SUBJECTS: Moss Review recommendations; Barnaby Joyce wrecking ball; Live exports.
TOM TILLEY: As you heard in Stocky’s [Stephen Stockwell] story Federal Labor are trying to pass legislation that ends the live sheep export industry over the next five years. And Joel Fitzgibbon is Labor’s Agriculture Shadow Minister, Joel thanks for joining us. We just heard the Government’s response to the Moss Review: they are reinstalling the Ag Department’s Animal Welfare Branch, they’re installing an independent auditor general to ensure the Department’s actually doing its job. Is this enough for Labor to reconsider its decision to ban live exports or are you sticking to this one instrument of wiping out this industry no matter what?.
JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA: G’day Tom, great to be with you. You just heard David Littleproud channelling that Neanderthal Barnaby Joyce. And Barnaby Joyce is the real problem here. He destroyed the culture in the Department and the regulator by abolishing our Inspector-General, getting rid of the Animal Welfare Unit in the Department, abolishing the Australian Animal Welfare Strategy and basically giving a green light to the export trade. The key message was you have got an unconditional pass to do whatever you like. And, of course, the Awassi is just one of the outcomes of that. We obviously welcome the belated restoration of the Inspector-General, that is of course, a position I appointed as Ag Minister right back in 2013. Which Barnaby Joyce abolished. By the way, abolished with the support of his Cabinet, which included the now Prime Minister, Scott Morrison. We welcome the backflip on these things but all he is doing is taking us back to where we began. There is a lot more to do on the animal welfare front and we have made it pretty clear that we don’t believe the live sheep trade can be made compatible with reasonable community standards on animal welfare.
TILLEY: OK you talked about Barnaby Joyce’s reaction when they came into power in 2013, in dismantling a lot of that welfare infrastructure in the Department of Ag, part of which you had set up. A pretty strong reaction to what you had done, Labor were also criticised for the way you handled the live cattle export to Indonesia, reacted very quickly banning that temporarily which had massive consequences. Is this just one political extreme reaction after another? Are voters being let down when politicians can’t find the sensible centre.
FITZGIBBON: Well certainly the voters were let down when Joyce moved in and tried to capitalise on the 2011 suspension. That is what this is all about for Joyce see. We saw that terrible 4Corners footage in Indonesia in the cattle trade in 2011. We suspended the trade, that caused a lot of controversy.
TILLEY: People say that was an overreaction. And now you are saying Barnaby Joyce overreacted to that. Are you now overreacting to what he has done and therefore letting the Australian people down?
FITZGIBBON: Well ours was certainly not an overreaction. We out in place a framework which allowed the cattle trade to get back on a sustainable basis.
TILLEY: Eventually –
FITZGIBBON: We are not overreacting because the science Tom is very, very clear. You can’t jam 60,000 sheep onto a vessel - or even 50,000 or 40,000 or even one sheep into a vessel into the hottest of the middle eastern summer for four or five weeks and expect to keep faith with animal welfare standards. It’s just not possible. The two are not compatible.
TILLEY: Okay so where does it go from here Joel Fitzgibbon? Is it either a case of you winning Government next year and bringing this in or is there another scenario where you might actually be able to sway some of the Government MPs like Sussan Ley and Sarah Henderson to get this legislation up before the next election.
FITZGIBBON: We will keep pressing the Government to take further backflips and restore some standards, including the now well overdue review of the standards on live exports. Between now and the next election we will continue to do everything we can do in the Parliament to get my amendments up which would put an immediate cessation to that northern summer trade and phase out the balance of the trade in and around about five years and we will keep pushing for that. If we are elected that is our formal policy and we will enact it at the first opportunity.
TILLEY: Joel good on you. Very interesting text message that might challenge you. “What about the farmers and farming families whose lives and livelihoods will be destroyed by banning live sheep exports?”
FITZGIBBON: It is an interesting question Tom because while the government has been fiddling, it has had a pause itself on the live sheep trade. That pause is now 19 or 20 weeks long and this government hasn’t reached out at all to sheep meat producers and others in the supply chain. They haven’t had a conversation with them let alone offer them some structural assistance or compensation.
TILLEY: Okay, but stop blaming the other side of politics. What about when you introduce these measures and this source of livelihood is no longer there for Australian farmers?
FITZGIBBON: This is why we want to phase the balance of the trade out over a five year period. We are determined to not leave sheepmeat producers stranded. We want to put them on a path of transition. Hopefully to something more sustainably profitable and of course at the same time doing more value adding and creating jobs here in Australia. That is our commitment and we do believe we can transition those farmers to something better.
TILLEY: Alright Joel, it will be interesting to see if you can get it up after the next election and if it does come in after the next election, what the impact is on I guess animal welfare but also the farmers livelihoods. Thanks so much for coming on Triple J.
FITZGIBBON: A great pleasure Tom.