$3m package for workers affected by ban
The Federal Government is expected to today announce a $3m assistance fund for workers affected by the live export ban to Indonesia.
Under the package affected workers will receive the maximum Newstart allowance rate for 13 weeks, backdated to June 7, the day the suspension took effect. Workers will also receive assistance to find new work if required. A Centrelink hotline will also be established to guide people through the assistance application process.
The $3m package is separate from the $5m Senator Ludwig has asked MLA to release from its levy funds to assist producers affected by the ban.
Rudd to visit Indonesia
Foreign minister Kevin Rudd will fly to Jakarta next week to discuss the worsening impasse that has developed over the suspension of Australia’s live export trade to Indonesia. Agricultural minister Senator Joe Ludwig returned from Indonesia without a resolution to the issue last week, and Mr Rudd’s planned visit on July 8 and 9 is seen as a new attempt by the Government to repair relations between the two nations.
Federal opposition leader Tony Abbott, who visited Newcastle Waters station in the Northern Territory yesterday, has proposed that he and prime minister Julia Gillard jointly visit Jakarta to find a solution to the ban.
He said the Indonesians were plainly unhappy about the way their industry had been treated in public debate. It was important to treat Indonesia with respect and to keep Australia’s live cattle trade to Indonesia operating, he said, because in the long run that would be best for animal welfare.
However the offer has been rejected by Ms Gillard, who described it as a publicity stunt.
WA Agricultural minister Terry Redman, who made a separate visit to Indonesia last week, said the suspension was causing "a regional crisis", and has requested a meeting of all state primary industries ministers and the federal agriculture minister Joe Ludwig to urgently address the issue.
Ship cattle before permits expire: Truss
The Federal Opposition says it is imperative that a boat load of Australian cattle is on the water before Indonesian import permits for the current quarter expire this Thursday.
The Indonesian permit for the April to June quarter expires on June 30. Federal Nationals leader Warren Truss said that if Australia did not act quickly, Indonesia would issue new permits for cattle and boxed beef from other countries to make up the supply shortfall left by Australia’s export suspension.
With NLIS traceability there was no reason that cattle currently stranded in holding yards could not be transported immediately. It would take 60-90 days for them to be fed in Indonesian feedlots, enough time for abattoirs to be assessed, accredited and progressively brought on line.
“Directing those cattle through the prescribed abattoirs simply requires an agreement with the feedlot owners in Indonesia,” Mr Truss said.
Govt $5m compo plan “unconstitutional”
The Federal Government’s threat to use legislative powers to make Meat and Livestock Australia use $5m of levy funds to assist cattle producers directly affected by the suspension of live exports to Indonesia is “unconstitutional”, according WA Liberal Senator Chris Back.
Senator Chris Back told ABC radio on Saturday that he believes Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig has not used his powers to make the industry pay because he is not legally entitled to.
"The constitution of MLA requires that funds are spent, and they are from levies, that they are spent on market access, marketing and promotion," he said.
"Now the directors of MLA cannot spend monies outside the purposes for which its constitution is established."
"The Minister has the capacity to actually bring in a regulation to direct the board, but in so doing of course, he would then be exonerating board members of their legal liability and he would be taking that legal responsibility on himself," he said.
"If he didn't do that, the board would have to take very, very good legal advice before they acted."