Pastoralists make case for live trade

Rebecca TurnerCountryman

Without the live trade, the northern beef industry at best would contract sharply and at worst cease to exist, according to pastoralists.

The pastoralists were speaking last week at the Broome Senate inquiry into animal welfare standards in Australia's live export markets.

A total of 26 submissions were made at the Broome inquiry with 16 pastoralists from the West Kimberley, Pilbara and Central Kimberley having a say.

Anna Plains pastoralist David Stoate told the inquiry most northern beef industry properties were not suitable for fattening cattle for domestic abattoirs and any contraction in beef production would result in declining employment in remote and regional parts of the Kimberley.

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Mr Stoate said there were many flaws in the argument to replace the live trade industry with processing in Australia.

He said the vast distances that separated northern producers from processors in the south made transporting cattle to processing facilities unviable.

"Our produce represents an important source of protein in Indonesia and we believe it would be irresponsible for Australia to turn its back on the trade, which provides important social, economic and environmental outcomes for both countries," Mr Stoate said.

"We're good at breeding cattle and Indonesia, with its ample supplies of low cost feed and cheap labour, is good at finishing cattle."

Pastoral and Graziers Association president Rob Gillam said he had no doubt that the images of cruelty to animals shown on Four Corners, supplied by animal activist group Animals Australia, was an indirect attempt to stop the live export trade rather than improve animal welfare outcomes.

He said as a consequence, the current situation had nothing to do with animal welfare; rather it was about organisations that had been unable to stop livestock export from Australia and were now unable or unwilling to admit that animal welfare under Australian influence was among the best in the world.

Mr Gillam said apart from direct employment opportunities, the live export trade had a multiplier effect and was of particular importance to the Kimberley region, in many cases it was the main source of employment for indigenous communities.

Agriculture Minister Terry Redman also spoke of the important employment benefits the live export trade provided in WA. He said the "ripple effect" of the temporary ban on live exports to Indonesia needed to be taken into full account.

Helicopter pilots, livestock transporters and animal handlers were only some of the people in the live export supply chain that were impacted.

Mr Redman also told the hearing that building an abattoir in the State's north would not replace the Indonesian live export industry.

A submission by Wellard Rural Exports managing director Steve Meerwald defended the trade, dismissing "illusions of self-regulation" and saying the industry in Australia and vessels that traded from Australia were highly regulated.

Wellard's submission also stated that in its 32 years of trading it had demonstrated a long-standing commitment to the live export trade and its ongoing development from the farm gate to point of slaughter.

Four hearings have now been completed by the Senate, including those in Darwin and Canberra last month and another in Katherine last week.

The Senate now has until September 21 to compile its report into the role and effectiveness of government, Meat and Livestock Australia, LiveCorp and relevant industry bodies in improving animal welfare standards in Australia's live export markets.

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