SUBJECTS: Live Sheep Exports, Mark Latham and One Nation.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: More than three months ago now, Agriculture Minister David Littleproud described what we saw on our television screens as bullshit. Well what is bullshit is that the Turnbull Government is about to provide an export license to the same company to send 60,000 live sheep into the hottest of the Middle Eastern summer. Emanuel and its related entities is kicking sand in the Turnbull Government’s face and the Turnbull Government should stand up for itself. Certainly the Opposition stands ready to join with the Government to support any Executive action the Turnbull Government choses to take to stop this export of these 60,000 sheep from taking effect. It’s time the Government brought the penalties Bill back to the Parliament and allowed the Parliament to express its will. To do two things, to put an immediate stop to the northern summer live sheep trade and to phase out the balance of the trade over the next five years. This is a trade which has a broken model. It is a trade that can’t be done consistent with reasonable community expectations and the Government should allow the Parliament to express its will. Now the Government said it would act, but it hasn’t acted. Sheep farmers are hurting because of that inaction. Labor has a plan – an orderly transition out of the industry and a plan to take sheepmeat producers to something more sustainably profitable. The Government’s clumsy approach to this issue is hurting sheepmeat producers and it is hurting a number of other people along the supply chain that rely on this trade. The Government needs to be clear in its intention. It seems to be trying to kill the trade by regulation rather than accept the model is broken and that farmers need support to transition to something different. Again the Government needs to put a stop to this proposed export of 60,000 sheep into the worst imaginable conditions in the world. Millions of Australians today who have expressed concern over the live sheep trade over recent months, sending hundreds of thousands of emails to MPs, including Coalition MPs, will be feeling let down by a Turnbull Government that said it will act but refuses to act.
JOURNALIST: Do you think on principle though that the Minister should be able to interfere and refuse a permit to Emanuel even though the regulator is independent?
FITZGIBBON: Emanuel is kicking sand in the Minister's face. It's legally sidestepping his suspension of their export licence and he should close that sidestep down. The Opposition stands ready to back any Executive action he would like to take to stop this trade. And if he can't stop this particular shipment, it just underscores the fact that we need to act on this northern summer trade, we need to act on it quickly, and he should bring that Bill back to the Parliament at the first possible chance. In fact, the first day back in the Parliament.
JOURNALIST: You have been in this role before, what exactly can the Minister do to prevent it?
FITZGIBBON: Well I have spoken to the Minister this morning and I hope he doesn’t mind me saying so. He says he has advice that it is difficult to stop this Emanuel related entity from applying for this export license. I have a slightly different view. I am sure there is a way we can do this together. I suspect the abolition of all the export license related to those entities would do the trick. But whatever he chooses to do, if he is prepared to use some muscle, we will stand by him to stop these 60,000 sheep leaving Australia.
JOURNALIST: Does he have the power to actually refuse the permit and intervene?
FITZGIBBON: The Minister advises there are some legal challenges for the regulator. I say that standing with the Opposition and with the full support of the Australian people we should and must stop these 60,000 sheep embarking on that voyage to the worst, hottest conditions in the world.
JOURNALIST: You mentioned Emanuel are kicking sand in the face of the Minister, can you elaborate on that? What type of pressure are they putting on the Minister?
FITZGIBBON: Well the Minister has made it clear he is suspending their license to operate until further investigations are undertaken into some of their practices of the past. Now they are using a closely related entity to apply for another export license. Now there may be some legal challenges there but it’s my view that there are ways to stop this taking place and surely with the full support of the Opposition and indeed most of the crossbenchers in the Parliament he can find a way of using Executive power to stop these 60,000 sheep embarking from Australia.
JOURNALIST: Have you spoken with the crossbench? Is it something they (inaudible)?
FITZGIBBON: I know the crossbench view on this. There is no doubt that there is majority support for action on the live sheep trade in the Australian Parliament. That is why the Government has refused to bring its penalties Bill on. I have an amendment to that Bill which would give effect to an immediate cessation of the northern summer live sheep trade and phase out the balance of the trade over a five year period. Why isn’t the Government bringing that Bill back? Because it knows it’s the will of the Parliament to put an end to this northern summer trade and indeed to phase out the balance of the trade. That is what the government should do. It should allow the Parliament to express its will.
JOURNALIST: Your colleague Chris Bowen has described Mark Latham as a Labor rat. Do you agree with this characterisation?
FITZGIBBON: Well it’s not the Mark Latham I once knew and what is more interesting is that the policies of One Nation are anything but consistent with the ideals, views and objectives of the Labor Party. Ideals and objectives Mark Latham so well represented for a long time. There seems to be some political opportunism here. I believe Mark Latham is being inconsistent with his policy approach. I think it’s sad that he has gone over to One Nation because it doesn’t stand for anything that the Mark Latham I knew stood for.