I want to see a transition that supports farmers in my state. I want to see a timely shift to a trade that has a future, a trade that is of higher quality and higher value and has more jobs. More than anything else, I want to see an end to a trade that produces animal welfare atrocities on a regular basis.
Mr Wilson (3:39pm) – The minister is right: it’s time we did the right thing by Australians; it’s time we did the right thing by farmers, by sheep producers and certainly by the animals that we have a responsibility to care for. It’s time for the long-haul live export of sheep to come to an end. It’s time for us to move to an expanded chilled and boxed meat trade that represents a high-value export industry, will create 300 to 400 additional jobs in Australia, will deliver stability for sheep producers and, above all, will stop the systematic mistreatment of animals. Above all, we have to remember that there is not a sliding scale that makes animal cruelty acceptable at a certain price. We know that ending live export is entirely possible, we know that it’s entirely reasonable and we know that it’s necessary. This diminishing trade has a clear alternative, and Labor has grasped that alternative. Labor, through its strategic red meat industry plan, is moving us towards that alternative by making a transition, which government leadership is all about and which parliamentary partnership and cooperation should be all about.
I represent the port through which the vast majority of the trade passes, and Western Australia, my home state, produces 85 per cent of the sheep destined for live export. I want to see a transition that supports farmers in my state. I want to see a timely shift to a trade that has a future, a trade that is of higher quality and higher value and has more jobs. More than anything else, I want to see an end to a trade that produces animal welfare atrocities on a regular basis. The minister has said that this is not the time for emotion, it is a time for waiting. I can tell you, if you’ve lived in Western Australia or if you’ve lived in Fremantle, as I have done all my life, you don’t need to wait another two weeks. I’ve lived in Fremantle for 40 years. I’ve seen this trade and what it produces for three decades. So it is a bit rich for the minister to suggest that people need to wait a bit longer.
I welcome the commitment from Labor’s shadow minister for agriculture to a sensible and balanced change under a future Labor government. I’m sorry that the minister today has talked about the move and the support for this transition as being somehow emotional—or, as the Prime Minister said, emotional and reckless. That is a lot of rubbish. Moving to end the live export trade in a sensible, managed transition is profoundly rational. It is comprehensively based on the facts, the history and the science. It does not take a genius to understand that sending tens of thousands of sheep crammed in badly ventilated, derelict metal ships to the hottest part of the world at the hottest time of the year is a recipe for intolerable animal suffering. As if that weren’t enough, we know that, since 2005, 71 separate voyages have involved the deaths of more than 1,000 sheep. We know that countless breaches and countless instances of gross mistreatment of animals have occurred without any consequences whatsoever. We know that vets’ records have been falsified. We know that the International Transport Workers’ Federation has highlighted the unacceptable workplace conditions faced by seafarers on these ships. We know that the department of agriculture decided there was nothing wrong with the voyages shown on 60 Minutes. We know that last year an industry stakeholder informed the department that export vessels were so decrepit that catastrophic animal welfare incidents were likely, yet nothing was done. If you want to talk about the science, we know that only yesterday the Australian Veterinary Association said the summer live export trade was incompatible with animal welfare standards.
I was actually quite glad when the minister became a bit emotional when the 60 Minutes story broke. He was pretty fired up. He was a bit angry and used some strong language. I’m concerned that the minister is being drawn back into the fog. I’m concerned that the minister is going to treat us to the same old story. I’m concerned that we’re going to be told that it’s just a few bad apples, that it’s something that can be fixed, that the industry shouldn’t get a second or a third chance but should have its 76th or 77th chance. I can tell you that my community is calm and focused and is committed to seeing action. We are committed to seeing sensible and necessary change. But I can also say that Australians are angry, and they’re rightly angry. They’re angry when they see animals being cruelly mistreated. They’re angry that this doomed, narrow, barbaric trade has gone on for so long, that it has lied so much, that it has gone completely unregulated, that it has gone completely unpunished for its multiple failures, which in every instance have involved the terrible and prolonged suffering of animals. It’s enough. It’s time for it to end.