LEON BYNER: Let’s update on what’s going on with the business of sheep exports and talk with the opposite of the Minister, Mr Littleproud, Shadow Agriculture Minister Joel Fitzgibbon. Joel, what can you tell us and good morning?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: Good morning Leon, I’m sorry I missed your earlier slot, but I was in the Chamber. Something very extraordinary just happened in the House of Representatives. You will know there is a Bill to increase penalties for rogue exporters in the live sheep trade. That is part of the Government’s response, inadequate response, to the Awassi Express affair. And I foreshadowed in the Parliament last night that I would move an amendment when we got to the appropriate stage of the Bill this morning which would actually have the same effect as the Sussan Ley Bill. It would put an immediate stop to the summer trade and phase out the trade over a five year period. And the Government, despite having it listed for debate on what we call the Blue this morning, pulled the Bill. And it pulled the Bill because it can’t control its own backbench and it didn’t want people crossing the floor. In fact it might have believed, and we don’t know these things for certainty, that my amendment would have succeeded and amended the Bill and gone to the Senate and probably passed there too. They have lost control of their Party-room. They didn’t want people crossing the floor. And of course, what was an urgent matter, to use the Government’s own words, has now been pushed off into the never-never.
BYNER: Now this Bill that you introduced today, that they have pulled, have they pulled it because they are the Government and you are the Opposition?
FITZGIBBON: No it was their Bill, introduced by Minister Littleproud to increase penalties for breaches of animal welfare standards. I was trying to amend their Bill. I did the right thing, I foreshadowed it last night. I could have surprised the Government today and just stood up and suddenly moved the amendment without warning. But I wanted to give all Members of Parliament an opportunity to sleep on it overnight, to think about their positions, because, as you know, many on the Government benches support me on this.
FITZGIBBON: So they couldn’t control people so they just pulled the Bill. Denying everybody an opportunity to vote and in doing so they have further deferred, six weeks on from the Awassi Express affair, they have now deferred what they called their key responses, that is, increased penalties.
BYNER: So there are no increased penalties now?
FITZGIBBON: No increased penalties until that Bill passes both the House and the Senate. We are home for two weeks -
BYNER: But they will blame you because you tried to amend it.
FITZGIBBON: No doubt they will try to blame me. But we hold the view that penalties can be increased but what is the point? They are, as you know, they are never applied anyway. So increasing penalties that are never applied by the regulator doesn’t help at all.
BYNER: So if they bring that back, and they will have to at some point, and you try for the same amendment, what’s to stop them pulling it again?
FITZGIBBON: Nothing, and I should make the point, we had a conversation earlier about needing an absolute majority of the House, 76 votes, to bring Sussan Ley’s on for a vote, this is completely different. I have done this by way of amendment of a Government Bill and to get my amendment up I only needed a simple majority.
BYNER: And they are worried you would have got it?
FITZGIBBON: They are worried that I would have won.
BYNER: Joel thank you, that is the Shadow Agriculture Minister.