JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: In response to that shocking footage we saw on 60 Minutes five weeks ago the Prime Minister and his Agriculture Minister said they would respond by following the science.
They have not followed the science. Both the Australian Veterinary Association and the RSPCA have made it very clear that on the science the live sheep trade to the Middle East in those hot summer months and community expectations on animal welfare standards are not reconcilable. The changes the Government announced today should have and would have been made a long time ago if Barnaby Joyce had not staled our progress on animal welfare reforms and would have been put in place if we’d had an Independent Inspector General for Animal Welfare and Animal Exports. The changes announced today are a political fix. They are designed to kick the problem down the road and indeed and designed to kick the problem beyond the next Federal Election. That road will be sadly I suspect a long one. And along that road there can be little doubt that we will see another major incident on our television screens and every milepost on that road, sheep will continue to suffer given the hot conditions they are entering into for such protracted periods of time.
Throughout all of this debate, Labor has had three key objectives. First, we want to meet community expectations on animal welfare, we believe they are reasonable community expectations. Two, we want to work with farmers, sheepmeat producers, to take them to a more sustainably profitable place. And three, we want to add more value here in Australia, to do more meat processing here in Australia and to create more jobs here in Australia. Labor will continue to pursue those key objectives.
JOURNALIST: How damaging would it be ending the northern summer trade immediately be for farmers livelihoods?
FITZGIBBON: We don’t believe farmers need be disadvantaged by a phase out of the live sheep export trade. We believe it is a trade in decline in any case for a number of reasons that I am happy to talk to you later about if you like. And we believe that farmers can return more value if they are engaged in a supply chain domestically which of course adds value and seeks and targets premium export markets in both chilled and frozen meat. That is the bright future for farmers and we will work with them to ensure they step along that brighter path.
JOURNALIST: Specifically on that northern summer trade which you were saying needs to end because you were saying, community expectations and the science, what would that do ending it immediately this summer for farmers?
FITZGIBBON: For this summer, the horse has bolted sadly. The Government hasn’t suspended the trade. We are already in the voyages to the northern summer. That horse has well and truly bolted. It need not have. If Barnaby Joyce had not retarded or indeed stalled progress on animal welfare reforms. Thanks everyone.