So the time is right to make a transition. The community overwhelmingly wants that. A majority of people in the Senate wanted that. A majority of people in the House of Representatives actually want that. We know that that’s the case. Yet, when the bill came down to the House of Representatives, the government wouldn’t allow it to be debated or voted upon. That is the kind of thing that causes young Australians and old Australians alike to throw their hands up in the air, scratch their heads and say, ‘What is going on?’
Mr Wilson (12:27pm) — Congratulations, Deputy Speaker Laundy, on taking up that position. I take this opportunity to explain some things that have happened here this week for the benefit of my community. Like a lot of members, I engage with my community in a variety of ways. One of them is to visit schools and talk to kids in their final year of primary school, year 6, who are studying our system of government, civic engagement and those sorts of things. They want to know how this place works. They want to know how government works. It’s encouraging when you hear that interest. It’s great to see children who are 11 or 12 years old and often have quite a good understanding of how this place is supposed to work. We identify issues that need to be looked at, areas of reform that can be made. Perhaps they go through a committee process. Perhaps we get some sort of outside advice or investigation that guides government or guides the parliament. Ultimately, parliament is there to make laws.
On Monday a bill that was designed to take Australia forward in relation to the practice of long-haul live export of sheep came into the House of Representatives. It was a bill whose genesis, whose design, came from a member of the government, the member for Farrer. It had started its life in the Senate, was passed in the Senate and came down to the House. It tried to put in place some arrangements that would move us towards an inevitability. The long-haul live export of sheep is a doomed trade. It’s a trade in serious decline on its own terms. It only exists, really, in Western Australia. It doesn’t happen anywhere else in the country. Other nations similar to Australia with great reliance on agricultural produce in exports, like New Zealand, have got out of live export. Importing countries are getting out of live export. Bahrain no longer receives sheep. The number was six million sheep at the turn of the century and is now down to 1½ million sheep. It’s a trade in mortal decline, and what we need is government working with industry to help us make that transition. I think that is plain.
We know that the animal welfare outcomes from the live sheep export trade are intolerable. We don’t need another incident to show us that, if you’re sending tens of thousands of animals crammed into 30- or 40-year-old vessels to the hottest part of the world at the hottest time of year, that is a recipe for animal cruelty and animal suffering. We know that that’s the case.
So the time is right to make a transition. The community overwhelmingly wants that. A majority of people in the Senate wanted that. A majority of people in the House of Representatives actually want that. We know that that’s the case. Yet, when the bill came down to the House of Representatives, the government wouldn’t allow it to be debated or voted upon. That is the kind of thing that causes young Australians and old Australians alike to throw their hands up in the air, scratch their heads and say, ‘What is going on?’ We talk about people having a lack of faith in the political system and, to some degree, the political class. We have to look at those kinds of circumstances for some guidance on how we fix it. If this parliament can’t deal with something like the live export of sheep—a trade which has been shown time and time again to produce intolerable animal cruelty, and a trade that is, on its own terms, winding down and can easily be transitioned to something better that provides stability for farmers, higher value exports, more jobs in Australia and better animal welfare outcomes—children in year 6 ask, ‘What is going on?’ When I have that conversation with them, I honestly don’t know what the answer is. I really don’t.
So a majority of people in both houses of this parliament know that that’s where we need to get to. At the moment, by virtue of some sort of game playing, those majorities aren’t being expressed. They’re not able to reflect the majority that exists in the Australian community and the common sense that exists in the Australian community on this issue, and I think that’s a great shame.