Mr ENTSCH (Leichhardt-Chief Opposition Whip) (16:11): All I can say is God help the graziers in northern Australia when you have got that type of absolute uninformed drivel that is coming forward here on an issue that is so critically vital to so many families in Northern Australia. We are supposed to be talking about the banning of live exports. He talks about drought plans, food plans, carbon farming infrastructure, pesticides and weeds. He talks about everything except what concerns those families that will be sitting there today listening to this debate wondering when they are going to get their next pay cheque. The last one would have been at the end of the season last year. Many of those people, particularly in my electorate, that service this market, which is the overwhelming majority through Cape York, would have only started mustering in May because they could not get access into their country because the Peninsula Developmental Road was still shut at Easter. They have that one chance of getting a cheque for the year, for those few months. This is something that this mob on the other side have no understanding of at all. They get one opportunity to get a cheque once a year.
This is repeated right across Northern Australia. He talked about it only going to be six months. By my calculation, six months comes in about November or December this year. It is either too hot or the rains have started and the opportunity to get those 500,000 head of cattle across Northern Australia that would be going to this market has been lost. What happens with those cattle? He talks about our being humane and that we have them in the feedlots; we know they are being looked after there. How long are they going to be looked after? I have not seen any offer to feed this stock. Where are we going to process these animals? You are going to need your pesticides and your weed control as these animals will put on extra pressure if we leave them on these properties, because they will be overstocked. You are going to need all the pesticides and weed control you can get. It is going to blow your carbon initiative out the window too, I would suggest, with the numbers of cattle that we are talking about!
Quite frankly, this is an absolute disgrace. All of us that saw the program on 30 May were shocked at the revelations and there is nobody that would say that the treatment of some of those creatures was in any way acceptable. It needs to be addressed immediately. As shadow minister I have supported the minister’s initiative of immediately putting a ban on those abattoirs that were featured and that showed they could not provide the appropriate level of processing. I applauded that because I thought to myself, ‘We have got a minister on the other side that actually might know what he is doing.’ But how disappointing. What the minister did was react to media. He reacted to form letters. He had understanding. He should have been on a plane the next day to Indonesia, saying: ‘Let’s have a look at this. What have we got to do to fix this problem?’ He had no idea. Here we are today and people still have no idea where they are going as far as their economic future is concerned. He still has not got on that plane; he has not bothered to check. In preparing to speak here tonight, I thought I would have a look at the government website. Maybe that will give me a little insight into the thinking of the minister and the department. I have here the Australian government’s response to the mistreatment of Australian cattle in Indonesian abattoirs, dated 27 April 2011. The program was aired on 30 May. Obviously they knew about it just prior to it being aired. The website has not been updated. It says:
Australia leads the world in animal welfare practices. The Australian Government does not tolerate cruelty towards animals and will not compromise on animal welfare standards.
He talks about being asleep at the wheel! This mob has been in for four years, and this is what they say on the website. For anyone going to the Australian government website to find out what is happening, this is the current information. It further states:
Suggestions that the live trade could be completely replaced by chilled or frozen meat fails to take into account the requirements of the market. While Australia has developed a significant trade in meat products, the lack of refrigeration and cold chain facilities, as well as strong cultural preferences for freshly slaughtered meat, precludes Australia from servicing all of its export markets with processed meat products.
This is what is on the website even today. This is what you read from the minister, but what is said here contradicts absolutely the decision he made.
The shadow minister was right: we introduced NLIS tags to this country some years ago. There was some objection within industry, but the tags are very effective and they are now a national requirement. In the Northern Territory and in Western Australia there have been some exceptions to their use on cattle for export, but the exporters themselves are demanding that the NLIS tags are in place on animals before they are loaded on the boat. From what I understand, only about 10 per cent of animals going overseas now do not have NLIS tags. Those on the other side suggest that it cannot happen, but it can happen overnight. It is a simple application. For those on the other side who have no understanding of how you deal with cattle, it is a simple matter: as the cattle go through the crush, it is a one-hand operation to apply the NLIS tag. As far as registration is concerned, there is a reader in the crush and every single animal that goes through that crush is read. That record is with that animal all the way through the process. We know that there are seven large processing abattoirs in Indonesia that can deal with this problem to Australian standards, which are much higher than other international standards. It should be happening right now. There is no reason why it cannot be applied immediately. There are cattle that are ready to go out now. There is nowhere else for those cattle to be treated.
I have an email here from Shirley McPherson, the chairperson of the Indigenous Land Corporation. Like all of us, she was absolutely shocked at the footage and the way that the cattle had been handled. She contrasted the excellent treatment of Australian cattle on the properties of origin, on export boats and in Indonesian feeding lots. She went on to say in the email that the ILC is involved with 80 Indigenous properties, collectively running over 200,000 head. They employ over 700 people and there are approximately 14,000 Indigenous people living on or near these pastoral properties. As the minister said, there are many more Indigenous people involved in this industry. It gives them a whole lot of benefits. Shirley states here that there is significantly increased employment and accredited training opportunities, increased income for Indigenous people, increased capacity as a result of training, and increased self-esteem, pride and wellbeing. These are all of the things that we talk about, including this mob over here, such as closing the gap.
These are the sorts of things that actually close the gap. They have no other opportunities in these areas other than to be processing cattle. It is what they want to do and what they do well, and here you are robbing them of that opportunity. It is all very well to say it is only six months. Six months income means a lot to people. Cameron and Doreen Quartermaine up at Watson River Station have spent a lifetime building up their property, which is at the tip of Cape York, near Weipa. They are totally reliant on the export market. They have not had a pay cheque since last year, and they are not going to get a pay cheque this year. I do not see this mob going to them saying, ‘We’re going to get out there. We’ll help them. We’ll fill that in.’ They have cattle there that they have to process. We have to move very, very quickly. There is no reason why we cannot be loading cattle onto boats today or tomorrow to go into those accredited abattoirs, and the other ones have to be fixed. We need to be moving quickly on that.
What we have got to do, though, is get the minister on a plane-maybe the parliamentary secretary will jump on the plane with him so that he does go over there, so that the next time he comes into this place he can contribute to some level of informed debate on a process that is destroying a huge number of people’s livelihoods in Northern Australia. I think they should be shamed for their lack of action, their lack of compassion and their total lack of understanding of an industry that is worth $1.8 billion to this community but, more importantly, for each and every one of the people who are affected by this, aside from those whose livelihoods have been affected in Northern Australia. These people here have a knee-jerk reaction, as I said, to form letters and have no understanding of the consequences. They stand condemned for this appalling treatment.