08/06/2011 - 07:35

Redman joins attack on live export ban

08/06/2011 - 07:35

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West Australian Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman has called the federal government's decision to suspend all live cattle exports to Indonesia "hasty", saying the $250 million industry is now at risk of collapse.

Redman joins attack on live export ban

West Australian Agriculture and Food Minister Terry Redman has called the federal government's decision to suspend all live cattle exports to Indonesia "hasty", saying the $250 million industry is now at risk of collapse.

Mr Redman said the decision would have a severe negative impact on Western Australia's cattle industry, echoing comments from Pilbara pastoralists this morning, who said the decision to temporarily suspend exports for up to six months effectively ripped food off of their tables.

Last year Western Australia exported 370,000 head of cattle, with about 80 per cent going to Indonesia.

Mr Redman said the ban placed Western Australia's entire $250 million live export beef industry in jeopardy, and would potentially create serious animal welfare and environmental issues in Australia if unaddressed.

"Western Australia's northern cattle industry is heavily dependent on the Indonesian market. With that market closed pastoralists, including indigenous pastoralists, could be left with thousands of animals they can't sell," he said in a statement released today.

"That could lead to over-grazing, our own animal welfare issues and land degradation if not managed properly.

"I have set up a taskforce with representatives from Government, the beef industry, exporters, the Pastoralists and Graziers Association and WAFarmers, which will meet for the first time today.

"I sincerely hope the federal government is prepared to constructively work with Western Australia, other jurisdictions and industry in a cooperative and constructive way to resolve this issue and see the trade resumed as quickly as possible to the level of animal welfare standards accepted by Australian cattle producers and others in our community."

Mr Redman said it was particularly disappointing that there had been little consultation by the federal government with the relevant state ministers before the ban was introduced.

"While I support taking action against abattoirs that have been proven to be mistreating animals, I do not support a hasty decision to suspend all exports to Indonesia," Mr Redman said.

"We offered our full support to the Federal Government to work with them and industry to urgently address these issues last week.

"A decision like this, which has such far-reaching implications for the several thousand West Australians involved in this major industry, needs to be made after thorough exploration by governments collectively."

The WA Farmers Federation also condemned the ban on exports today.

WAFarmers agreed that measures should be put in place to ensure Australian cattle were treated humanely but warned that a prolonged suspension would cause lasting damage to the industry.

WAFarmers president Mike Norton said the decision put Australia at risk of being seen as an unreliable trade partner.

"Australia is not the only country involved in this issue - another enormous country with a population of more than 230 million people is also equally involved," said Mr Norton.

"Indonesia is already using this opportunity to look at becoming self-sufficient in its cattle supply. There is a very real possibility that Indonesia may make the decision not to reopen or restrict the trade with Australia.

"Additionally, a prolonged ban will penalise the abattoirs in Indonesia that are doing the correct thing and do meet World Organisation for Animal Health standards."

The Pastoralists and Graziers' Association of WA said it was shocked at the decision and said the decision was "knee-jerk" and made without any thought to its "devastating" effects.

PGA President Rob Gillam said the suspension put the state's $250 million live export beef industry in jeopardy, and agreed with Mr Redman's assertions of potential animal welfare and environmental issues.

"Mustering is already underway and if markets remain closed, producers, including indigenous owned stations, will be left with thousands of animals and no source of income," he said.

"This will lead to over-grazing, lack of feed, and other animal welfare issues.

"However the main issue will be the destruction of the lives of thousand of families in Western Australia who, through no fault of their own, face losing their livelihood."

Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said the live export trade would not resume until the government, community and industry were confident that safeguards were in place to ensure appropriate animal welfare in Indonesia.

But cattle producer Lang Coppin, whose income is reliant on the live export trade, urged the government not to "forget about the farmers" and to make sure a solution was found quickly.

"It's like if you're just sitting down for a meal and somebody just gets the table cloth and rips it off and all of a sudden there's nothing to eat," Mr Coppin told Fairfax Radio.

"There's a lot of people who will be going to the wall over this."

Mr Coppin was ready to load about 200 of his cattle onto a ship at Port Hedland on Tuesday which was headed for an accredited feedlot in Indonesia.

He said pallets and the cattle's feed had been loaded onto the ship when the exporter received a call from Canberra instructing them to stop.

"I thought it was a bit rough to pull it up in the middle of loading a ship," the cattle producer said.

"I think they've overreacted a bit. The farmers probably don't deserve to cop it that hard, it's not our fault and they should have given industry a bit more warning."

The cattle ship that was berthed at Port Hedland was the first to arrive for about two years, Mr Coppin said, and another one was unlikely any time soon due to the logistics and the high demand for berths from the mining industry.

Mike Thompson from Munda Station in the Pilbara said during the next month they will be mustering about 10,000 to 12,000 cattle which will now have nowhere to go.

Mr Thompson said he sent five trucks loaded with cattle and carrying about $2500 worth of diesel fuel each to Port Hedland on Tuesday, which were turned away.

"They're playing with people's livelihoods," he told ABC Radio.

The pastoralist agreed there were problems in the way cattle were being treated in Indonesia but suspending the trade was not the way to solve the issue.

"Those activists should get off our backs, we know how to look after animals, us farmers," Mr Thompson said.

"The Australian people are beating up on their own farmers and all the people in the industry for the sake of what we think is righteous and we think it is right but we've got to change it over there.

"There's no point attacking us, they've got to attack the Indonesian people."

He said the cattle industry in northern Australia was built around the live trade and with hardly any abattoirs in WA capable of dealing the cattle, much of the herd would be left in limbo.

The federal government has refused to say if compensation will be offered to producers affected by the suspension, but Senator Ludwig said he was confident the industry will be back on its feet before the end of the suspension of up to six months.

"What we don't have is a supply chain that ensures that every cow that leaves Australia on a ship that ends up in a feed lock (a device to bulk feed cattle) then goes to an abattoir is accounted for," Senator Ludwig told reporters in Brisbane.

Senator Ludwig said he was confident the industry had "a long-term future".

"There (have) been impacts to industry ... domestically and along the supply chain," he said.

"The end goal is to ensure that we've got animal welfare outcomes ... and that industry can continue to have live animal exports for the sustainable future.

"And I'm keen to work with the industry ... to look at how we can address it within the six months."

The trade with Indonesia was important and should continue, he said.

Earlier today, live cattle export bodies said they understood the reasoning behind the export ban.

In a joint statement released this morning after the government suspended exports, Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) and LiveCorp said under proposed reforms, the industry had committed to a reduction of trade to a core group of facilities in Indonesia independently accredited to meet OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) animal welfare standards.

A stringent supply chain, the rapid introduction of stunning and an ongoing review and monitoring program would ensure Australian cattle were processed only through these facilities, they said.

"The Australian livestock industry understands the reasons behind the Australian Government's decision to temporarily suspend the live cattle trade to Indonesia until a controlled system that will assure the welfare of Australian cattle exported to Indonesia has been implemented," the statement said.

 

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