Live Export

Why I lifted the live export ban: Ludwig

Senator Joe Ludwig, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, 07/07/2011

The live export trade is an important industry for regional and rural Australia.

The Government has consistently supported this trade and yesterday’s announcement was a demonstration of this.

I always said I would not wait a day longer than I had to before lifting the suspension.
We were able to announce this last night because a number of key conditions for resumption have been met.

We had been able to reach agreement with industry about how international standards would be operationalised, we have put in place strict regulatory controls, we had confidence that a number of exporters in Australia were close to meeting these standards and we had advice that Indonesia was prepared to issue import permits for the importation of live cattle.

Throughout this period the Government has remained committed to ensuring this industry’s long term, sustainable future and the Prime Minister and myself have been meeting with industry.

Last Thursday, 30 June, while in Darwin, the Prime Minister addressed industry saying, and I quote, “the best thing we can do for the sustained strong future of this industry is get the animal welfare issues right now”.

We all want this industry to have a long-term sustainable future, which can only be secured if animal welfare matters are properly addressed throughout the supply chain.

We have put in place a framework which allows this to occur, and these standards will be public documents.

Following the provision of the footage the Government moved to suspend supply of Australian livestock to the featured abattoirs, as well as commencing a thorough investigation.

The initial investigation revealed traceability through these supply chains could not be safeguarded. This meant that exporters had no or very limited control over where Australian cattle were processed once they arrived in Indonesia. The only way to avoid animal welfare issues which could seriously jeopardise the future of the entire industry was to suspend the trade while suitable traceability and standards were implemented. It is important to understand that at the time of the suspension no Australian exporters could meet the strict new requirements this Government has put in place.

It was evident the live export industry’s reliance on self-regulation did not deliver the standards expected by the community or producers.

The Australian community expected more from this industry.

The Australian Government has confronted this difficult issue and took the necessary steps to replace self-regulation with a robust, effective and sustainable foundation that can give the community confidence in the process.

This foundation is based on supply chain assurance.

The Australian and Indonesian Governments have agreed that the appropriate standards are found in the World Organisation for Animal Health (or OIE) standards.

These guidelines are the only major international agreement covering the treatment of livestock. The OIE is also the World Trade Organisation reference organisation for standards relating to animal health.

I am pleased that we have reached agreement with industry and Indonesia that OIE must form the basis of trade.

Obviously the use of stunning equipment improves the welfare outcomes for animals and the Government has made it clear that it will encourage stunning wherever possible.

I advocate the use of stunning wherever possible and many in the industry have already adopted this practice. This is very welcome news.

Following these changes we expect its use will escalate significantly because producers will demand it.

Traceability has been a concern and the Australian Government also worked closely with Australian industry to ensure that animals can be tracked and traced along the supply chain.

That is, that Australian cattle will be monitored from the Australian paddock to the Indonesian slaughterhouse, and all stops in between providing confidence that animals are only going to slaughterhouses that have implemented OIE standards.

Finally, independent commercial auditors will be regularly reviewing the facilities. Four principles underpin the new standard for a sustainable live animal export trade.

These principles focus on adherence to internationally agreed welfare standards, traceability through the system, reporting and accountability, and independent auditing.

There will now be strict conditions written into export permits to reflect these principles.
Export permit applicants will need to satisfy the Government that cattle from Australia will be processed in accordance with international standards.

Exporters will be required to collect – and make public – data on the consignments they take to market, including where the animals are fattened and how they are transported.

The only way in which the live export industry can have a long term future – and the Australian Government wants the live export industry to have a long term future – is for supply chain assurance to provide confidence to the Australian community that animals that are exported from Australia are treated in accordance with international animal welfare standards.

This way forward was reached through the ongoing high level engagement across all relevant Ministries, including the efforts of my colleagues the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister Rudd, and the Trade Minister, Minister Emerson. As well, high level delegations from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and from the Australian Embassy in Jakarta who have engaged strongly with their Indonesian counterparts.

The suspension order has now been lifted and we continue to work with exporters towards the resumption of trade.

I understand that the decision to suspend caused significant dislocation and disruption in northern Australia.

I have heard firsthand the effects the suspension had from producers and others who were affected. The Government took three key steps to respond to these concerns.

Firstly, we established an income subsidy scheme for workers affected by the suspension. This payment can assist employees for up to 13 weeks and was designed to help keep workers in place to support a quick resumption of trade.

Secondly, with the support of the industry, provision has been made for the welfare of cattle caught in the supply chain. This $5 million contingency fund is available to help with the costs of feed, transport and veterinary care for cattle which have moved beyond the
farm gate. I acknowledge and thank the Cattle Council, the Australian Lot Feeders Association and Animal Health Australia who have made this contingency fund available.

Finally, on 30 June the Prime Minister announced $30 million of assistance measures to alleviate some of the immediate pressures on businesses associated with suspension.

Let me make it clear, these measures are not compensation, but are designed to provide short-term support for those producers and associated businesses who are experiencing hardship as a result the suspension of live trade with Indonesia.

The Australian Government also acknowledges the importance of Indigenous workers and members of the cattle industry.

In addition to the Live Exports Business Assistance Package, employers of Indigenous Australians and Indigenous businesses can access support through the existing Indigenous Employment Program.

The IEP is a flexible pool of funding to help employers through wage subsidies and training for Indigenous workers.

The Australian Government is committed to Australia’s north and understands the role the live export industry plays in this region.

The Australian Government – through Minister for Regional Australian and Regional Development , Simon Crean – has partnered with Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory to work on a comprehensive strategy for Northern Australia’s beef industry.
The Government is also continuing to work closely with the industry, as well as the Northern Territory, Western Australian and Queensland Governments, to manage the impact of the suspension. A Primary Industries Ministerial Council meeting in Perth next week will provide a further opportunity for dialogue about moving the industry forward.

The Australian Labor Party caucus unanimously endorsed an immediate cessation of live cattle to Indonesia until standards were established. The standards were to be the international OIE standards and that stunning would be encouraged and that there would be ongoing monitoring.
The Government’s actions do just that. To gain an export permit companies must demonstrate they use OIE international standards, companies are being encouraged to adopt stunning and there is a requirement for independent auditing of the entire supply chain as a condition of export.

The Government made the decision to suspend trade in response to animal welfare concerns, but with a commitment to support the industry so that it can continue to provide wealth and prosperity in five years time, in ten years time and into the future.
Our commitment to fix animal welfare standards now will ensure there are no continuing disruptions to the trade.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks to the Indonesian Government for their co-operation and acknowledge their strong commitment to continuing this mutually beneficial trade into the future.

I would also like to acknowledge members of the industry working group and the Australian Veterinary Association for their hard work and co-operation developing the standards.

The lifting of the suspension is an important step towards resuming exports and supporting this industry.

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