No quick fix in live export deal

Nick Butterly, Steve Pennels, Rebecca Turner and AAPCountryman

Re-opening the live cattle trade to Indonesia cannot come fast enough for those affected by the ban, but Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig’s visit to the country this week provided no timeframe for this to occur.

Mr Ludwig was unable to secure a deal covering animal welfare standards in Indonesian abattoirs or an expected date for resumption of live cattle exports.

The governments of both countries agreed to work towards a deal that would result in World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standards being introduced at Indonesian abattoirs.

After meeting Indonesian officials, including Trade Minister Mari Pangestu and Agriculture Minister Suswono, Mr Ludwig said it was clear the issue would not be resolved quickly.

“We have made progress towards re-opening the trade and putting the industry on a long term sustainable footing, but it’s not something that will happen overnight,” he said.

“I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet with my Indonesian counterpart and other ministers and consult with them about a draft set of standards upon which the future of our live export trade can be based.”

WA Agriculture Minister Terry Redman, who was also in Indonesia at the start of this week, told ABC radio that if the Indonesian Government was on side, it could be possible to resume the live export trade in two to three weeks.

But he said he did not have a lot of confidence that would happen because of the damaged diplomatic relationship with Indonesia.

Mr Redman said the Indonesians remained ‘a little bit angry’ about Australia’s export ban.

He said the international standard for the trade was not to mandate stunning of animals before slaughter and that meant Australia could not dictate to Indonesia that animals had to be stunned.

“While we want to maintain — and so do the Indonesians — the highest of animal welfare standards, it is important that we have a level of respect for international rules around trade relationships,” he said.

The draft working plan Mr Ludwig put to the Indonesian Government this week did not insist that cattle exported to Indonesia had to be stunned before slaughter.

The terms stipulated that if stunning was not available, other conditions must be met. These included humane restraints for animals, no rough handling and cutting the throat in a single cut with a freshly sharpened knife.

Indonesia was also asked to introduce a system allowing cattle to be tracked between ships and abattoirs.

There have already been industry concerns that the draft standards do not go far enough to ensure the welfare of Australian cattle because stunning prior to slaughter was not made mandatory.

Last week Labor MPs told The West Australian there would be a riot if the Government allowed exports to resume without guaranteeing all Australian cattle would be stunned before slaughter.

Three of Australia’s biggest cattle producers have also declared ‘no stun, no deal’ and vowed to not export live cattle unless Indonesia adopted Australian standards.

WAFarmers president Mike Norton said it supported a government push for Australian cattle to be slaughtered under OIE standards.

He said while these standards did not include mandatory stunning of cattle prior to slaughter, WAFarmers strongly advocated the use of stunning in any abattoir that slaughtered Australian cattle.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) livestock executive officer Ian Randles said the use of OIE standards as a basis for negotiations was a start.

But he said the PGA also supported the introduction of mandatory stunning of Australian cattle slaughtered in Indonesia.

“The Australian public needs to be satisfied and mandatory stunning is a solution,” he said.

“The PGA, or any other body for that matter, can’t impose conditions on Indonesia.

“However, mandatory stunning would resolve animal welfare issues.”

The PGA has also called for mandatory use of National Livestock Identification System tags for export cattle.

Mr Randles said it was important the live export trade was resumed quickly so Australia did not lose market access to Indonesia and one way to do this was to resume trading with Indonesian abattoirs that used stunning.

PGA president Rob Gillam said Federal Independent MPs should stop playing politics and call for the immediate resumption of live cattle exports to Indonesia.

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