Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018 - Second Reading

August 20, 2018

Mr BUTLER (Port Adelaide) (18:11): Rarely has an issue so appalled and mobilised my community to action as has the live sheep export trade. It's mobilised people across the political spectrum from the youngest members of my community to the oldest members. Since the shocking and appalling footage of sheep cooking alive and wallowing in their own filth emerged from ships bound for the Middle East a little while ago, more than 2,000 of my constituents have called, emailed, written and dropped into my office to express their disgust, their dismay and their desperate pleas for action from me and from this national parliament. That's on top of the many thousands of constituents who've made the same pleas over recent years.

This government has dodged this argument time and time again. They're simply waiting for it to drop out of the public's mind—out of sight, out of mind—and hopefully, for them, out of the national papers. But in my electorate of Port Adelaide it hasn't left the public's mind—nor will it. The docks of Port Adelaide are a stone's throw from my electorate office, and every time a live sheep export ship is in port, the anger, the sadness and the disgust that this government is sitting idly by is palpable. Locals and people from across Adelaide gather at the wharves and their faces are full of horror at what they're witnessing and anger at the continuation of this undeniable cruelty.

The government have tried to say that they're acting in accordance with the science. Well, they're not. They've dodged the science and they've dodged responsibility. The Australian Veterinary Association and the RSPCA have said that, no matter what regulations are put in place and no matter the penalties for breaching those regulations, this voyage is simply untenable. It's unsafe. No animal should endure the long voyage to the northern summer from Australia ever again. The summer trade must be halted immediately.

Australian produce is lauded the world over for its quality, and part of that quality is borne of the care and the attention that Australian farmers give to their livestock. It's the Australian law and the Australian government that are currently failing the standards expected of and by all Australians. For too long this debate has been framed as animals or farmers. That's not the question. It's not a question of saving one with the betrayal of another. Farmers raise their animals with care and attention to their wellbeing and their quality.

At the moment, farmers across the nation are battling a devastating drought. They're facing the prospect of watching their livestock suffer thirst and hunger, unable to help them. We've seen so many distressing stories of farmers choosing to kill their livestock rather than watch them continue to suffer. This difficult decision, this tragic decision, clearly shows that the live export trade is not in line with the values of either our farming community or our broader community. The hard work and the effort put into each and every Australian-raised sheep is destroyed as they're packed onto ships with barely room to stand and spend weeks in sweltering temperatures, slowly dying of thirst and heat. It's the antitheses of the farming trade, not the tools of it.

I commend the member for Farrer for having the courage to stand up and cease waiting for the government to act on this issue. It's notable, obviously, that she comes from a regional electorate with a long background in this area, representing many farmers from across her big constituency. Clearly, this is not just a matter of inner-city people out of touch with the realities of farming. It's a matter, instead, of corporate interests out of touch with the values of the broader Australian community, whether they're from metropolitan or regional areas. Australians expect better. The evidence in this matter is clear: the northern summer trade must be stopped. It can't be done safely, it can't be done humanely and it shouldn't be done at all.