Live Export

Relief but ultimately disappointment for Pilbara producer

James Nason, 06/07/2011

Michael Thompson at Mundabullangana Station in Western Australia's Pilbara region. Picture courtesy of Mark Stothard www.truenorthmark.comRelief but ultimately disappointment – these were the reactions of Pilbara cattleman Michael Thompson to the news that the Federal Government has finally lifted its blanket ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia.

Relief that it is finally over, but disappointment that the ban could have been averted and that it ever happened at all.

“You can’t ever pick up what we’ve lost,” Mr Thompson said.

“We’ve lost credibility in the trade, with Indonesia.

“I reckon we are really going to need a change of Government to get back on side with our trading partner.

“If I hear Joe Ludwig stand up and say he got it right, I’ll tell you I am going to scream at that guy.”

Mr Thompson, who built a successful crayfishing business at Cervantes on the Western Australian Coast, bought Mundabullangana in the Pilbara region to run cattle 16 years ago. He exports 12-24 month old cattle to a range of export markets, principally Indonesia.He has invested large amounts of money in developing a high quality, quiet and low-stress herd, including spending more than $1 million on bulls from the National Droughtmaster Sale at Rockhampton over the past five years.

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He said it was frustrating that the livelihoods of producers who cared for their animals could be so easily cast aside and placed in jeopardy by politicians making ill-considered decisions out of  political self-interest thousands of miles away in Canberra.

Mr Thompson said he had been forced to let go seven workers from Mundabullagana as a direct result of the ban. They have now taken other jobs and could not return simply because the trade has been reinstated, Mr Thompson said.

“We’ve seen a softening in the market place for all cattle. How do you build that back up?

“We were getting $2.10 a kilo from here into Indonesia, and now they are going to Egypt for $1.60.

“How do you say to the Indonesians when there is a stockpile of stock here that you want $2.10 again.

“They will say get stuffed, you have been selling them to the Egyptians for $1.60. How do you get that 25pc of product value back? You don’t.”

The available compensation of up to $25,000 per enterprise was hardly likely to make a dent in an operation that cost $80,000 a month to run, he said.

Mr Thompson, who said he would rather go broke than accept the dole, suggested that the Australian Government should direct some of the $500 million it gives to Indonesia in foreign aid each year to improving the standards of abattoirs throughout Indonesia.

“Throw $100m of that foreign aid into upgrading their abattoir facilities in Indonesia.

“There wouldn’t be one Australian that doesn’t want to see one animal killed the way we saw it done on Four Corners.” 


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