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ON SENATOR HINCH'S BILL TO END LONG-HAUL LIVE SHEEP EXPORTS - Second Reading Speech, Senate, Monday 18 June 2018

I am pleased to rise on behalf of the Labor Party in support of this private senator's bill, the Animal Export Legislation Amendment (Ending Long-haul Live Sheep Exports) Bill 2018, and join my Labor colleagues in applauding the courage of those who have brought forward this bill here in the Senate and its equivalent in the other place. 

Australians have for some time now been terribly horrified by revelation after revelation of the cruelty of the live export trade—a cruelty that I think drew its last straw when the devastating footage was aired on 60 Minutes on 8 April, which made it very clear at that point in time, yet again, that thousands of sheep have been suffering over a period of time now and dying on the Awassi Express. Those shipments from Australia in 2017 were of course filmed in secret but aired publicly. There was a separate investigation in August 2017 of an incident on a trip from Perth to Doha, which found that 2,400 sheep died on the Awassi Express due to extreme heat—almost twice the acceptable mortality rate.

The Australian community wants this live sheep trade to end. However, it's not only the Australian community that is firmly behind this policy change; it is the science as well—science that cannot be ignored but continues, unfortunately, to be ignored by this current Turnbull government. I do believe that regardless of the good intent—and I say that clearly: the good intent—of this bill and those in the other place, it is only a matter of time before this live sheep export trade ends. That is because, with the onset of the northern summer, it is once again a time of extreme risk for Australian sheep. 

I heard during recent Senate estimates evidence from the McCarthy review, the government's own commissioned review, that the Australian Veterinary Association confirmed that, regardless of stocking density, extreme heat conditions and resulting mass mortality events cannot be prevented by the industry. They cannot be prevented.

But what is so concerning is that, regardless of that being made clear by departmental officials during Senate estimates, this government will not be accepting those key recommendations from the McCarthy review relating to revising the heat stress risk assessment model from one based on mortality rates to one based on animal welfare measures. Why is this the case? Why is the government ignoring the science? Why is the government ignoring key recommendations from its own administered review?

The science was laid out clearly, in graphic detail, during the detailed briefings from the RSPCA's chief scientist, Dr Bidda Jones, and Animals Australia's chief investigator, Lyn White, to parliamentarians, which I hosted on behalf of Parliamentary Friends of the RSPCA with my co-chair, Jason Wood, in May this year. 

As I said then, Labor believes very strongly that a transition away from the live sheep export trade will increase the value of the product we produce here, and it will build on our own brand as a producer of clean, green, safe and ethical animal products being produced right here in Australia. Even more importantly, it will create jobs and create a vibrant industry for those farmers to have their sheepmeat produced right here in Australia. That is important because it means higher returns for our farmers, and of course it means an improvement in animal welfare standards.

The RSPCA, like other stakeholders, has welcomed Labor's commitment to ending live sheep exports and has endorsed our approach of a collaboration and consultation to secure a better future for Australian farmers and for Australian sheep farming. 

This is about growing our sheep-farming industry right here in Australia and growing it through jobs, whilst at the same time having that benchmark of decent animal welfare standards—something that this government cannot stand by and say it is implementing at all, when it won't even implement key recommendations of its own administered review.

Departmental officials acknowledged to me during Senate estimates that the recommendations from the McCarthy review would lead to the end of the summer trade. That is why this is not happening. What we say is that there should be an immediate halt on the summer trade because the summer trade is when high temperatures from climatic conditions cause the damage to the sheep that leads to their death, that led to 2,400 sheep dying last August. 

When is the government going to wake up and recognise that they are simply ignoring the science and ignoring what is needed and what is expected by our Australian community? They need to face the facts and the science. They need to face reality and accept that the best way forward is to commit to the end of this live sheep trade.

This morning, our own shadow minister Joel Fitzgibbon provided Labor's private member's bill, which complements the bills that have been debated both in the other place, through Sussan Ley's bill, and also this morning through the senators who have brought this bill on in this place. It is growing. The support is continuing to grow for the end of this live sheep trade, and I don't think this government should be standing in its way.