Peter Khalil: I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this private member’s bill, the Live Sheep Long Haul Export Prohibition Bill 2018, brought forward by the member for Farrer. This is an issue that I and many of my constituents have been very passionate about, demonstrated through more than 2,000 emails that I’ve received, around the issue of live exports, since the footage was aired on the ABC earlier this year. In my two years as the member for Wills few issues have stirred such a passionate and sustained response from constituents. I was appalled at what I saw in the footage of the live sheep trade. I’d spent considerable time working with Labor colleagues on our position, so it was heartening to see Labor make the announcement to end live export. It was a good vindication of our ability as a party to get our policy right on this issue.
While I’m by no means an expert in the policy area, having seen the footage over the past few years I found it heart-wrenching. I’ve been endeavouring since I was elected in 2016 to understand, more particularly, the policy direction of a phase-out of the export of live sheep, how that would work, how a transitional arrangement would work, and what it would entail. That’s why I argued very strongly for an immediate end and complete ban of live sheep export during these northern summer months. Even as the overall review was underway and being conducted by the government, it was important that the ban take place immediately and, in the longer term, that an overall phase-out of all live sheep exports be taken in a timely manner. Both steps are now Labor policy. Mahatma Gandhi once said: ‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.’ And I think that’s a pretty good yardstick for Australia. This bill, essentially, does these two things, which are broadly consistent with what Labor has been calling for when it comes to dealing with live sheep exports to the Middle East.
Despite many chances, the live sheep trade has been unable to demonstrate it is capable of meeting reasonable animal welfare standards. The Prime Minister said he wanted to take a science based approach but has chosen to ignore the advice of both the Australian Veterinary Association and the RSPCA. They both say, categorically, that live sheep cannot be transported to the Middle East during the northern summer period without suffering extreme heat stress. That’s all too evident, and we have seen that. This is why Labor will put a halt to that summer trade and phase out the rest of the trade as quickly as practically possible. But Labor will also work with farmers, unions and businesses to develop a strategic red meat industry plan to help sheep farmers make the transition to a model which delivers more sustainable profitability. In addition to offering something better for farmers, Labor’s plan will allow more value to be added to the product here in Australia, create more jobs here in Australia and deliver a better result for the Australian economy.
Mr Broad: How so?
Peter Khalil: I’ll take that interjection. It’s about building abattoirs here in Australia, building up the chilled meat export trade and making sure we can export to our partners in the Middle East. That will take a bit of diplomatic work, you know that. The member’s quite right: it will take a fair bit of work. But we’re prepared to do that because it’s the right path forward, both for farmers and for animal welfare.
Despite the push to prohibit live export in the northern summer months, the government’s response to the McCarthy review has been entirely inadequate. The Veterinary Association of Australia and the RSPCA have told us there is simply no way you can allow the northern summer sheep trade to continue. That’s why a future Shorten Labor government will act on the science and stop that northern summer sheep trade at the first opportunity. We will also phase out the balance of the live sheep export trade over time and impose the highest regulatory standards during the transition period.
At the last election, Labor also set out a very comprehensive plan to protect animal welfare. It included an independent office of animal welfare; an independent inspector-general for animal welfare; a review of the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy and the exporter-supply chain assurance system; banning animal testing for cosmetics within Australia and the importation for sale of new products tested on animals overseas; and the provision of far more transparency and accountability by the Department of Agriculture. I would have hoped that the government would have adopted some of those policies and we wouldn’t be in the mess that we’re in now.
Labor wants to end the cruelty. Labor wants to ensure our sheep farmers are sustainably profitable. Labor wants to create more jobs here in Australia, and we want to make sure there is animal welfare.