Live Export

New Qld ag minister cops heat over Port Alma livex stance

James Nason, 25/02/2015
New Queensland Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne.

New Queensland Agriculture Minister Bill Byrne.

Less than two weeks into the job, Queensland’s new agriculture minister is already drawing political heat for his stance against a proposal to launch a live export trade out of Port Alma near Rockhampton.

Former long-serving soldier and army officer Bill Byrne has been the ALP member for Rockhampton since 2012, and was named as the Minister for Agriculture, Sport and Racing following newly elected Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s surprise election victory earlier this month.

Last year when moves were flagged to relieve an oversupply of cattle relative to a shortage of kill space in Central Queensland by starting a live export trade from Port Alma, Mr Byrne as the local member for Rockhampton was a vocal opponent of the plan.

As quoted by the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin at the time, he said claims that a live export market out of Port Alma would benefit producers were “nonsense”, and, while price issues would improve dramatically in short to medium terms, there would be no financial advantages in the long run.

He said the proposal would threaten a considerable number of meatworks jobs in Rockhampton and as a result he could not support it.

“I am all about defending and creating local jobs, rather than exporting them overseas,” he was quoted as saying.

Last week, in his first public comments as the new minister for agriculture, Mr Byrne was again quoted by the same paper as saying that while he supported the live cattle trade under appropriate circumstances, he believed it would threaten the viability of the meat processing and value-adding industry in Rockhampton.

“The driving force behind live cattle is the notion that producers would get a price advantage,” he said, according to the Rockhampton Morning Bulletin.

“There wouldn’t be a price benefit and it would directly threaten full-time jobs… I’d oppose it for that reason.”

ALP must restore confidence to industry: Springborg

His comments triggered a stern rebuke from new opposition leader Lawrence Springborg, who has challenged Ms Palaszczuk to restore confidence to the live export industry after it was heavily impacted by a federal Labor government decision to halt live exports to Indonesia in 2011 following incidents of animal cruelty.

“The premier needs to come out in support of the live cattle export industry,” Mr Springborg told AAP this week.

“She has to support it because it’s a vitally important industry and we saw the devastation that came from the previous shutdown.

“It’s important and people would expect the agriculture minister should be supporting it not opposing it, and they would be very interested to know if the premier shares that view.”

Byrne seeks to clarify position

Port Alma at Rockhampton. Picture: Gladstone Ports Corporation.

Port Alma at Rockhampton. Picture: Gladstone Ports Corporation.

The uproar prompted Mr Byrne to release a statement to media outlets yesterday, claiming his views had not been accurately represented by media, and stating the he is “a long-time supporter of live cattle exports”.

“Last week I was asked to comment about a proposal by the former Member for Keppel, Bruce Young, to export live cattle from Port Alma,” he said in his statement.

“Unfortunately media reports have not given a clear representation of my views.

“The facts are that I have been a long-time supporter of the live cattle industry and I fully recognise its value to the beef sector.

“Queensland is a world leader in cattle and beef production, with live cattle exports from Queensland ports reaching almost 200,000 head in 2013/14.

“I support diversity in the cattle sector and as Minister I will work with both exporters of live cattle and meat processors to maximise economic opportunities for all.”

However he said he would continue to oppose the establishment of a live cattle export facility at Port Alma.

“In response to questions from a journalist in Rockhampton I commented that on the balance of information I have received, and on the evidence presented to me by meat processors in Rockhampton, I cannot support the establishment of live cattle export via Port Alma.

“I am not satisfied it is a viable economic proposition.

“I again make it clear that I strongly support live exports and that my views on the Port Alma proposal do not diminish my support for the live exports industry for Queensland producers and graziers in any way.

“Up to 2400 jobs in my electorate of Rockhampton are dependent on the meat processing sector and I can’t support any proposal that might place those jobs in jeopardy.”

Nonsense to say extra competition wont improve prices: Agent

An experienced livestock agent in Central Queensland contacted by Beef Central this week said he believed there was strong support from CQ producers for the creation of a live export trade out of Port Alma, and the only thing required for the trade to start was for the economics to stack up in favour of an exporter running a boat to the port.

The infrastructure and certifications required for the trade to start were all but already in place, he said.

The agent, who asked not to be named because of the commercial sensitivities surrounding the issue, did want to make the comment that he believed it was “nonsense” for the new minister to suggest that the additional competition of a local live export trade out of the Port would not produce a price benefit for CQ producers.

“I would ask somebody to give a judgement about where the processing sector would have let prices go last year if there wasn’t a live export industry competing with them for cattle?

“I think the new Minister needs to be reminded that as the minister for agriculture he is not the minister for the unions, but is the minister for primary industry which principally means producers.”

The agent said cattle were currently being trucked from as far south as Roma and Warwick for the boat trade from Townsville, which further supported the economics of running a ship out of Rockhampton.

 

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Comments

  1. Edgar Burnett, 02/03/2015

    If the Minister wants more cattle processed in Australia, well get on the front foot about lowering the costs of operating in Australia. Australia is fast becoming a joke regarding the cost of doing just about anything in Australia.

  2. Greg McPherson, 27/02/2015

    It would seem that the Minister has an inherent conflict of interest on this matter given the demographics and specific politics of his electorate. In any case, the Minister should be well aware that a significant proportion of the meat processing capacity in this country is controlled by a few key foreign interests. Including parent entities that are conveniently based in lower tax rate jurisdictions and who are able to off-shore profit by levying substantial financial charges on their Australian operations while at the same time often complaining about the low margins that they make.
    It is clearly in the interests of Australia/Queensland and Australian/Queensland farmers to have as much competition as possible in the cattle market and the Minister should be encouraging this competition rather that trying to protect sectional interests.

  3. Robust, 26/02/2015

    Unfortunately this article shows how ignorant the new Ag minister is.
    I sincerely hope he pops his head out of the unions bottoms and has a good look around at the benefits of Live Ex, to his constituents, his community, his star and the economy of Australia.
    Do you eat Beef Mr Byrne?
    If so, support the industry which feeds you clean, healthy, ethical beef which keeps Rural Australia running!

  4. Paul Cox, 25/02/2015

    The comments of Mr Murie demonstrate a profound ignorance of the facts of live export. With a 99% ESCAs compliance rate Australian live export is an exemplar for any industry to aspire to. The ignorance of the origins of live export when so many processing plants across northern Australia shut down from the 1970’s onwards forcing producers to find alternate markets is breathtaking. As live export operates now, it compliments processing. Markets in which live export operate for the most part can and will not be replaced by packaged meat. Does he understand the complexities of the various destination markets? Clearly not! Does he have any idea that it costs about $300 per head to process cattle here in compared to $165 in the USA or $30 in China? If Mr Murie has yet to meet anyone who supports live export he clearly does not know people who live and work in rural and remote Australia. Ignorance breeds contempt. Educate yourself Mr Murie.

  5. Richard Pennell, 25/02/2015

    Beef producers in southern Queensland need more competition for a range product. To intentionally stop potential competition for economic reasons is absolutely ridiculous and goes against the government’s free trade policy. If this statement is how he actually feels then Bill wants beef producers in southern Queensland to have no exposure to new competition. I really can’t understand how a government minister can get away with such a negative hypocritical statement as this one.

  6. Allan Abdy, 25/02/2015

    listen to the person on the street Ricki Murie? Your street? My street has one other person it and they would be very much in favour of the live trade, as I am. The almighty dollar? What about our right to be able to earn a living, educate our children, as you do, by earning money from the live trade? Do you know what the North of Australia was like 30 years ago, before the live trade? No you wouldn’t, and you wouldn’t care, because it’s not on your street. The jobs and prosperity created by the live trade weren’t around when there was a processing industry in Northern Australia. You may be surprised to learn that we have had meat works in the north, they went broke. When we send cattle overseas, what we are actually doing is feeding people, what could possibly be wrong with us as a nation by providing food to the world? Does that not get talked about on your street?

  7. Ricki Murie, 25/02/2015

    I totally disagree with the live export industry. Not on financial grounds but humane ones. This is a dispicable trade & Australia should be ashamed to be connected with it.it is not always about the almighty dollar. Besides, if the animals need to be slaughtered, at least let it be under more humane practices which as we know, are not adhered to in many countries, especially Sth East Asia & the middle east. Also, to open more meat production plants here would create more local jobs.Isn’t that what all govts keep telling us, create more jobs.l I have yet to speak to anyone who supports this trade, just for a change, listen to the person in the street. That would be a pleasant change.

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