The government is a strong supporter of the export of live animals from Australia because it does support thousands of Australians in this country. There are not just jobs for those on farm who might manage sheep or cattle but also, importantly, thousands of other jobs for truck drivers, for helicopter pilots
Senator ANNING (Queensland) (14:37):
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Senator Canavan. In 2017, Australia exported almost two million sheep, principally to destinations in the Middle East. Australia's live export trade is worth $2 billion annually, contributes thousands of jobs and sustains many hundreds of hardworking Australians. However, recent changes now require independent observers on every ship to monitor the state of each animal, costing the exporter $1,300 to $1,800 a day. Does the minister agree with this imposition of costs on farmers and does he believe that, as a general principle, the powers of the Australian government should extend beyond our borders to dictate what happens to products after they are sold and leave our shores?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:38):
I thank Senator Anning for his question. Up-front, the government is a strong supporter of the export of live animals from Australia because it does support thousands of Australians in this country. There are not just jobs for those on farm who might manage sheep or cattle but also, importantly, thousands of other jobs for truck drivers, for helicopter pilots—
and for vets—thank you, Senator McKenzie. There are thousands of jobs in this industry. Indeed, around 10,000 people in this country rely on the live trade of animals for their livelihoods themselves. It is an industry that proudly supports the food production of many countries in our region, and that's something else to be proud of as well, because it's Australian produce and Australian protein that helps feed so many people around the world.
Now to Senator Anning's question: the government do support ensuring that the live animal trade is appropriately regulated and monitored. We do support ensuring that animals reared, born and grown here are treated humanely overseas. That's why we have the very stringent Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System for live trade. That is why, because of some misbehaviour in the industry over the last year, we have acted immediately and strongly to strengthen the regulations and oversight of this industry. The government have conducted two different reviews, the outcomes of which Senator Anning referred to. The McCarthy review did make recommendations around independent observers on ships, and the government have gladly agreed to that recommendation. It is my understanding from discussions with the industry that it supports the adoption of the recommendations of the McCarthy review.
Senator Anning also asked whether we should ensure that there is humane treatment of animals overseas. We think we should play a role in supporting the development of humane animal welfare outcomes. Indeed, that is a great attribute of this industry, because it does help spread better standards of animal treatment and humane treatment throughout the world. (Time expired)
Senator Anning, a supplementary question.
Senator ANNING (Queensland) (14:40):
Why does the government refuse to acknowledge that, once Australian sheep have been sold to another country and have left our shores on a foreign ship, their welfare is the responsibility of the purchaser and the receiving nation, and should not be a cost or burden to the Australian farmer?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:40):
Mr President, I would like to point out, through you, that in my experience of discussions with the Australian live export industry they want to ensure that their animals are treated humanely overseas. I know Australian farmers have a great interest in making sure that, ultimately, the animals they spend so much time caring for are humanely treated, wherever they are in the world, whether that is here or overseas. We have a shared interest with the industry in ensuring the humane treatment of those animals. That is why we have a stringent supply-chain assurance scheme established to do that very thing.
Of course, we can always improve and do better in anything in life. We can always improve in our own lives, and of course the industry can improve as well. That is why we have made a number of changes this year to ensure that this industry is sustainable and that it's always promoting better animal health outcomes, here and overseas as well.
Senator Anning, a final supplementary question.
Senator ANNING (Queensland) (14:41):
Why does the government give priority to the demands of animal rights extremists over the interests of Australian farmers, and implement policies which oblige our rural producers to spend millions of dollars for the sake of urban animal activists?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:41):
The government's actions in this space are in unison with those of Australian farmers. As I outlined before, Australian farmers want to see better outcomes for their animals, and the Australian industry as a whole wants to see better outcomes for Australian animals. That's why we support these sensible changes that we have made over the past year.
I would, however, point out that there are some here who are marching to the tune of animal activists, including some you would think would be of a different view. Senator McCarthy over there, from the Northern Territory, a territory that relies heavily on the live trade, is voting to shut down parts of that live trade and is not supporting her industry in the Northern Territory. Western Australian senators from the Labor Party, likewise, are supporting the shutdown of the trade, when 90 per cent of sheep exported from Australia right now come from Western Australia. If we shut that trade down it would mean the loss of thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in income for Australian farmers.