Labor understands that there is opposition to live export and that recent events like the shocking revelations of livestock mistreatment in Vietnamese abattoirs have again brought this issue to the public’s attention.
In Government, Labor implemented the Export Supply Chain Assurance Scheme (ESCAS) – a regulatory regime that forces exporters to show they have a plan to treat animals humanely and provides monitoring and auditing all the way from port to abattoir. The industry has trained over 7,500 people in Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe in approved animal welfare practices.
Ahead of the 2016 Federal Election, Labor committed to review the ESCAS regulatory framework– including its sanctions – to determine whether it is working as effectively as it needs to in order to balance a strong live export industry with protecting animal welfare.
Labor also committed to appoint an independent Inspector-General of Animal Welfare, who would have responsibility for overseeing the implementation of laws concerning live export, investigating alleged breaches of them, and providing independent advice to the Federal Government on reforms where the need for these arises. One of the key tasks of the Inspector-General would be to work with the States and Territories to establish an Office of Animal Welfare which will provide independent, rigorous regulatory oversight of animal welfare in Australia.
Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce and the Turnbull Government have refused to commit to any of these important steps to continue improving animal welfare in the live export industry. Labor believes these steps are urgently needed to ensure the protection of animals remains a core focus for exporters and so that the public can have confidence in this significant industry.
The live export trade is an important part of Australia’s meat industry. It earns Australia around $1.5 billion a year, provides employment for tens of thousands of Australians, and underpins a strong cattle industry.
Worldwide there is a market for live animals. The reasons range from cultural preferences through to infrastructure issues including refrigeration and energy challenges which make transport and distribution of boxed meat impossible.
The reality is, if Australia doesn’t fill these markets, other countries who do not have Australian-equivalent animal welfare standards will supply these markets. This would lead to a downgrading of animal welfare outcomes across our region and the globe – an outcome nobody wants to see.
It is also not a simple matter to transfer from live export to frozen meat supply, for two reasons. First, cattlemen in Australia’s far north do not have the feed and conditions to grow cattle all the way to slaughter weight, given the nature of the landscape and climate. Without the live trade industry, producers in the north would not be viable.
Second, climatic issues like northern Australia’s wet season and the distances involved, make slaughter, storage and transport of meat to port difficult. Not all of the stock currently exported live could simply be diverted to an Australian processing facility and economically processed and exported as frozen.
Through education and persistence, Australia’s live trade sector is raising animal handling and slaughter standards across the globe. Importantly too, it creates jobs in Australia across regional communities where they are badly needed.
Labor will always work to secure and improve on animal welfare outcomes by ensuring oversight mechanisms like ESCAS are as strong as they can be. Good animal welfare underpins a strong Australian cattle industry, and that will continue to be Labor’s priority in the future.
Labor’s Shadow Minister for Agriculture has called on the Government to provide a robust response following new reports of incidences of animal cruelty both within and outside the supply chain. A copy of the Shadow Minister’s statement in the House may be found at: http://parlinfo.aph.gov.au/parlInfo/search/display/display.w3p;db=CHAMBER;id=chamber%2Fhansardr%2Fdc58b6e4-9f62-4cac-8b47-8eedf2e5c75d%2F0041;query=Id%3A%22chamber%2Fhansardr%2Fdc58b6e4-9f62-4cac-8b47-8eedf2e5c75d%2F0000%22