Live Export

Wilkie vs live exports enters round four

James Nason, 25/02/2014

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has launched his fourth legislative bid to shut down the live export trade with a new bill introduced into the House of Representatives yesterday.

The Live Animal Export Prohibition (Ending Cruelty) Bill 2014 aims to put an end to live animal exports from Australia from July 2017, and to impose increased animal welfare controls on livestock exports in the interim.

The bill seems all but assured to fail in parliament because both major parties continue to express strong support for the livestock export trade, which generates in the vicinity of $1 billion in economic value for Australia every year.

However the latest bill provides another opportunity for Mr Wilkie to draw media and public attention to his ongoing campaign to end the trade. 

Mr Wilkie visited northern Australia to meet with producers and others involved in the livestock export trade last month, but said upon his return the tour had done nothing to change his view that the trade was “systematically cruel, not in Australia’s economic interest and lacking in public support”.

The Australian Livestock Exporters Council says it has attempted to meet with Mr Wilkie to discuss his views about the trade but has yet to receive a response.

“As we have not had a response from him we will be writing again requesting a meeting,” ALEC CEO Alison Penfold told Beef Central.

“Given the position adopted by Mr Wilkie, I think it only fair and reasonable that he engage with exporters to understand the gravity of the outcomes from any phase out or ban of the trade and the work that industry is undertaking to improve welfare outcomes – something acknowledged by the international animal health and welfare body OIE in October last year.

“It would also be respectful to meet with us as he continues to publicly malign the industry, call those who operate in it – from producers, exporters, stockmen, stevedores etc – cruel and barbaric and uses parliamentary privilege to spread misinformation about the trade.”

One Northern Territory cattle producer who met with Mr Wilkie last month has written a blog about the experience.

Jo Bloomfield writes that she believes the Independent MP spent the one hour he spent talking to producers listening intently and politely explaining his own views, but said she came away believing he had little understanding of meat processing in Australia, or appreciation of the impact that banning the live export trade would have on many families and businesses across Australia.

Mrs Bloomfield said she believed it was hypocritical for Mr Wilkie to tell the Northern Territory cattle industry to expand its meat processing capacity when meat processing operations in his own state were undergoing rationalisation, with dozens of small abattoirs and a number of large export plants closing over the past 20 years.

She questioned whether Mr Wilkie will also be seeking to ban the shipments of 30,000 cattle and 300,000 sheep that occur from Tasmania across Bass Strait to Victoria each year for processing in mainlaind abattoirs, or the shipments of mainland cattle to Tasmania to keep the state’s abattoirs operating efficiently.

Mrs Bloomfield said she showed Mr Wilkie a map documenting the locations of 10 different abattoirs that have operated in the Northern Territory at various times over the past 40 years.

None of the 10 abattoirs were still operating. In 1995 abattoirs at Wyndham and Katherine were able to offer producers just $50 per head for their cattle, she said.

While it was ‘great’ that AAco was currently building an abattoir near Darwin, it was not designed or intended to become a replacement for the live export industry.

“Mr Wilkie, live export didn't develop across the north because it was the first idea to strike the producers,” Mrs Bloomfield writes. “It developed because our meat processing facilities couldn't compete in cost and efficiency. Now you want us to go back to that. Do politicians really expect producers to give their cattle away and survive, on what?”

To view Mrs Bloomfield’s post on her Cattle Producer blog click here


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


Get Beef Central's news headlines emailed to you -