Wilkie and Xenophon push for 2014 live animal export ban

Independents join forces to pressure Gillard Government to scrap live animal exports by July 2014

Wilkie and Xenophon push for 2014 live animal export ban
Wilkie and Xenophon push for 2014 live animal export ban
By Brad Gardner | June 21, 2011

Independents Andrew Wilkie and Senator Nick Xenophon have joined forces to pressure the Gillard Government into scrapping live animal exports by mid 2014.

Xenophon yesterday introduced the Live Animal Export Restriction and Prohibition Bill in the Senate, with Denison MP Wilkie doing the same in the House of Representatives.

If passed, the Bill will ban live animal exports by July 1, 2014. Xenophon wants government and industry to use the three-year timeframe to put in place the infrastructure needed to export chilled processed meat.

The move is in response to footage aired last month on the ABC’s Four Corners program, which depicted animal cruelty in Indonesian slaughterhouses.

"Cattle had their tails broken, their eyes gouged, the tendons on their legs slashed; their throats were cut with blunt knives, with an average of 13 strokes taken to kill an animal," Xenophon says.

"It is time to bring an end to this brutal trade."

The Bill will require regulations to be put in place between now and 2014 mandating that abattoirs slaughtering Australian cattle must meet World Organisation for Animal Health standards.

"The government needs to ensure that there is an appropriate plan in place before the end of live exports. This plan should include subsidies to assist producers in transporting their animals until abattoirs in the north are reopened, and compensation to ensure that the industry can make the changes they need to," Xenophon says.

"It is time to bring an end to this trade, and to support industry in restructuring. As a country, we can no longer support these brutal practices. We can no longer turn a blind eye to abuse we are in effect sanctioning."

Wilkie, whose support in the Lower House is crucial to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, says the live export trade "is broken and beyond repair".

"The government must put animal welfare and the public interest ahead of everything else," he says.

Wilkie says industry can use the time between now and 2014 to reopen abattoirs in Katherine in the Northern Territory and Innisfail in North Queensland.

Both independents have also turned their guns on Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).

Xenophon rejected claims from the organisation that it was not aware of what was happening, saying its 20-year presence in Indonesia coupled with abattoir inspections meant MLA’s argument "seems to hold little weight".

Wilkie has been more forthright in his criticism, damning the group as "an irresponsible, incompetent, dishonest and uncaring bunch of cowboys".

He accused MLA, which takes $5 per head of cattle exported on the basis of promoting animal welfare issues, of "fleecing producers".

The Bill coincides with the Greens’ attempt to outlaw live exports immediately. The Greens MP in the House of Representatives, Adam Bandt, has introduced the Live Animal Export (Slaughter) Prohibition Bill.

"The Bill puts an immediate end to the horrific treatment of Australian cattle in overseas slaughterhouses," he says.

Bandt opposes phasing in the ban, saying the cost of retrofitting Indonesian abattoirs with the necessary equipment and retraining workers "would be simply astronomical".

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert introduced the same bill in the Senate last week.

Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig slapped a ban on exports to Indonesia for six months in the wake of the Four Corners footage. The Opposition wants trade restarted on the basis of supplying cattle to abattoirs that meet acceptable animal welfare standards.

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