Live Sheep Export Motion

Dr Kerryn Phelps AM MP Speech to The House Of Representatives

Wednesday 5 November:

We have been asked to debate on the urgency of a motion to phase out the live sheep trade. There are a number of principles involved here. First of all, we are in a minority government and it's important that the voice of the people is heard. Certainly, the message that came through loud and clear during the Wentworth by-election was that the people wanted their voice to be heard. The Senate has asked us to consider this motion. This message has come from the Senate, and we are being asked now whether we should respect that request from the Senate. I believe it's something that we should respect.

The other thing that the people of Wentworth said during the by-election campaign was that they care deeply about animal welfare. Indeed, over 70 per cent of people in Wentworth said that they wanted to see a phasing-out of the live sheep trade. They want this cruel and inhumane trade phased out. We have heard today criticisms about the whistleblower who alerted us to the shocking imagery of the treatment of these animals on board these ships. We should be congratulating this whistleblower, not criticising this whistleblower, for exposing the conditions for these animals.

The other question about immediacy is: how much longer can we tolerate these animals suffering in these appalling conditions? The industry itself has accepted that the trade is incompatible with animal welfare. It has itself imposed a three-month ban over the hottest months. This is an admission by the industry that the animals cannot be protected. But the reality is that the hot months are not just three months of the year. There are six hot months of the year in the part of the world which is the destination for these animals.

The government should be working on a transition plan, not on a plan to continue to protect this industry. They should be conducting a transitional plan in order to protect the primary producers who depend on this trade so that the government is ahead of the game and so that the primary producers can be ahead of the game, because the reality is that this is an unsustainable industry. The reality is that this industry has had an opportunity to reform itself and it is, in my view, beyond redemption. And the reality is that Australians want this trade phased out. I support the motion to immediately debate this motion.