SUBJECTS: Sussan Ley’s Private Members Bill; transition away from live sheep export trade. By-elections.
LEON BYNER: Now look, there has been a very interesting development about the business of the live sheep export and I will tell you what it is. The Victorian back bencher Sarah Henderson has revealed that she will second fellow rural [MP] Sussan Ley the Private Members Bill to phase out the long haul sheep exports. Now what this means is, it gives the Parliament the numbers to get it through the lower House. Now of course I have to tell you, I don’t underestimate that Mr Turnbull is very angry and it has been reported that he has gone to Sussan Ley and said please withdraw this and she has said, no I won’t. We caught up a few minutes ago with Mr Littleproud’s opposite, Mr Joel Fitzgibbon. Joel Fitzgibbon thanks for joining us this morning. We understand that the Parliament may well pass Labor’s live export ban, being phased out over five years, tell us what is happening.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: Leon, you will recall and your listeners will recall that Sussan Ley, the Liberal member for regional Victoria, announced some weeks ago that she would lodge a Private Members Bill in the House of Representatives. This week I have been in deep discussion with her about what that Bill might look like from the perspective of the potential of Labor supporting the Bill. We have also had discussions with other cross party members including the Greens Party. It seems to me we are very close now to reaching an agreement on what that Bill will look like. The sticking point for me has been in the timing of the phase out . I don’t believe we can successfully transition farmers without doing them damage inside five years. Thankfully it appears to me that all parties have agreed that a five year phase out is a reasonable period of time. We have also agreed we can’t wait five years for the horrendous northern summer trade to be dealt with. Therefore I think we are pretty close to agreement that that summer trade should be phased out immediately; although this Bill could never hope to be through the Parliament before the completion of this year’s summer trade so that would have application first of all in 2019. So we are pretty close and if we can secure agreement then the Bill will have a real prospect of passing the House of Representatives and certainly the Senate. It just depends on these coming by-elections because of course the Labor Party has just lost 3 votes in the House of Reps and Rebekah Sharkie who was also poised to support the Bill.
BYNER: Alright. Did you catch up with my conversation yesterday with the Minister Mr Littleproud?
FITZGIBBON: I did indeed Leon and I hung off every word. I was somewhat taken back by his cockiness and his dismissive approach to what is a very serious concern for so many people in our community. He effectively admitted that the northern summer trade has no future. In other words you just cannot regulate or set standards that are going to allow you to put so many sheep on a ship for so long in searing heat without, you know well, and also meet community expectations on animal welfare. He said extraordinarily that he accepts we can transition sheep meat farmers to something better. Value adding and creating jobs here in Australia. That’s something the Government has said previously is not possible. And of course I was very much taken back when he was unable to tell you which exporters had suffered penalties or any other sanctions as a result of these many breaches of the standards and of course you and I both know that those penalties are very rare indeed.
BYNER: So how long before we know whether or not the Parliament passes this? How long do we have to wait?
FITZGIBBON: Well Sussan Ley and I and the cross parties still have to finalise this agreement. But we are very close particularly on the issue of the five years. Unfortunately because we have lost these members this week we really need to wait until after the by-elections before we progress this Bill further. And when the by-elections are is a matter for Malcolm Turnbull. It is interesting isn’t it. He is now four votes better off in the House of Representatives and he doesn’t seem to be in any hurry whatsoever to have these by-elections. That is unacceptable as it leaves four electorates, five electorates actually without representation in the National Parliament. He should issue to have those writs issued quickly, have those by-elections. If he does it in the normal expected time frame you would expect we would be at the polls, or those electorates would be at the polls sometime in June.
BYNER: Joel thanks for joining us. That’s Joel Fitzgibbon.