Groups slam Greens call

14 Nov, 2012 03:00 AM
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Senator Lee Rhiannon.
Senator Lee Rhiannon.

INDUSTRY groups have slammed the Australian Greens’ calls to replace live animal exports with on-shore meat processing.

In a position paper released on Monday, the Greens urged the federal government to address five key issues they believe will create a more “economically robust and humane” alternative to live exports.

The move foreshadows Labor’s final Caucus meeting for the year in late November which will face increased pressure from vocal backbench MPs on a dedicated animal welfare working group, who have reignited calls for a total trade ban, in the wake of the Pakistan sheep crisis.

Greens animal welfare spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon said the public was “distressed” over live export cruelty and wanted the trade to end.

“The government needs to respond – not with half baked inquiries but a comprehensive plan to stop exporting livestock for consumption and process the meat in Australia,” she said.

“Growing domestic meat processing for local and export markets will reduce animal cruelty inherent in the live export trade while boosting Australia’s economy and assisting farmers.

“These key issues are critical to ending the live export trade and hopefully the Labor caucus will consider them before parliament resumes.”

The paper says, following a series of “scandals” in the live sheep and cattle export trade, a critical point has been reached in the debate about whether this trade should continue, with its “unstable economic basis, high levels of risk and animal welfare problems”.

Senator Rhiannon plans to visit northern Australian cattle producers in Western Australia next March to seek feedback on the proposal, which matches her legislation before federal parliament seeking to ban the trade.

At this stage, she has no plans to visit the Northern Territory.

The paper also calls for the establishment of new divisions within the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to take responsibility for growing domestic processing options and building overseas meat markets.

They also called for the establishment of an independent Office of Animal Welfare; a move also flagged by the ALP’s animal welfare working group.

But the Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) of WA said releasing the paper was “just another Greens’ furphy, totally lacking in facts or commercial nous”.

PGA spokesman Sheldon Mumby said the Greens were again making “loose use of facts”.

Mr Mumby said the “scurrilous claim” by the Australian Meat Workers Union (AMWU) - outlined in the Green’s paper - that live exports have led to 150 meat processing plants shutting down over the last three decades and 40,000 lost jobs is “complete and utter nonsense”.

He said abattoirs have been closing down and consolidating for decades after becoming unviable, due to the AMWU’s industrial action and demands for higher wages.

Higher wages have made it more expensive to process an animal in Australia than the nation’s main boxed beef trade competitors in the US, China and Brazil, he said.

“If there is all of this processing capacity available and calls from our overseas customers for more boxed exports, then why did the price of sheep drop by 40 per cent in WA when live exporters were not buying sheep in September?” he said.

“Surely if there is sufficient demand, the processors would have jumped into the market.”

Mr Mumby said the Greens continuing calls for the establishment of a northern Australian abattoir had some merit, but that the only way this could be economically viable was if the facility was continually subsidised by the taxpayer and staffed with foreign workers on 457 visas.

“How do you boost regional communities in the north by telling farmers and pastoralists to make a loss and restructure their operations into what the Greens call more socially acceptable practices?” he said.

“Farmers, like everyone else deserve to make profit and it is this profit that comes from the live export trade that is the true economic multiplier for regional Australia.”

Mr Mumby said the Greens’ claims that only a small market segment was exclusively dependent on live exports, due to the low number of applications for income assistance resulting from the 2011 trade suspension to Indonesia, are “insulting to every hardworking farmer and pastoralist who chose to tough it out in the hard times, rather than accept government assistance”.

Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council chief executive officer Alison Penfold said the Greens’ proposal to close down live export represented economic “vandalism” for livestock producers and rural communities.

“The loss of jobs and economic consequences for rural communities will be devastating, as we witnessed in the Northern Territory last year with the ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia.

“The pain is still being felt in those locations with property prices depressed and the banks are banging on doors.

“The live export industry isn’t restraining the growth of the meat processing sector; it’s a range of factors including access to labour and finance, seasonal conditions and global economic conditions.

“The simplification of this argument, that we can simply replace live exports with processing meat here, is doing a complete disservice to those people who would be affected by a closure of the trade.

“Real improvements to animal welfare will only come with Australia being in the market, not out of it.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said as “an important trade with a strong future”, the live animal export industry supports 10,000 jobs across regional Australia and contributes $1 billion to the economy.

“There are some in the community who simply do not want this trade to continue, regardless of the steps we take,” he said.

“I am not one of them.”

Minister Ludwig said Australia leads the world in animal welfare practices – especially in the live export trade.

"We have built and implemented a system that sets a high standard internationally,” he said.

“The community has legitimate expectations about animal welfare and the government and industry have taken significant steps to address them.”

Minister Ludwig said more than 1.5 million animals have been exported under the new supply chain assurance system, which puts animal welfare front and centre.

He said the new system was the result of a lot of hard work from government and industry and the large majority of industry is operating effectively within it.

“This government remains committed to the live export trade and the jobs and communities that rely upon it,” he said.

“The importance of Australia’s live export trade, to our regional communities and to the markets it serves, should not be underestimated.”

Shadow Agriculture Minister John Cobb accused the Greens of being “out of touch ideologues on live exports”.

He said the Greens didn’t care about the welfare of animals outside Australia.

“The Greens are ignoring the massive improvements in animal welfare standards Australia is leading around the world," he said.

“Without Australia’s effort animals sourced from other countries have little or no protective safeguards whatsoever.”

The Greens’ five key issues the government must address to end live exports and build domestic meat processing

    1. Encourage the development of new meat processing facilities in northern Australia

    2. Remove trade distortions and more vigorously market Australian meat overseas

    3. Boost skills and educate workers

    4. Smooth the transition for farmers and the meat processing sector

    5. Establish teams to drive reform within government

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READER COMMENTS

Andrew
14/11/2012 6:46:57 AM

Put your money where your mouth is. If they think they can make money opening new meat processing plants let them put their money where their mouth is. Set up a company and look for shareholders. If they can find a market for frozen meat into the Middle East and SE Asia which existing companies are not able to fill, that is excellent. If it doesn't work market the meat as a premium ethical/green/humane product in Australia and other developed countries.
Love the country
14/11/2012 7:33:45 AM

Better still, let them buy farms, buy up all the sheep and cattle destined for export,put them,then on their own farms, and look after them until there death. They then could turn them into compost, that should cover the greens veggie patch......the result, farmers win,sheep,cattle win, veggies win.....it's all good !
Fred
14/11/2012 9:39:37 AM

Fantastic Idea "Love the Country". That should make all the Greenies & expert animal welfare-ists all feel nice, warm and fuzzy inside. Only one thing wrong with that, IT SOUNDS LIKE A BIT OF WORK!
bored with farmer pie in the sky claims
14/11/2012 10:09:33 AM

Blah blah blah. Whinge whinge whinge is all the nation gets in support of barbaric exports from the farmer extremist lobby. Do yourselves a favour and listen to Australia. We are incensed that you FAIL to see that the Pakistan disaster is ANOTHER cruel incident in a long line of incidents. You do not have Australia behind you no matter what you think...but you will if you give live exports the boot and kill the animals here.
Hungry?
14/11/2012 10:16:04 AM

What if any one who does not legitimately need welfare bennifits,or cant definitively show with diligence that they can't actually get a job,be made to work in abotoirs for their social bennifits and the balance of their pay be put towards building these new new facilities.Perhaps that would encorage Gov to help producers find and facilitate access to new markets or the whole thing would be a waste of time anyway.This might encourage those with nothing better to do than to destroy people's livelihoods,to put their money where their mouth is,and actually do something constructive for a change!
Hungry?
14/11/2012 11:10:02 AM

Particularly,those calling for change!
Jen from the bush
14/11/2012 11:54:17 AM

They accuse the gov of 'half baked ideas'?? Beg you pardon - just have a look at their 5 point plan. Not even .01 baked!!! Not anywhere realistic!!!! Answer all Jo Bloomsfield's questions first before you go anywhere - probably why she isn't going to NT!! And answer them properly not with a few 'half baked old ideas' and ignoring most of them
James
14/11/2012 12:06:49 PM

Couldn't agree more, allot of these Greens voters could do with some abattoir work and since they are so committed to local processing they would be willing to do it for minimal wages as well. It's a scary world where a vocal minority, most of whom have formed their opinions based on no real life experience in industry, can have such a dramatic impact on something they know nothing about.
Jo Bloomfield
14/11/2012 12:35:51 PM

Lynn MacLaren, Greens MLC proudly stood supporting a 'Ban live export protest', an illegal act of sabotage when Forrest Rescue activists locked themselves to the undercarriage of a truck in Fremantle earlier this month. I wonder if the people she represents are happy with this stance. She receives tax payer funds to be in office and yet assists in breaking the law. Like Lee Rhiannon no idea of ramifications of what a ban on live export means,no consequence to them just another attention grabbing stunt with a group who Animals Australia even try to keep distance from
Get Real
14/11/2012 12:38:55 PM

It's only a matter of time before live export is banned and replaced by the more humane boxed meat trade.
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