Transcript - Television Interview - ABC News 24 - Wednesday, 31 October 2018

SUBJECTS: Moss Review recommendations; Barnaby Joyce wrecking ball; Live exports

SUBJECTS: Moss Review recommendations; Barnaby Joyce wrecking ball; Live exports

KIRSTEN AIKEN: Let’s get more on this now. I’m joined from Newcastle by Federal Member for the Hunter and Shadow Minister for Agriculture Joel Fitzgibbon.  Thank you for joining us this afternoon.  The Government accepts all 31 recommendations of the Moss Review.  Does the Opposition also support all changes stemming from the Moss Report? 

JOEL FITZGIBBON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES, FORESTRY AND RURAL AND REGIONAL AUSTRALIA:  In principle, yes.  We need to take some time to have a look at the detail.  But we certainly welcome the back downs.  I mean, Barnaby Joyce abolished the animal welfare unit within the Department of Agriculture. David Littleproud says he will restore that in some form. As minister, I appointed an Independent Inspector-General for animal welfare and live animal exports, the position Barnaby Joyce abolished, and now David Littleproud says he will restore. We certainly support those moves. This report is a damning condemnation of Barnaby Joyce's performance as Minister for Agriculture. He took a wrecking ball through the Department and the independent regulator and we will continue to pressure the Government to restore some of those functions and to repair the damage.

AIKEN: Joel Fitzgibbon, the RSPCA says this is the third damning review of the live export trade in 15 years. Can you remember a time when the trade ran with the priority of animal welfare?

FITZGIBBON:  I don't think the trade has been sufficiently conscious of community expectations and indeed government expectations. It is obviously now scrambling to lift its game. And I welcome that. But for the live sheep trade, for example, that has come all too late. And for that, they can thank Barnaby Joyce who, in effect, gave an unqualified green light to the live export trade and, when you do that, when you give them that free leave pass, you can expect a risk-taking or worse a contempt for the regulations and community expectations. And we saw the Awassi incident. That is what you would expect.

AIKEN:  Let us talk about the future now and Labor has already promised to phase out the live export of sheep, if elected next year. Does Labor also want to phase out the live export of cattle?

FITZGIBBON:  No, we don't want to phase out live cattle...

AIKEN:  What is the difference between the two sectors?

FITZGIBBON:  There are very large differences. The live sheep trade is typically long haul into some of the hottest parts of the world is in the middle of their hot summers. And, of course, the stocking densities are ridiculously high. The live cattle trade is quite different. It is in the interest of the exporters to get the trade to destinations like Indonesia in good shape. They are typically shorter voyages in much different climatic conditions. So there is a big difference. Since we suspended that trade in 2011 and strengthen the system, it has been able to demonstrate it is capable of moving forward, while also meeting reasonable community animal welfare expectations.

AIKEN:  Some in the live export cattle trade though might be confused about Labor's position, given the Queensland Labor delegates have said they want to transition away from all animal live exports by 2030. Is that something that Labor probably will end up moving towards?

FITZGIBBON:  There are many right across the broader community who would prefer to see us adding more value to our cattle and sheep here in Australia, creating jobs here locally. And we will deal with that if we are given the opportunity in government. We want to maximise value adding and jobs here in Australia. But there will always be a role for live cattle exports, because there are many northern producers who are incapable, because of the resource base, of growing cattle to slaughter weight. We support them, but obviously all industries are on notice that you cannot treat the rules and regulations with contempt and continue to secure government support. The cattle industry worked that out a long time ago and they have been able to move forward on a sustainable basis.

AIKEN:  Joel Fitzgibbon, thank you.

FITZGIBBON: A great pleasure.

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