Consideration of Senate Message – Live Animal Exports
Mr PITT: Firstly, I will say that all Australians, when they saw those horrifying images, were simply horrified. That is a statement of fact. But what I put to those members of the House is this: there are an awful lot of horrifying images in Australian agriculture, if you are actually a producer, if you are actually out there producing cattle, producing sheep, producing pork for export markets, for domestic markets. There is a process that our farmers go through that can be very difficult and trying. And I would say to all Australians: where were the Greens—where are the Greens right now? Where have they been for the last decade? Where have the Labor Party been for the past 10 years, when wild dogs have been destroying herds right around Australia? I don’t see them out in the back blocks of Winton. I don’t see them out there helping to put these animals down after they’ve walked around for five days with broken legs, half shredded. These are horrifying images that happen every single day, but I don’t see any support from those opposite to deal with these feral pests. But they’re very happy to pick up an issue that they think will help them politically.
There are more feral pigs in this country than there are people. We don’t see a thing from the Greens about that—the damage that it’s doing to the environment, to all of Australia’s animals. It is horrifying. Feral cats are just as bad. But we don’t see any noise; we don’t see any email activity. We certainly don’t see a big social media campaign about helping the animals of Australia or farmers around Australia who are trying to produce their product. They do not want to lose stock in any circumstance: they don’t want to lose stock in a drought, they don’t want to lose stock through starvation, they don’t want to lose stock if they are being transported to another country after they have been sold and they don’t want to lose stock because they are sick. They simply know that that is a loss. This idea that Australian farmers are intentionally causing harm to their animals is an absolute mistruth put forth by those opposite. It is not true.
We’ve heard from the member for Forrest, a passionate farmer, one of the few farmers in this place who actually goes out there and does this every single week. I congratulate the member for Forrest for still being in the dairy industry. We all know that it’s tough, but this debate should be about facts, and I think we should put a few facts on the table. For those who are squeamish, for those who don’t like the images: I didn’t like them either and I don’t like the fact that it occurred, but, in abattoirs right around the country, if we have a look at the process that happens there, we see that we go in with live animals and we come out with hamburgers. It is a pretty straightforward process: they start at the front, they get knocked, if they are cattle they get their hide stripped, they’re gutted, they go down to the offal room, they are split, they are dehooved, they’re beheaded, they’re cut up and they end up on plates of Australians and people right around the world. We need to have a factual debate.
If there are people in this room who think that you can produce animals and stock in this country without any loss whatsoever, they are being misled, because that is not how it works in the real world. In the real world it is an unfortunate fact of production that you lose stock: they get sick, they get attacked by dogs and they get injured. On lots of occasions, particularly when there is drought, there is pure loss and it is horrifying, most of all for the producers who have put everything into those efforts. I think that we should stand on their side. Certainly in this corner of the House we stand with our producers. They are producing the best livestock in the world. Right around the world, people want our product. It is clean, it is green, it is lean, it is what they want and we’ve been building the agriculture product for Australia for a long time: $61 billion worth of exports with a target of $100 billion. That’s not going to happen if those opposite get their way and shut down a $250 million industry.
I’ve looked at a bit of equivalency, because, quite simply, my people are not affected whatsoever. In my electorate I have no sheep producers that I’m aware of, apart from a few hobby producers, but I know that if a $250 million part of the sector in my economy was destroyed, this is what would happen: I would lose the Bundaberg mills of Millaquin and Bingera, the Isis mill at Childers, the Maryborough sugar mill in the neighbouring electorate of Wide Bay and we still wouldn’t be there—$250 million and thousands of jobs.
What we know about those opposite is that they no longer support working people. They do not support those that get up, put on their steel capped boots, put on their high-vis clothes and their hat, go to work and make a contribution to this country. It is very easy to sit in Melbourne and Sydney and have an idealistic view about anything, because, firstly, it doesn’t affect you and, secondly, you can afford it. The people who are doing this put their hard-earned on the table. As someone who has built up a couple of businesses from absolutely nothing I can tell you that it takes (a) a lot of work, (b) a lot of risk and (c) a lot of commitment. You need to have a good arrangement with your bank and good product that you can sell, and it takes time. There is nothing more devastating than losing your industry because of the intervention of something over which you have no control.
Right now there is a move from those opposite for that intervention to take away these people’s houses and their livelihoods to be by the federal government. We know exactly what will happen here. The banks will foreclose because it’s a pretty easy question: can they service the debts that they have if they have nowhere for their stock to go? If the answer is no, they will foreclose on their farms, they will have a huge loss and it will have been forced by those opposite. There are those of us in this place who stand with our producers, who stand with our farmers and who absolutely intentionally want them to be successful in their chosen trade, because they’re having a go. They are not looking for government handouts, they are not standing around asking for someone else to pay their way; they are Australian producers and we should be proud of the work they are doing.
Can you imagine if this were to move to cattle, another huge, huge export industry for Australia?
We are doing something which no other country in the world is doing with the ESCAS system—there is no-one else—which is applying Australia’s animal welfare system on another country. Can you imagine if we were to go off to another nation—whether it be Britain, somewhere in Europe or any other exporter—and say, ‘Yes, we’re happy to take your product, but, by the way, you’ll need to ensure that we meet the British standard for whatever that system may well be,’ and it were enforced on us, a sovereign nation? Those are the arrangements that we have when we are exporting cattle right around the world. We have in place a system to ensure animal welfare.
As I said earlier, if there is an expectation from those in this place that there will be no loss in the production of animals, well, they are mistaken, because it cannot be done. There are losses on Australian farms every single day through misadventure, through disease, through no choice of the producers. They want every single animal on deck because, if they are not, it is a loss for them. This is a pretty simple business. They produce stock, they have a buyer, they get paid and they sell it. We are doing everything we can to ensure animal welfare standards are met at an appropriate level. But you cannot ship anything around this country, whether it’s by truck—I notice the contribution earlier, where there were complaints about the fact that sheep were being moved in a truck. Can you believe it—the gall of a producer to put stock in a truck! Can I tell you: they cannot fly. There is no magic means to move stock around this country. This is the way that it’s done, and it has been for decades. As I’ve said over and over and over again, there is no-one in this country that produces livestock that wants loss. They do everything they can to prevent it. I have spoken many times with Senator John ‘Wacka’ Williams in the other place. John is a practical guy. He tells me that every single year he loses stock. It’s not something that he wants to do, but that is what happens.
Back to this debate: what an absolute nonsense. This is a $250 million industry, built by the industry, on the backs of their hard work, on top of their risk, on top of what they have done, and the people in this place want to take away their livelihood. Well, that is an absolute disgrace. You should take a good, hard, long look at yourself. We will do everything we can to ensure animal welfare standards. But, if you are sitting on that side of the House and you are saying to the Australian people that you can have this happen and have no stock losses in Australia, what an absolute nonsense that is. Get yourself out to regional Australia and go and talk to the people that do this work, because that can’t be done. Once again, I’d call on the Greens: how about you do something for Australian producers and start to work on feral dogs, feral pigs and feral cats, which are destroying livestock around this country. Shame on you for supporting this. Shame on you for not supporting Australian producers and a $250 million industry.