SUBJECTS: Ley’s PMB; live sheep exports.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: Morning all. This week I will be recommending to the Shadow Cabinet and to the Party Room that Labor supports Sussan Ley’s Private Members Bill, which suspends, and indeed phases out the live sheep trade. This is not the preferred course for any of us. Private Members Bills are not the ideal way to promote legislation, but this is what happens when the government of the day vacates the field on an issue which is so important to the Australian community. David Littleproud isn’t here in the Parliament today, or indeed tomorrow, he has taken off elsewhere, leaving us all to believe that when the next ship leaves Fremantle, possibly this week, it is suddenly going to be embracing all the new rules and standards David Littleproud announced last Thursday. Those new rules will be regulated by the same regulator, which has failed the expectations of the Australian community in the past. The fact is, Dr McCarthy’s Review did not follow the science. The Government hasn’t followed the science. Sussan Ley and Sarah Henderson have made it clear that they agree it didn’t follow the science. The RSPCA and the Australian Veterinary Association agrees Dr McCarthy didn’t follow the science. So sheep will continue to suffer over the course of the next few months and sadly, I feel that it is very, very likely we will again see another incident like we saw on 60 Minutes more than a month ago. Many of the new rules David Littleproud announced are temporary, others have been kicked down the road, they are subject to future taskforces and committees; some of the new rules will apply in 2019 but not the 2018 summer trade. So in that respect not much has changed. Importantly the McCarthy Review and the Government’s adoption of those recommendations, suggest that stocking densities for example, could actually be wound back in the future. So in other words, this is a document designed to get the Government through the next Federal Election, in an attempt to put this issue temporarily aside. The issue is not going away unfortunately, we have an opportunity actually, not to proceed with a Private Members Bill, but have the Government work with the Labor Party and the cross-benchers to put in place an orderly transition, and in doing so, to create more value-adding in Australia, and of course, therefore more jobs in Australia.
JOURNALIST: To your knowledge, where else in the Coalition is there support for Sussan Ley’s Private Members Bill, and also in the cross-bench?
FITZGIBBON: I have had a number of Liberal back-benchers approach me in the corridors expressing real concern about the northern summer trade in particular and indicating they are considering supporting the Private Members Bill. Obviously I am not in a position to name them, but I expect that support will grow. It is clear out there in the Australian community that the Government’s response to the 60 Minutes report hasn’t anywhere near gone close to meeting community expectations. And on that basis I think, the body of people on the Coalition side inclined to support this Bill will grow over time.
JOURNALIST: How many people have approached you?
FITZGIBBON: I am not going to put a number on it, but suffice to say that a number of Coalition MPs have approached me expressing very deep concern about the live sheep export trade, in particular, the trade in the northern summer months.
JOURNALIST: How about the cross-bench, where will that sit?
FITZGIBBON: Well if Labor can restore its numbers to 69 and you work on the basis that Sussan Ley and Sarah Henderson, although I see Sarah Henderson this morning has expressed her reluctance to support a Suspension of Standing Orders. But two of them would take us to 71 and if we have 3 cross-benchers, with 74 we are close to the 76 we need to form an absolute majority and therefore suspend Standing Orders in the House. Thanks everyone.