Standing up for Live Exports

16/8/2018

I rise today to update the House on some of the activities and forums that were held around my electorate relating to the live export industry during the winter break. On 20 July, in my home town of Katanning, over a thousand farmers, truckies and small-business people gathered at the Katanning rec centre in an extraordinary display of solidarity with the industry. I give great credit to: the WA Farmers Federation and president Tony York for initiating the meeting; the state agricultural minister, Alannah MacTiernan, who came to the meeting and, some would say, faced the music, but I think everybody respected the minister for turning up; and my colleague the member for New England, Barnaby Joyce, who accepted the invitation from the WA Farmers Federation to come to Western Australia and talk to our farming community.

It was a great opportunity for me and the other politicians who were in the crowd to listen to those farmers and rural communities. What I heard was that people feel overwhelmingly betrayed and let down by a system that they have no control over. Unfortunately, they bear the consequences. The industry feels vilified by people who live in metropolitan areas, who have very little contact and very little understanding of how our farming and rural industries work.

Some people made magnificent contributions, and one of those was from a young mum from Dumbleyung , Chloe MacDougall. She was there with a pram and her new baby, and she was very concerned about her family's future. She called on the Western Australian minister for agriculture to decide whether she represented farmers or whether she represented the animal liberationists. Ben Poett is a third-generation livestock transporter—his grandfather carted livestock for my father, his dad carted livestock for me, and he is continuing that family business. He said that in the last month his truck had only moved for eight days and that's not enough to meet the payments on his truck. They are the people who are really feeling the pinch. A local furniture retailer, Alan McFarland, said that when the rural community isn't making money the tap immediately turns off for  his business.

We heard those stories at Katanning, and that kicked off a series of meetings which I held around the electorate. There was a coffee catch-up in Kulin, where at one day's notice over 30 people turned up. I thank Sid Turner for organising that day. Once again, people were very concerned about the future of their industry. The shire president of Brookton, Katrina Crute, managed at two days notice to muster 160 people for a live export Q&A at the Brookton Country Club that evening. I thank Steven Keatley, a local livestock agent, and Katrina for putting that meeting together. The message I heard was loud and clear. Once again, people were angry that the system's let them down. This live export industry is an important pillar of their businesses and they are very unhappy that we've been put in this situation.

A week later down in Esperance, Tom Brown held a sundowner in his shearing shed. It is the truck drivers, livestock agents and small-business people who feel the pinch early. Fortunately, in Western Australia we're very blessed with having a wonderful season this year, so the financial impacts are being hidden because farmers are able  to keep sheep on property while they wait for the trade to reinvigorate. Barry Hutchinson and Geoff Irvine were the people that helped put the meeting together.

On 9 August, at Mayanup, we held another meeting. There were over 100 people once again. Caroline Read, Richard Creek and Sue Mead helped put that meeting together—thank you very much. At that meeting, we heard from a very interesting lady Amy Dyer, who was there with her young child. She married a farmer. She told the meeting that she was an animal liberationist, she was a vegetarian and at stages in her life she'd been a vegan. But since marrying a farmer and understanding not only how the industry works and the safeguards that we've put in place here in country in Australia but also how the ESCAS sets the standard for the world she had completely changed her view. She is working very hard with some of her old contacts in the animal liberation movement to convince them that this trade does have a future and it does set the standard for the rest of the world to abide by. The practical implication of the suspension of our trade at the moment is that Qatar, our main customer, is importing sheep, as we speak, from Sudan, Armenia and South Africa.

Join our mailing list