| August 22, 2018

Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018

Right at the outset of this debate, we need to make sure that everybody is well aware that this is not about the lamb trade. This is not about the lamb that we eat here in Australia; this is about the wool flock—the sheep that have been growing wool for six years or seven years and are then being offloaded at the end of their lives as wool-producing sheep. They are classified as mutton. Australians don't eat mutton, or they eat very little of it. Therefore, to take away this live export business, this live export opportunity, is really a dagger in the heart of farmers who are currently doing it very tough under the drought that we are experiencing. The people who are in support of this ban on live sheep being traded would have you believe that the industry is in serious decline, but that's not necessarily the case. One of Australia's major competitors, Romania, has increased its live exports by 36 per cent each year—year upon year—from 2010 right through to 2016, with over 2.5 million sheep from Romania exported in 2016.

Live sheep will remain vital for food security and religious reasons, with more than one million sheep imported into the Middle East for the annual Festival of Sacrifice alone. Qatar and Kuwait are our two largest markets, but Turkey has also emerged as the third major market in the last 12 months. Trade to Israel, Jordan, UAE and Oman remains important, while there are prospects of exports to Saudi Arabia and other markets such as Iran which are going to see this market diversify further.

Those who say that a ban on live sheep will in no way impact on the export of cattle are also very incorrect. More than half a million cattle have been exported from Australia to Israel alone in the last 10 years. In the 12 months to the end of April 2018, more than 100,000 cattle were exported via the Red Sea, predominantly to Israel and Turkey. Cattle exported to the Middle East are typically shipped with sheep. So a long-haul sheep ban is going to have a decimating effect on the opportunity for us to export cattle, as it will seriously impact the commerciality of our ability to do that.

In 2017, of the 1.7 million live sheep that were exported by sea, 99.29 per cent were delivered in good health. They were delivered into suitable facilities approved under the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance Scheme. The trade in live sheep and the export markets in the Middle East are still open, and they must remain so under this government. We need a sustainable live export trade which has good animal welfare outcomes. This trade provides for 100,000 rural Australian jobs and is worth well over $1.4 billion. A ban or a phase-out of this entire industry would unfairly punish those exporters and farmers who have done no wrong. The calls to ban live exports disregard the value of this trade to our farmers and others in rural and regional Australia, especially in this time of worsening drought.

It would be a kneejerk reaction along similar lines to what the Labor Party did when they were previously exposed to issues in relation to cattle going to Indonesia. They made an immediate decision to ban the live export of cattle into Indonesia, and then, within a few months, realised they had made a mistake. Within six months they reversed their decision and then they were wondering why Indonesia was no longer interested in Australia's cattle. Farmers have never been able to recover from that knee jerk reaction that the Labor Party made when they saw the television images of those cattle being killed in an incorrect manner. Yes, they should have acted. But they overreacted with a ban in exactly the same way that they are now wanting to fix this issue with a ban.

Minister Littleproud has brought in place a whole range of regulatory changes. He has reduced the allowable stock densities and made that a serious issue, and he has increased penalties for poor husbandry on the way over to the Middle East. We need to stick by Minister Littleproud as he attempts to fix this industry.

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