Live export vital to rural economy

Live export vital to rural economy

Live export vital to rural economy

28 June 2013

Cruel, medieval, inhumane, brutal, abusive, barbaric.

Anyone with a passing interest in current affairs would be aware the live export industry in Australia has been under sustained attack since the airing of the 4 Corners program ‘A Bloody Business’ in May 2011.

The suspension sent a seismic shockwave through the industry.  There is overwhelming evidence that the live export industry, ancillary supporting businesses and northern rural communities have suffered serious financial detriment as a result of the knee-jerk suspension.

The live export ‘issue’ ceased being about animal welfare almost from the outset when Minister Ludwig made what was clearly a political decision to assuage urban voters that the Federal Government had the matter in hand.  The last month or so has revealed how short sighted and ill-considered this decision was as thousands of cattle in NW Queensland are slowly perishing.

Senator Ludwig’s decision to suspend the trade has been widely condemned by an increasing majority.  In the event that he is elected Prime Minister, Tony Abbott has made it clear one of the first jobs that he will undertake is to visit Indonesia to convey his apologies for the diplomatic train wreck created by the former government.

The live export industry is integral to the fabric of Northern Australia and Western Australia as significant parts of these rural communities rely upon the income that is generated by these properties as the money trickles through the supply chain.  It is estimated that the industry engages around 10,000 people in rural and regional Australia and is also one of the largest (and often only readily available) employers of indigenous Australians in these remote areas.

Live export, directly and indirectly, delivers immense economic benefits to all Australians.  Recent ABS data reveals that for the year to April 2013, live export generated $963 million in sales (compared with $4.9 billion worth of exports in the frozen/chilled meat (boxed) segment of the market), with considerable revenue flowing to ancillary supporting businesses along the supply chain such as trucking companies, feed suppliers, veterinarians and graziers.

Despite all of the white noise from the animal extremists, if Australia ceased to supply livestock to overseas markets, the trade could not simply be replaced by the boxed meat trade. The boxed meat and live export trade are not perfect substitutes as they appeal to different segments within a market.  In SE Asia and the Middle East, more affluent, urban-based consumers are likely to shop at a supermarket and would be satisfied with boxed meat, whereas rural consumers require their meat to be freshly slaughtered.

Australia currently exports meat to more than 30 countries, and is the largest exporter of livestock in the world.  Critically, Australia is the only country that globally invests in improving animal welfare conditions in another sovereign country, a point that the animal welfare groups refuse to acknowledge.

The unmistakeable reality is that if the Government banned the export of livestock, other countries would move into these markets and the animal welfare improvements made to date would be jettisoned.

In May this year, Dr Mark Schipp (Australian Chief Veterinary Officer) stated that Australia is seen as a world leader in enforcing animal welfare in live export markets around the world.  These comments are a clear endorsement of the fact that Australia is the only country training and improving animal handling techniques in overseas destinations.

The animal rights groups formed a myopic, wilfully blind view of the industry some time ago.  More often that not, the propaganda peddled by these groups and presented to urban communities, distort reality and fundamentally misrepresent major aspects of the industry, both domestically and abroad.

Critically, they often repeat the mantra that they are speaking for the wider community in seeking to have the live export trade shut down. 

However, the National Farmers Federation in November 2012 commissioned an independent research body to undertake 1,000 interviews regarding people’s attitudes towards the live export industry.  Overall 69% of respondents supported the continuation of the trade working with industry to ensure continuous animal welfare improvements, while 21% opposed the trade.

The survey also asked respondents whether they would be pleased or concerned if their Federal MP supported a ban of the trade and 60% of respondents said that they would be concerned, whereas only 22% said they would be pleased with such action.

Industry stakeholders are determined that they are no longer going to let other people tell their story for them, particularly in circumstances where these groups have absolutely no idea what they are talking about and have a far wider agenda than just closing down the live export industry. 

Let there be no doubt – the live export industry in Australia has a very bright outlook and livestock exports will only increase into the future to an ever-expanding range of countries.


About McCullough Robertson

McCullough Robertson is a leading Australian independent law firm with industry specialists combining legal expertise with deep industry knowledge and foresight. The firm provides innovative, relevant and commercial legal solutions to major corporate, government and high net worth individuals across Australia and internationally. Established in 1926 the firm’s major focus areas are the resources (mining and energy), food and agribusiness, technology, telecommunications, health and life sciences (pharmaceuticals), real estate and financial services sectors.

Trent Thorne is an agribusiness lawyer with McCullough Robertson Lawyers. He has previously worked as a jackeroo on a vast NT cattle property (Wave Hill Station) and has family members with deep ties to the cattle industry.

Further information

For more information contact Trent Thorne on +61 7 3233 8845 or (@agintegrity)

This article covers legal and technical issues in a general way. It is not designed to express opinions on specific cases.  It is intended for information purposes only and should not be regarded as legal advice. Further advice should be obtained before taking action on any issue dealt with in this publication.

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