Rally a chance for industry to be heard

Claire TyrrellCountryman

The Federal Government’s push for Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) to pay $5 million in compensation over the live trade ban to Indonesia was rejected by the 280-strong crowd that gathered in Geraldton last week.

The meeting also called for a bi-partisan delegation, including Prime Minister Julia Gillard or Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, to meet the Indonesian President in a bid to get the trade re-instated.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association president Rob Gillam, who chaired the meeting, warned cattle producers they were not the only ones in the firing line.

Mr Gillam called on people from all sectors of the industry to make their voices heard.

“I would like to hear from producers in other markets — not just live cattle, ” he said.

Mr Gillam welcomed the presence of Federal MP Barry Haase, Geraldton MLA Ian Blayney, Agricultural Region MLC Brian Ellis, Moore MLA Grant Woodhams, Kimberley MLA Carol Martin and Labor Shadow Agriculture Minister Mick Murray at the meeting, saying it was recognition of the value of the industry to regional WA.

“What is most disappointing, however, is that despite being invited no WA Federal Labor MPs or Senators could be bothered to attend, ” he said.

While those attending the meeting backed MLA’s efforts to restart the trade, the peak industry body also took some heat for failing to ensure that the treatment of Australian cattle in Indonesia complied with acceptable animal welfare standards.

Lancelin cattle farmer Bob Wilson said MLA had not done enough to protect the trade.

“We export bulls to the Middle East and for several years we have been concerned about the end of our supply chain, ” he said.

“I relied on MLA to improve the trade, but it hasn’t worked. All we need is five minutes of footage and our whole trade can be shut down.

“We are paying millions of dollars in levies into MLA, so surely we can expect better than this?”

Mr Wilson said his livelihood was on a “knife’s edge” over the Federal Government’s crackdown on live exports.

MLA chairman Don Heatley defended the organisation’s work to date and detailed the actions that MLA was taking to re-instate live trade to Indonesia.

Mr Heatley said a tactful approach was crucial to restarting the trade and Australia could not force Indonesians to introduce stunning in abattoirs. “There are five compliant abattoirs in Indonesia and we have a chance to introduce stunning in another five, ” he said.

“But we cannot walk into a country and tell them how to run their business.”

Mr Heatley said trade to at least 25 Indonesian abattoirs in the near future was a reality, and had been earmarked in MLA’s $9 million plan submitted to Federal Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig.

The producers gathered also urged the industry to get behind multi-media campaigns in support of both MLA and the live export industry.

The PGA will hold another All of Industry Forum in Katanning at 1pm on Friday, July 1 at the Kennedy Building, corner of Kobeelya Avenue and Brownie Street. Phone 9479 4599

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