Opinion: Labor Party rhetoric does nothing to assist Indo permit issue

Trent Thorne, McCullough Robertson lawyers, 15/07/2015

The recent announcement by the Indonesian Government of a reduction in the third quarter live cattle import permits has resulted in some astonishing rhetoric from the Labor Party, writes agribusiness solicitor Trent Thorne, from McCullough Robertson.

Livex 2The Indonesian Trade Minister, Rachmat Gobel, has already commented today that the final figure for the third quarter is still being evaluated.  This is no surprise as anecdotal reports are revealing that beef prices in Jakarta wet markets are spiking and pushing towards 130,000 to 150,000Rph/kg.

However, at a press conference yesterday, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten jumped the gun and stated that ‘This is a grave concern … I sincerely hope that our relationship with Indonesia at the political level is not driving this reduction’.

Shadow Minister for Agriculture, Joel Fitzgibbon, hopped into the fray with a press release that claimed that ‘there’s no doubt Australia’s relationship with Indonesia has deteriorated under Tony Abbott’.

Whilst Joel Fitzgibbon is one of the better performers in the Labor Party, these comments have no basis in reality and his hypocrisy is truly staggering.

There can be little doubt that the Labor Party has done more to damage relations between Australia and Indonesia than any prior government over the past 30 years.

When the live export ban was introduced by Senator Joe Ludwig in June 2011 (a veritable ‘bakso balls-up’), the rush to placate the vociferous animal rights lobby showed a level of appeasement that would have made Neville Chamberlain blush.  The consideration shown by Ludwig to the Indo-Australian relationship was exactly four-fifths of five-eighths of next to nothing.

And if any reminder is required, the Labor Party ‘gifted’ Prime Minister Abbott with the Edward Snowden spying scandal.  Despite having every opportunity to throw the Labor Party under the bus for creating this diplomatic firestorm, the Prime Minister’s measured approach to this issue was targeted and precise.

To state the obvious, our relationship with Indonesia is vital and growing.  Indonesia has the largest economy in SE Asia, and is projected to be the world’s seventh largest by 2030.  Indonesia has the second highest GDP growth behind China of the Asian countries. Australia’s two-way trade with Indonesia was worth $14.6 billion in 2012, making Indonesia our 12th largest trading partner and it is our third largest agricultural export market worth $2.3 billion in 2012.

In March 2014, the Opposition Leader accused the government of abandoning Qantas and its workers describing the Coalition as ‘cheese eating surrender monkeys’.  But Mr Shorten was strangely silent when a substantial number of workers were laid off as a result of the live export ban in Northern Australia.  Mr Shorten continually joins the wrong side of every argument.

Desperate to be popular, particularly since he was rejected by the majority of rank and file members of the Labor Party when choosing their current leader, his sole contribution to the national debate thus far has been as the eternal spoiler.

Whilst there is nothing wrong with playing that card as it is the strategy of most opposition leaders, there must be an alternative view or policy to buttress the constant negative commentary.  Shorten needs to stand for something –anything – and that does not mean falling back on the failed policies of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments that saw them thrown from office.

The ABC’s recent documentary on the Machiavellian machinations of the Australian Labor Party made it abundantly clear that a basic understanding of how the wider economy worked was completely beyond them.

And as for diplomacy and dealing with foreign governments (viz the ‘Oceanic Viking’ standoff, Rudd & Copenhagen, Rudd & China and Rudd & George ‘What’s the G20’ Bush), well it was a case of détente by dilettantes.

Australia’s relationship with Indonesia seems to be back on firmer ground following the troubling executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.  Trying to opportunistically link these executions (Bob Katter – I am looking at you too) is grubby and tawdry, particularly in light of the fact that there is no link to be found.

For the sake of everyone in rural Australia, and given Labor’s recent track record, is it too much to ask for the Labor Party to limit its future involvement on matters relating to Indonesia to simply visiting Bali – it may be the only positive contribution that it will make to the Indo-Australian relationship.






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  1. Richard Wilson, 16/07/2015

    Thanks Trent for stating the real facts on our very important international trade and business and government relationships. Let’s deal in real facts for a change and protect Australia’s valuable reputation, congratulations.

  2. Bill McGuinness, 15/07/2015

    So true Trent.

  3. Edgar Burnett, 15/07/2015

    OK Terry, if Bob Katter was not one of the main ones, who was? He has been backing the northern cattle producers, the Live Exporters and the Indonesian meat- eaters for ages and all he cops is flack.
    If his son-in-law is importing the rifles, what has it to do with Bob? Is he directly involved as well? Typical of the ABC to pull that stunt on him.
    There are plenty of rifles in Australia now with or without pedigrees – why is the Government allowing such imports?

  4. Terry Jones, 15/07/2015

    A lot of politicians and others – Katter included – claimed credit for getting live exports back in its feet – much of it unwarranted.

  5. Katrina Paine, 15/07/2015

    Spot on with your comments Trent.

  6. Edgar Burnett, 15/07/2015

    And now having read the internet transcript of the session with Bob Katter on the 7:30 Report, it is fairly obvious that the ABC ambushed him with information that he knew nothing about.
    This just another example of the way the media treat Bob, he being a man of the people and he being an MP who the LNP have been trying to get rid of ever since he left the National Party which is along time ago. The LNP’s only trouble is that the people of his Electorate has not allowed him to be defeated at any Election. And do you know why? – because he is a man representing his people like all MPs are supposed to do.

  7. Doug Russell, 15/07/2015

    Trent. Your comments are just so spot on and clearly indicate why people who have very limited knowledge
    of the real subject but think that political mileage will make them look good results in such foolish comments.
    The growth in Indonesia is enormous and Australia has an excellent relationship to capture our share.
    Sadly the comments last night from Bob Katter made him look quite foolish.
    The electronic media in Australia now just love interviewing people who make stupid comments
    as they now believe this is good programming and we are seeing this on a daily basis.

  8. Edgar Burnett, 15/07/2015

    Don’t forget Paul, that Bob Katter was one of the in-between men who got the Live Export trade going again so don’t be surprised if he knows more than you do. I did not see the 7:30 Report but what he said on ABC was quite believable.

  9. Andre Siregar, 15/07/2015

    A very good article Trent

  10. Peter McEntee, 15/07/2015

    Although Labour’s live export ban was inexcusable, the Abbot government has managed to mire our politicians in hate speak around refugees and paranoia of Islam and Islamic terrorism. The taxpayer funded advertisements aimed at deterring asylum seekers, which were directed all through Indonesia, showed a map of Australia with a red line through it and the words “not welcome”. What sort of message was that to send to a major trading partner? Craven stupidity is a trait shared by both parties and their leaders.

  11. Jen, 15/07/2015

    Totally agree. Shut up and go and get some brains

  12. Paul Cox, 15/07/2015

    Mr Thorne has it right. The sad thing is that far too many with little knowledge of the history are unable to see past the recent past in coming to their judgements as to who is to blame and for what.

    Bob Katters rant on 7.30 last night was so far from accurate that it left me with doubts as to his sanity on this issue.

    This government is far from perfect, but in the field on international relations and the nunance required to deal with complex and often competing objectives, it is streets ahead of what we had under the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd governments.

    Joel Fitzgibbon is a far better prospect as a future ag minister than anyone else in the ALP but he really does have a long way to go in repairing the damage done by Joe Ludwig in particular. A good start would be getting the ALP on board with Senator Chris Back’s Criminal Code Amendment (Animal Protection) Bill. Give us some real action Joel and stop the nonsensical partisan attacks which do not bear any critical scrutiny.

  13. Tony Gooden, 15/07/2015

    Very well done Trent, absolutely spot on with your comments, too many ill informed people have already had too much to say on this matter, quite frankly its embarrassing listening to the pathetic political grandstanding.

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