Tasmanian Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has accused the live export industry of withdrawing an invitation for him to travel on a live export ship to Indonesia, prompting a response from the Australian Livestock Exporters Association that he has misrepresented the trade’s position.
In a media statement released yesterday the Independent Member for Denison said live export industry representatives had effectively withdrawn an invitation issued during his visit to the Northern Territory in January to experience a live animal export ship, as well as feedlots and abattoirs in Indonesia.
“I agreed to go on a vessel to Indonesia, not because I’m about to roll over and end my opposition to the live trade, but because I thought it was important to look for ways to improve animal welfare practices with the system we’ve got,’’ Mr Wilkie said.
“But since the invitation the industry has stonewalled and come up with every excuse under the sun as to why it can’t provide a firm date to host me on a live export ship.
“Today in Brisbane I met with representatives of the Australian Livestock Exporters Council and the Northern Territory Livestock Exporters Association who expressed numerous concerns with the journey going ahead, everything from difficulty obtaining visas to space on ships, the Indonesian election and lack of trust between the industry and me.
“Today’s meeting proved the industry had got cold feet and was searching for an excuse to call the whole thing off so it could continue business as usual.
“All the industry could commit to today was for me to visit a loading dock in Australia.”
However in a responding media release the Australian Livestock Exporters Association said Mr Wilkie’s comments did not reflect the full context of the discussions he held with ALEC and the Northern Territory Livestock Exporters Association in Brisbane yesterday.
ALEC chair Peter Kane said both organisations met with Mr Wilkie in Brisbane to discuss the offer of a voyage on a livestock export vessel.
“While the meeting was amiable, it was clear that Mr Wilkie had already determined how he would characterise the discussion and showed little sign of goodwill for industry’s efforts to enable him to experience the livestock export trade first hand,” Mr Kane said.
“Our approach to Mr Wilkie was to attempt to explain livestock export arrangements prior to and on board the voyage. This is important for any lay person to understand all the animal handling and welfare processes on a vessel.
“Additionally, when Mr Wilkie visited the Northern Territory to meet with people involved in the live trade, he expressed some goodwill in wanting to better understand the live trade from the industry’s perspective. Only days later he introduced a bill to ban the trade.
“In this context, today we had hoped he would explain his contradictory actions and give us confidence that he was genuinely interested in using the visit to further his knowledge of the trade, rather than use the visit simply to continue his misrepresentations.”
Mr Kane said that Mr Wilkie’s attitude to travelling on a livestock export vessel reflected his lack of understanding of the complexity of arranging shipments and welfare requirements of livestock from preparation to loading to on board care.
“Reflecting this, we offered as a starting point of his journey of understanding the trade, and as a gesture to build trust between him and the industry, to arrange for a visit to a loading of livestock at a port and inspection of a vessel to see conditions, facilities and processes on board. This could occur at a port closer to his Tasmanian home.
“Mr Wilkie rejected this genuine effort by industry to engage and show him a more comprehensive insight into the workings of the livestock export trade.
“Our offer remains on the table but we are disappointed that Mr Wilkie has couched our discussions today in the terms that he has.”
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