Speeches

Live Exports

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (16:38): Here we have the Greens once again trying to shut down another rural industry in Australia. That is why rural Australia despises the Greens. Lock it up and leave it. Shut everything down and go live in a cave. That seems to be the attitude of the Greens—lock up the country, don't use it for farming or producing; lock it up and use it for bushfire. Don't allow grazing on the country; let the fuel levels increase to sometimes up to 150 tonnes to the hectare. On a 40-degree day with 50-kilometre wind, a lightning strike hits and what do you have? A bushfire out of control just like, sadly, we experienced a couple years ago in Victoria on Black Saturday, where half the country's national parks burnt, killing the animals and trees with hot fires. And that is called 'conservation'. The Greens have no idea of conservation.

Now they are into the live exports. 'Let's ban that.' I remember very well my days in the mid and late seventies, when I was driving livestock transport in South Australia. I would load up three decks of shipper wethers and take them down to Outer Harbour, where we would unload them in Port Adelaide and then laugh at the waterfront workers and how they were loading the sheep onto the Danny F. Danny F was a big ship with plenty of decks on it for 70,000 live sheep. Amazingly, those sheep would put on weight on the ship as they travelled to Kuwait. It was a well-known fact that they were fed and watered so well. Of course there have been some problems on the odd occasion. We saw a rejection last week for scabby mouth. Scabby mouth is like cold sores on human beings; I have shorn thousands of sheep with scabby mouth. But it was an excuse for them to reject the taking of the sheep.

So here is an industry that has been around since I know of in 1976-77, and here we have the Greens trying to stop it. I remember when we had the AMIEU—Senator Rhiannon mentioned the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union—boycott the yards of North Adelaide. There was a court order put out to have the picket line removed. Of course, Premier Don Dunstan, the Labor Premier of South Australia, said, 'Oh, we can't move the union workers.' So what did we do? We got the boat shifted from Port Adelaide to Wallaroo. Every farmer, every livestock transporter went in there in the middle of the night, loaded the 40,000 or 50,000 sheep up and carted them out to Wallaroo. We then stood outside the hut of the waterfront workers and gave them an option: 'You load the boat and get paid or step aside and we'll load it.' It was a pretty angry time—I think former Prime Minister Bob Hawke said it was the one time he thought there might have been blood shed—because people pushed the farmers and graziers to their limits. And now we have the Greens doing it again. Shut down the industry, take away their livelihoods, have the banks sell them up.

And now we get onto the recent activities of Senator Ludwig with the Four Corners program. None of us condone the abuse of any animals. As I have said before, I am no stranger myself to a butcher's knife when it comes to slaughtering animals. But what was the reaction? The opposition supported the government in banning the supply of cattle to those abattoirs doing the wrong thing. But no; in came the emails to Prime Minister Gillard's office, and they banned the whole trade, shutting down the Top End of Australia. The helicopter pilots doing a muster were put out of work. The truckies stood their rigs idle and had no money to make their lease payments, sending them broke. The Aborigines working on the stations were put out of work. This was the overreaction of this government. They made an absolute disgrace of the way they handled live exports to Indonesia.

And what was the final wash-up? The government went over there and gave the Indonesian government $20 million to improve their beef industry efficiency in Indonesia to breed more stock so we cannot sell to them. How much did they give the Australian graziers up at the Top End of Australia who suffered huge financial losses? The stock had to go under 350 kilos for live weight, but with the delays and the banning so many thousands of stock then exceeded the 350-kilo mark, so what were they doing? Transporting them down to New South Wales. We were getting aged cows from the top of Western Australia transported to Inverell, the town I live in, to the abattoirs there—thousands of kilometres on a truck, a lot longer than even on a boat going overseas. This is the way the government has handled it. And the Greens want to shut the industry down.

Australia exported 3.8 million feeder or slaughter cattle, sheep and goats in 2010 valued at $863 million and accounting for 2.7 per cent of Australia's agricultural exports. It is underpinning the employment of around 10,000 people. Senator Faulkner made the point that this is about jobs, but of course the Greens trying to ban the export do not care about jobs in rural Australia. That is why rural Australia despises the Greens so much. The further away you get from the cities, the more the Greens vote goes down and down because they say, 'Let's play the populist vote and ban everything so we can be popular in the cities.' Rural Australia will not forget them, I can tell you that. The industry provides livestock produced for alternative markets. What are we going to do with the cattle if we cannot export them live? We have abattoirs closing—King Island today, which is another hundred jobs gone—because this government is hell-bent on putting costs on industries and sending them down the gurgler. When live export was closed, between 500,000 and 700,000 cattle were basically left homeless.

And what happens when you overgraze a paddock? Then you have them all starving. You cannot ship the cattle out, there is no feed left on the station to feed the ones that should have gone off the property, the rest are losing condition and then you are looking at more stock losses. That was the result of the government banning live exports to Indonesia: more cattle dying at home because we could not ship them out overseas, we could not unload the numbers off the properties—as the breeders came along, the calves for the new season—and the next thing you have got cows losing condition, not milking properly and more dead stock. The sad thing is that when you have livestock, you will have dead stock. There is nothing surer than that. We know the industry is a good industry for rural Australia. We know in some places overseas they do not do the right thing, such as some of the abattoirs in Indonesia. But the 7A class abattoirs should never have been black banned from the supply of cattle.

The thing that amazes me, and always bothers me, is this: I get all these emails to ban live exports and I see the Greens motion today, and I think, 'Why don't I ever get any emails when a woman is being stoned to death in a country overseas?' Just recently I heard a bloke ring up John Laws. This caller was of the Muslim faith. There was a woman shot only about eight weeks ago for adultery. This bloke rang up John Laws, he comes from out Penrith way, Hussein someone, and he said that the man should have been shot as well. It was wrong to shoot the woman only; they both should have been shot. And if that would happen in Australia, he would be quite happy with that. Don't we care about human life in this place? Why don't I get complaints about women being shot for adultery or women being stoned to death overseas? And yet when we get some story put together on a TV program about an abattoir, some people in Australia start sending emails about the treatment of animals. Don't human beings count as well? Don't we hear the Greens saying, 'What are we fighting about this issue for?'

Senator Rhiannon interjecting

Senator WILLIAMS: No, you are out here trying to shut down rural Australia again with your crazy ideas: banning live export, taking money out of communities, making station owners front up to their bank managers and ask, 'How do we pay now?' The bank managers are saying, 'You've got to pay or we're going to kick you off.' What does that financial pressure do to families when they do not have an income to pay their bank interest? But you are not concerned about that, are you? Just shut down the industry.

And the Labor government are just as bad and as complicit in the crazy way they have handled this whole situation and what they did to the people in the Top End with their panicky moves. As soon as that Four Corners film went to air Senator Ludwig should have been on a plane to Jakarta the next day, met with their primary industries minister and said: 'We have a problem. Let's talk it through.' But, no, they banned exports. We supported the start of it, but then Labor just did a blanket ban and shut down the industry to the detriment of those good Aussie battlers in the Top End where one-third of the stations are owned by Aboriginal people, who work hard and work well and try to make an honest living. And between the do-gooders in this place, what did you do to them? You sent them broke. They were in my office a few weeks ago saying, 'How are we going to handle this with the banks because of what the government and the Greens have done to us?' And here are the Greens now trying to do more: shut them down, put them out of business.

As I said, any wonder rural Australia despises the Greens for the way they want to lock everything up and shut it down? Who is going to feed this world when the whole place is a national park? Who is going to run the properties when station owners are out of business and they cannot make a living, when they go broke and the price of land goes down. This is the problem we face, and between the Greens and the Labor Party, come next election, they will both be condemned in rural Australia for what they have done. (Time expired)

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