SUBJECTS: Live export; Ley’s PMB; Labor calls for suspension of live sheep trade to Middle East in northern summer; NFF criticism of Inspector General.
LEON BYNER: Joel Fitzgibbon, good morning. Do you like the sound of what Sussan Ley’s proposing?
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: Great to be with you Leon. Look, I obviously agree with Sussan’s criticism of the sector absolutely, and I have been expressing that concern for some time myself. What is very, very clear is that the standards are not sufficient and that the rules have not been properly enforced and people have not been held to account. Deep and meaningful reform is absolutely necessary and that is why when I was speaking to you a week or more ago, I said the best way to get deep and meaningful reform is for the major parties to be working together. Sadly the Government is lagging and of course people like Sussan are peeling away, and a couple of people on my own side have made some public comment as well. We cannot wait a number of more weeks for a decision to be made about the northern summer trade. The clock is ticking and enquiry after enquiry is not the response the community is looking for.
BYNER: Well Bill Shorten today, in the media, it is across a lot of the multi-media services, is on the record as saying, look, we can’t wait for the enquiry, which is basically what you just said. Does Labor officially now want to also do the same thing and bring a halt date to the live export market?
FITZGIBBON: We certainly want to create a focus on value adding here in Australia and creating Australian jobs. Which also involves, of course, where we need to take Australian agriculture generally, that is, to premium markets. But we don’t want to precipitously bring a halt to the market. We want an orderly transition. The transition really can be led by the sector and the farmers themselves. You know, and I am sure he wouldn’t mind me saying so, I had a Facebook post from my old mate Patrick Secker, a South Australian Federal MP, I am sure you would have heard of him. I am sure he wouldn’t mind me sharing this with you as Facebook is pretty public. It is a long post, but at the end he says I have never allowed my sheep to go to the live trade market. So we all have a stake in this, farmers themselves can make a decision about where they want their product to go. We know who the main culprits are in the sector. We can deal with them. But I think Government has a leadership role to play in providing some guidance to the market and the sector to ensure we do move towards those higher value markets and create more jobs here in Australia.
BYNER: Alright so what is the next move?
FITZGIBBON: Well yesterday we announced that if we were in Government we would suspend the trade to the Middle East in the northern summer for any sheep that aren’t already beyond the farm gate. Because we know what can happen if you just halt the trade when sheep are already in that supply chain. That is a clear message to the Government that we don’t believe it’s moving quickly enough. Sussan’s Private Members Bill is effectively a vote of no confidence in her own government. Malcolm Turnbull has been allowed to sit on the fence here. David Littleproud and the National Party introduced a very slow process with three reveiws while Malcolm says nothing. I think Malcolmn Turnbull - I know he is overseas but maybe Michael McCormack could do it – could make it clear that they too share the community’s impatience and these reviews, three reviews now. One reporting in May, one in August one in 2019. It’s all too slow. The northern summer – the Festival of Eid is in I think June. These ships will be embarking before that report is tabled in the Parliament. It’s not good enough. We need to do something now. The community is rightly demanding it.
BYNER: Alright, well look it won’t surprise you to know that the New Zealand export trade, the New Zealand farmers, the peak body. They’ve got no problem with the ban since 2003. Their argument is that by continuing a live export trade it would damage the country’s image overseas.
FITZGIBBON: And Leon, by contrast here in Australia, the National Farmers Federation has been railing against my independent Inspector General for Animal Welfare and Live Animal Exports for three years now saying it’s too much red tape. What part of this equation do they not understand?
BYNER: Well in my view Joel it will be public opinion that will swing this. That’s Joel Fitzgibbon.