The problem with this place is that we are playing games when everyone here knows that there is majority support for the change that needs to be made. This industry is coming to an end. It is a doomed industry, it’s a deeply flawed industry and it is coming to an end. The responsible thing to do for farmers and truck drivers and people on the land is to manage that transition and support those people.
Mr Wilson (10:55am) — I support this motion. It is long past time that we saw change in this space and long past time that we saw the end of the long-haul live sheep export industry. What I’m not going to do, in speaking in support of this motion, is continue what we have seen too much of in this place, which is a kind of rush to push out false divisions, false conflict and false dichotomies, a rush to caricature one another. For the member for O’Connor to suggest that somehow the people in Fremantle and the people in Denmark and Albany are living on different planets; to suggest that he cares for small-business owners and farmers and truck drivers and that I don’t, that I don’t know people who do that work, that I’m not connected to those communities, that I don’t care about Western Australians; or to suggest that it is only people in communities like Fremantle and inner-city areas, and not people in his community, who care about animal welfare—that’s the problem with this place. The problem with this place is that we are playing games when everyone here knows that there is majority support for the change that needs to be made. This industry is coming to an end. It is a doomed industry, it’s a deeply flawed industry and it is coming to an end. The responsible thing to do for farmers and truck drivers and people on the land is to manage that transition and support those people.
I will always speak up for those people. It’s ridiculous to come in here and shout at each other across the benches as if somehow people who live in Fremantle have no sympathy for or no understanding of the circumstances of people who live on the land. It is utterly ridiculous. There are people who live in Fremantle who spent most of their lives growing up in your part of the world, Member for O’Connor—and there are people who live in Albany and Denmark who spent part of their lives growing up in my part of the world. They are Australians and they care about their families and they care about animal welfare, so the idea that somehow, ‘You are from Venus and we are from Mars,’ is complete rubbish.
What we do know is that this industry is rotten to the core. The long-haul live export of sheep to the Middle East in terrible, rusty old second-rate vessels at the hottest time of the year is a recipe for animal cruelty and animal suffering. It doesn’t matter whether the sheep die or not. We’ve had veterinarians, since this whole review process began, come out and say quite clearly that, whether they die or not, it doesn’t mean that they haven’t suffered terrible pain on that journey.
We know that this industry is on its knees, and the people who are involved in it need our help to support the transition that is already underway—
[The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Rob Mitchell ): Member for O’Connor, I have asked you twice not to interject. You can leave under 94(a). I’ve continually asked you not to and you have kept going and going. Well done! You’re the first person I have ever had to do that to.]
[The member for O’Connor then left the chamber.]
The reality is that the long-haul export of live sheep is inherently cruel and it is long past time for it to come to an end. We have had countless evidence of the atrocities that are inherent in this trade. They occur time and time again. There is literally a parade of atrocities, and we come to know of them only because of the work of animal welfare activists and people in that space. We haven’t learned of them because of the regulatory framework, we haven’t learned of them because of the actions of government; we have learned of them because of animal welfare experts who, for a long time, in my community particularly and elsewhere, have belled the cat on this industry and have said that this cannot go on.
The government has to acknowledge that it has been complicit in the failures of this industry, has enabled the failures of this industry and has been an apologist for those failures. It both has put its head in the sand about the fact that animals have been subject to torture, time and time again, as a matter of customary industry practice and has actively removed the kinds of mechanisms that militate against that treatment, that cruelty to animals.
So it is utterly false for anyone on that side of the House to claim that we have the best system in the world and that the system works well and that there’s nothing to see here, and the minister himself has acknowledged that multiple times this year. He is a member of a government that, both in this term of parliament and in the previous term of parliament, actively removed—
No, he wasn’t in this last term of parliament, but he’s a member of the government that has been in control through both of those terms of parliament and that has actively removed protections when it comes to animal welfare, and his government has been complicit in those failures.
It is time for us to make the change. The industry itself has only just voluntarily decided that there will be no summer trade next year. This is the same industry, this is the same exporters’ council, which said that that kind of moratorium wasn’t possible, that that moratorium would mean the industry would fall over. Well, we’ve seen that this summer the trade didn’t occur, and we’re now told that the trade won’t occur next summer. So the claim that the trade depends on these summer shipments has been done away with, and we know from that that further transition is possible if this parliament is prepared to take responsible action.
That is what this motion is about. It’s about giving us the opportunity to do what people send us here to do, which is to consider issues carefully on the evidence and make decisions that lead change and deliver the kinds of reform that people around this country know about. That’s the disconnect that we’ve seen on this issue, on energy, on climate change and on so many things. The broader community know that there’s a problem. The broader community know that there’s a solution. They can’t understand why people in this place can’t get on and make it happen. That is really what Labor has been calling for since the beginning of this year and what this bill and the motion to bring this bill on call for and what Independent members of this place are calling for: a sensible transition—an end to the summer trade and, over a period of time, an end to the long-haul live export of sheep altogether. As part of that, of course, there would be assistance to those who are involved in the farming of sheep.
As a Western Australian, I say that we have made it through this summer and the recent cessation of live export of sheep. Farmers in Western Australia and their representatives and the live export council are now preparing for the fact that it will not occur next year. I talk to Tony York. He comes and sits with me. I caught up with him not that long ago, and I was very glad to hear that the farmers in Western Australia have got through this season comparatively well. There are a very small number of farmers who have made business decisions to be heavily involved in live export, and they, of course, are feeling some effect. The vast majority of farmers—wheat-sheep farmers and sheep farmers—in Western Australia have very small exposure to the live export trade, and they’ve been able to deal with this change.
But, at the end of the day, what are the things we have to hold on to? We have to hold on to the fact that the long-haul live export of sheep is inherently cruel. We have to hold on to the fact that there is not a sliding scale that makes animal cruelty acceptable as some kind of price. All economic arguments aside, there is not a sliding scale that makes the torture of animals acceptable as some kind of price, and that’s why the long-haul live export of sheep to the hottest part of the world at the hottest time of the year has to come to an end. People in my community have known that for a long time. They don’t care about the smell. They don’t care about seeing trucks. They’re glad that there are people driving trucks and earning money driving trucks. They’re glad that there are farmers who produce sheep and help put food on our tables and help explore export markets. They’re glad that the export markets in chilled carcasses and frozen meat are expanding. They’re glad that Bahrain, when they decided they weren’t taking live exports anymore, got 70 per cent of all their sheep meat from Australia. They know that that’s the future. They know that New Zealand, a country where the agricultural economy is much more significant than it is in Australia, has got out of live sheep altogether. They know that nowhere other than in Western Australia and South Australia does live sheep export happen anyway.
I’ve heard from farmers across the nation and from people in Victoria and New South Wales who’ve contacted me to say, ‘Mate, I would never put one of my animals, a sheep, on a vessel like that.’ This industry is cruel. It’s dominated by a few big business operators who’ve got into export and make money off it. It can change. It should change. It needs to change. We can make that change. It’s what the community wants. They can’t understand why we can’t do it. This is an opportunity now to do something half sensible before we pack up for the year, before the government puts us into mothballs for the better part of six months. This is an opportunity to do something sensible that the community wants and that we can deliver.