On this side of the chamber we want to support all Australian industries to become better and stronger and to provide more jobs and opportunities for Australians. That includes the processed sector, which is very important for Australia in the export of lamb, beef and other products. We can grow those sectors as well as have a sustainable and well-regulated live export trade.
Senator STORER (South Australia) (14:30):
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources. Responding to widespread community concern, the Senate this week passed the Animal Export Legislation Amendment (Ending Long-haul Live Sheep Exports) Bill 2018, enabling an orderly transition out of this inhumane trade through the Middle East. Noting that the figures from ABARES in the annual commodity statistics for last year show that the value of exports of processed lamb to the Middle East has risen by 102 per cent over the last five years, while the export of live sheep has fallen by 27 per cent, does the minister agree with the member for Farrer that 'Farmers and the rural workforce will ultimately be the winners from this transition away from live sheep exports'?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:31):
I thank Senator Storer for his question. No, I don't agree with the member for Farrer. I don't agree that we make one part of the economy stronger by hurting another part. On this side of the chamber we want to support all Australian industries to become better and stronger and to provide more jobs and opportunities for Australians. That includes the processed sector, which is very important for Australia in the export of lamb, beef and other products. We can grow those sectors as well as have a sustainable and well-regulated live export trade.
The government supports a sustainable live export industry that is well regulated and does make sure that those who do the wrong thing are properly penalised and that we improve standards in the sector. That is why, as soon as this most recent incident was revealed on 60 Minutes, the government immediately commissioned a review from Dr McCarthy. That review made 23 recommendations and was done with much haste. We accepted all of those recommendations. We have already implemented many of them, including putting observers on every ship leaving Australia with live exports and reducing stocking rates on those ships, which has provided sheep a 39 per cent increase in the space they have available on boats. We have also reduced the threshold for reporting incidents from a two per cent mortality level to a one per cent mortality level. The government is also seeking to implement the recommendations around the heat stress risk assessment model, which we are consulting on at the moment.
All of these reports and the government responses have been made public. I give credit to the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud, who has made sure that we properly respond to those who have not upheld the high standards we expect in this industry while still supporting the thousands of jobs and farmers who rely on this industry for their livelihoods and for their families to survive.
Senator Storer, a supplementary question?
Senator STORER (South Australia) (14:33):
How does the minister reconcile that disagreement with the public statement from the director of Meat & Livestock Australia in Senate estimates on 23 May that it would be 'naive' not to accept that the record of the live sheep trade risks permanently tarnishing the clean, green reputation of Australia's high-quality red meat industry?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:33):
I don't have the context for that quote. I would, and I know Mr Littleproud would, broadly agree with that sentiment, that this kind of conduct we see does put at risk the sustainability of this sector. That is why the government has taken a strict and immediate action response to this incident. That is exactly what we should do when we see poor behaviour in an industry or see conduct that is not meeting the standard we expect. We should respond to that and penalise that. In my view, what we should not do is overreact and take action which then penalises people who are actually doing the right thing. I know many in the live export industry who take pride in the standards that they uphold, they take pride in the opportunities that they provide to Australians and they also take pride in the food and protein that they provide to the world. I certainly take pride in how our agricultural industry in Australia not only feeds our country but also feeds millions overseas.
Senator Storer, a final supplementary question.
Senator STORER (South Australia) (14:35):
Given the level of community concern, will the government commit to make public the Moss review into the capability, powers, practices and culture of the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in the regulation of live animal exports when the minister receives it tomorrow?
Senator CANAVAN (Queensland—Minister for Resources and Northern Australia) (14:35):
I did get advance warning from Senator Storer about that topic. I have checked with the minister's office, and the government will be releasing the report publicly, although we'll do so with the government's response, once that is finalised. We have also, as I mentioned, already made public the McCarthy review. So we continue to be completely open and transparent in this area with our responses. We'll continue to be vigilant in making sure we improve the standards in the sector and we'll continue to consult, not just with the sector but with the broader community, about the government's responses.