Daily Telegraph Blog
Posted on Friday, 24 June 2011
No one wants to see cruelty to animals but bad practices at some Indonesian abattoirs should not destroy our live cattle export industry that’s worth at least $300 million a year to pastoralists alone.
Northern Australia’s cattle industry is now in crisis and family businesses are on the brink of disaster thanks largely to amateur hour bungling from the Gillard Government.
Following Four Corners’ expose, the government suspended further exports to some Indonesian slaughterhouses. A few days later, in response to an email campaign and a caucus revolt, it completely banned all live exports to Indonesia.
It’s yet another over-reaction by the Gillard Government with far reaching consequences.
Banning Australian live exports won’t stop cruel practices, it just shifts the problem to someone else. Only by remaining engaged in the trade can Australia help ensure humane practices at all abattoirs we deal with.
Lack of reliable refrigeration means that live exports are the only way to get Australian beef into much of the Indonesian market.
The Indonesians won’t stop importing beef if Australia refuses to supply. They’ll just get their animals from India (where foot and mouth disease is rife) and Northern Australia will lose its biggest industry along with mining.
This panicked over-reaction has jeopardised the livelihood of station families, transport operators, helicopter musterers, Aboriginal stockmen and the businesses that depend on them.
Because this is seasonal work on tight margins in which debts can only be repaid once the cattle are delivered, thousands of small business operators fear for their financial survival. A number of station operators are said to be on suicide watch.
This is a largely avoidable mess that the government could have stopped and must now fix. The government should have known about problems at some Indonesian abattoirs. If it didn’t know, it should have been alerted well before Four Corners went to air and should have been ready with a considered response. Instead, the government didn’t know which Indonesian abattoirs met animal welfare standards (and which did not) so it implemented an-obviously-inadequate suspension followed by a complete ban.
Consequences of the ban included Elders being unable to ship 1900 of its own cattle from Port Hedland to Elders-owned-and-run abattoirs in Indonesia operating in accordance with the best international standards.
There is no reason why these exports can’t be issued with a licence immediately.
The government owes it to the people of Northern Australia to immediately fix this problem-of-its-own-making.
People at risk don’t need lengthy inquiries. They need the trade to be restarted. Only then, should the industry be heavied to lift its game.
The government might not have urgent bills to pay but cattle producers certainly do and their needs should not be hostage to a spat between Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd.
Their argument this week was over her insistence that Rudd leave the matter to the Agriculture Minister who had created the problem in the first place.
The government needs you, Kevin, at least to rescue the Indonesian live cattle trade.
24 June 2011