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Speech: Primary Industries (Customs) Charges Amendment (Dairy Cattle Export Charge) Bill 2020

Speeches in Parliament
Mehreen Faruqi 27 Aug 2020

I rise to speak on the Primary Industries (Customs) Charges Amendment (Dairy Cattle Export Chart) Bill 2020 as the Greens senator responsible for animal welfare.

This bill introduces a mandatory export charge per head of dairy cattle. It will provide for the imposition of an export charge on the export of dairy cattle and will amend the rate provision to provide for two different rates of charges, which differentiate dairy cattle from other cattle. A voluntary export charge of $3 per head was introduced in 2006 and raised to $6 in 2014. But over time exporters have stopped paying it. It is estimated that if a mandatory charge were in place during 2019 over $550,000 would have been raised.

It will come as no surprise to anyone inside this parliament, and outside for that matter, that the Greens and I strongly oppose the inherent cruelty of live exports. This opposition extends to the export of dairy cattle. We will not be supporting the bill that perpetuates misery for animals used in this trade. The Greens will be opposing this bill.

The funds currently raised for the voluntary charge go to the Australian Livestock Export Corporation, also known as LiveCorp, to fund its dairy cattle export program. This bill would ensure that $6 per head is paid to LiveCorp for that program. As described in the bill digest for this bill:

The Dairy Cattle Export Program provides advice and support for market access, conduct research and development for dairy cattle exports and participates on and provides funding to the National Arbovirus Monitoring Program to underpin market access opportunities.

The major problem with this initiative is that the industry wants the funds raised to principally go towards marketing for the dairy cattle live export industry—not animal health, not animal welfare but marketing. In fact, the live exporters proposed that $5 out of the $6 will be spent on marketing and only $1 out of the $6 will be spent on research and development. I can only describe this as galling and really disturbing. It is unconscionable that any additional money the live exporters were to receive would go towards making their cruel industry actually look good and making their cruel industry more profitable in overseas markets, rather than investing and trying to minimise the harm done that is done to animals that we know is so fundamental to this trade.

What about the $1 that will go towards research and development? What is it actually being spent on? Well, no-one really knows what this money is going to be spent on. It is time for some transparency and real accountability and oversight as to how this industry research is being conducted. Far too often it is done simply to protect the corporate interests of the industry and to undermine and distort genuine, independent evidence showing animal welfare concerns.

We need oversight of this research if it is to go ahead. This is particularly the case given that the federal government ordinarily matches industry research and development of this nature dollar for dollar. These are public funds that are going towards industry research that we know must have more scrutiny and more transparency. The live export industry has a shocking track record on animal welfare, that's a fact. It's an undeniable fact. This includes the welfare of dairy cattle.

In response to a Greens' question on notice in May this year, the government noted that Bos Taurus cattle were found to have suffered heat stress crossing the equator. I will quote the department's own response:

A total of 39 voyages accompanied by an Independent Observer (observer) carried Bos Taurus cattle from southern ports of Australia over the equator in 2019. Observers reported varying degrees of heat stress on 49 per cent of these voyages.

That's almost half of all voyages accompanied by an observer reporting the stress that the animals were put through. This is absolutely inhumane and it is cruel. Parliament should not be facilitating the collection of money so the live export industry can market its products overseas and can improve the marketing of cruelty, nor should it be facilitating research and development that often harms, rather than protects, animal welfare.

Over the last few months, we have seen more and more evidence of the fundamental cruelty of the live export trade. This is an industry that cannot be fixed or made humane. At the end of the day, it must be shut down. In June, when we were last in this chamber, I asked a question about the Al Kuwait live export ship, which had just been given an exemption to travel to the Middle East during the northern summer. In response, Senator Ruston, the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture, Drought and Emergency Management said:

… this government has worked absolutely tirelessly with the industry, with the sector, with people who have an interest in the welfare of animals, to make sure our live export trade is done in a manner that is absolutely world's best practice.

She also said:

The Australian government is absolutely committed to upholding the absolutely very high standards of animal welfare while supporting a sustainable live export trade.

Now that that vessel has completed its trip to the Middle East, carrying a consignment of more than 33,000 sheep, and we have the government observer's report back, what did it find? It found clear evidence of serious animal welfare violations. About 1,000 sheep were identified as being subject to heat stress at score 4, which, according to the department's own heat stress score, indicates severe heat stress. Some people here may not care about the stress animals are put through, but they are living beings and we ought to care. This severe heat stress involves open-mouth panting with the tongue protruding, an appearance of being distressed and an extremely laboured respiratory character. A further 4,000 sheep were observed at score 3, which is the onset of heat stress, involving open-mouth panting, a laboured respiratory character and an appearance of extreme discomfort. Twenty-eight sheep also died on board and many more were hospitalised.

But we knew that this was going to happen. We knew that this was inevitable. That's why the rules were put in place in the first place. The risk to the animals travelling to that location at that time was incredibly high. It was the middle of summer. That's why, in fact, the department initially refused to grant the exemption—the risk was just too great. RSPCA Australia commented this month, saying:

Describing this voyage as a 'success' because relatively fewer sheep than usual actually died on board shows the industry is still clinging to outdated and inaccurate measures of animal welfare, something the 2018 McCarthy Review strongly warned against.

Mortality rates don't account for the tens of thousands of sheep that suffer terribly but survive. And these reports confirm that's exactly what's happened here.

I could not agree more.

We've also seen some shocking footage emerge from Animals Australia over the last few weeks, looking at the treatment of animals upon arrival in various countries. The live export industry continues to perpetuate this lie, this fiction, that animal cruelty is exceptional within their trade. Nothing could be further from the truth. The business model of the industry is based on animal cruelty, and that's why it has to be shut down. But I know that you, all sitting there across the chamber, don't give a damn. You don't care about animals. All you care about is the profits that they can make. Really, you should hang your heads in shame.

An honourable senator interjecting—

Senator FARUQI: Through you, Madam Acting Deputy Chair Walsh, if it's rubbish, why does it keep happening again and again? Why don't you stop the trade?

An honourable senator interjecting—

Senator FARUQI: Yes, exactly. You don't even have any shame. You have no shame. With this bill, you're going ahead and putting more money into marketing a cruel industry, and all that that will end up doing is having more animals suffering, more animals dying and more animals on these ships of misery.

This parliament should not be endorsing any further moves to make the live export industry and the live export lobby better resourced than they already are. I will be moving a second reading amendment to note the inherent cruelty of the live export trade and to call on the government to ensure that all funds raised by the Dairy Cattle Export Charge be allocated directly to transparently undertaking animal health and welfare initiatives. The amendment also calls on the government to bring an end to the live export industry in Australia. It's time, it's way beyond time, that this cruel industry ended. I move:

At the end of the motion, add ", but the Senate:

(a) notes with concern:

(i) the inherent cruelty of the live export trade, including the well documented impacts of heat stress on sheep and cattle during voyages departing Australia, and

(ii) that thousands of animals die from heat stress and overcrowding on live export ships; and

(b) calls on the Government to:

(i) bring an end to the live export industry in Australia,

(ii) ensure that all funds raised by the dairy export cattle charge, including co-contributions from the Australian Government, be allocated directly to animal health and welfare initiatives, and

(iii) ensure that all animal health and welfare initiatives, including research, is undertaken transparently with regular public reporting and appropriate oversight."


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