November 25, 2011
Australia's Senate recommends keeping live export trade going and has rejected calls to end the industry.
The Senate Rural Affairs and Transport References Committee, chaired by Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan, also recommends further assistance for producers and businesses affected by the suspension of the cattle trade to Indonesia.
The Federal Government temporarily stopped the trade after footage of Australian animals being mistreated in Indonesian abattoirs aired on ABC's Four Corners programme.
The final report on animal welfare standards in Australia's live export industry was due to be released almost a month ago, but after three extensions, it was finally tabled in the Senate.
After hearings in the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Canberra, the report says not one witness condoned the treatment of cattle shown on Four Corners. It describes the scenes as totally abhorrent and inexcusable.
The report advises the Federal Government to provide further assistance to businesses and exporters.
"The committee recommends that the Australian Government, in consultation with the live export industry and other ancillary businesses, develops a package of further assistance or re-allocates existing packages of assistance to address those identifiable and otherwise irrecoverable financial costs incurred as a result of the temporary suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia."
The report recommends that Meat and Livestock Australia and Livecorp ensure that the latest version of the restraint box - Mark 4 - which is used in some live export markets, meets international welfare standards.
The report also questions the efforts of the peak bodies to stamp out animal welfare issues.
It recommends the live export industry review the responsibilities and clarifies the lines of authority of the industry's peak bodies.
And says there must be closer scrutiny of Commonwealth funding for programmes to improve welfare standards.
The report says the Federal Government should set up an ongoing dialogue with governments in Australia's export markets.
The committee does not support the view that live cattle exports be replaced by abattoirs in the north.
However, Senators are concerned that the northern cattle industry is too heavily reliant on the live trade, and say options for developing processing in the north needs to be looked at.
Not all committee members agreed with the main report.
The Greens and independent senator Nick Xenophon handed down dissenting reports, saying their bills to end the trade should be passed.
Greens senator Lee Rhiannon says stunning should be mandatory in all abattoirs.
Senator Nick Xenophon agrees, and also recommends more help for industry.
Labour senator Glenn Sterle added to the report by noting that after the "previous live export suspension to Egypt under the Howard Government, it took nearly four years for the trade to be recommenced, leaving a lack of certainty in the industry during this period."
While the committee heard some controversial evidence during its hearings, including concerns about the accuracy of the Four Corners programme and allegations about the editing of the footage, the report says the committee has chosen not to comment further on the specifics of those concerns, having decided that it is "not well placed" to determine whether or not they are well founded.