossly misleading campaign by Labor, I rise to reiterate my strong support for a phase-out of the long-haul live sheep trade.

I want to make clear what happened in the House of Representatives two days ago.

The bill passed by the Senate this week was co-sponsored by the Greens and Senator Hinch, and was similar in terms to the private members’ bill introduced by the member for Farrer and me on 21 May.

This was a motion to debate the bill only.

What Labor won’t tell you is that our private members’ bill to phase out the export of live sheep to the Middle East over five years is currently being debated in this very chamber.

The games by Labor to bring on a motion to debate this bill passed by the Senate on a date to be fixed on the very first day of parliament under a new Prime Minister were a disingenuous attempt to disrupt parliament, masquerading behind the cause of animal welfare.

Combined with the advocacy from so many thousands of Australians, we are pleased that our strong stand so far and the minister for agriculture’s determination to hold the regulator to account have resulted in the shutting down of the industry’s biggest offender.

As a member of the ministry, it is no longer open to me to vote against government policy which includes any private members’ bill.

But I make one thing very clear: where were the member for Corio, the member for Hunter and the other Labor MPs when it was Labor policy to support the long-haul export of live sheep? They were nowhere to be seen.

They did not have the courage to take a stand.

People are suggesting that, had the vote been different in the House of Representatives, we would have had the bill as a reality. Now, that’s not actually possible. Firstly, the motion was simply to debate the bill, not to pass it; and, secondly, all of the crossbench would have been required to support the bill and they don’t.

What our actions have done is shine a light on this awful trade and the need for major reform. There has been no shipment of live sheep leave Australia since 6 June, and it’s likely there won’t be another until October. There has been no trade during the current northern summer, a critical time when sheep are under enormous stress. Let’s not forget that the science makes it clear, from no less than the Australian Veterinary Association, that export during the northern summer should be banned because of the very high risk to animal welfare.

The impending release of the Moss review provides the government with a further opportunity to impose tough new laws, and I expect that this report will be scathing and will expose that the exporters have been operating unlawfully and the regulator has failed dismally for years.

My personal conviction on this issue remains and, on behalf of the people of Corangamite, I will continue to advocate for a change in coalition policy and for a phase-out of this awful trade.

12 September 2018