Producers take aim at Ludwig

Brendan LeicesterCountryman

Great Southern farmers and pastoralists from across the State have called for Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig to be sacked over his handling of the Indonesian live cattle suspension.

A motion of no confidence against Senator Ludwig was passed at the WA Pastoralists and Graziers Association’s (PGA) third crisis meeting in Katanning last Friday.

Attended by more than 100 industry members, several farmers at the meeting voiced frustration over what they said was a knee-jerk reaction by the Government to suspend trade.

Mt Barker resident John Pugh, who has been farming for 60 years, summed up the angst in the room, calling for Prime Minister Julia Gillard to take immediate action.

“Blood has been spilled; it’s on Ludwig’s hands, the only sensible thing to do now is sack him, ” he said.

PGA vice-president Ruth Webb-Smith said the live export industry had been made the scapegoat and urged members to unite.

“Because of five minutes of footage, an entire industry is now suffering, ” she said. “If nothing is done, it will affect people worldwide and the ripple effect will become a tsunami.”

WA Liberal Party Senator Chris Back had similar views, saying Indonesians needed 300 tonnes of beef a day and the trade halt had created uncertainty in supply.

“The Indonesians are saying we want sufficient abattoirs to be upgraded so Indonesians and Australians can enjoy the benefit of reopening the trade, ” Senator Back said.

“The Government’s $30 million welfare package to assist those caught up in the trade suspension could go an enormous way towards upgrading Indonesian abattoirs.”

It is understood that just $1 million would provide about 40 stun guns, which would solve many of the animal welfare concerns that prompted the suspension.

WA Premier Colin Barnett expressed his dissatisfaction with the Federal Government’s handling of the situation, saying it had set trade relations between Australia and Indonesia back by 20 years.

Federal Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd has also stepped into the fray, heading for Indonesia this evening where he will meet his counterpart, Dr Marty Natalegawa, and other senior people on Friday and Saturday.

Mr Rudd has already been in discussions over the matter with Australian ambassador to Indonesia, Greg Moriarty, and over the next few days will be contributing to what is being called a complex set of negotiations.

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