Occasionally I come across a speech in parliament by one of our elected representatives that needs to be shared loud and wide. The following was made by Western Australian Liberal Senator Slade Brockman, President of the Senate, ex farmer, lawyer, PGA staffer and tireless defender of the people who make their income from primary industries. All those who oppose the live export trade should take the time to read what he has to say.
I rise to speak on the Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports Amendment (Animal Welfare) Bill 2023 in the knowledge that we will not be opposing it. However, some of the nonsense that has been put on the public record must be countered. Farmers care about the welfare of animals. People who work along the supply chain care about the welfare of animals, and those in this place who to say otherwise are, quite frankly, a disgrace. It is a disgrace that people come into this chamber and talk about what farmers do to feed and clothe the world, and the way that they address those issues of animal welfare is a disgrace. The fact is, farmers and all those along the supply chain care deeply about the welfare of the stock that they put so much effort into raising.
I myself, as many in this place know, have been involved in a farming family, including the raising of sheep and including the raising of sheep that have been sold into the live export market. The accusation that people in that industry do not care about the welfare of animals is just truly horrible and it’s disproven by the facts. The fact is that that industry has done more, certainly more than any radical animal activist group, to improve animal welfare outcomes globally than any other part of society. The fact is that the industry has taken extraordinary steps to improve animal welfare outcomes, not just in Australia but globally. In fact, Australia withdrawing from the global market of animal exports will worsen the situation of animal welfare globally. We are the world leaders. That is widely acknowledged, not just by people in this country, even people in the department who are closing it down, even I believe by the minister. We are world leaders when it comes to animal welfare. We export those standards to the world through our Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, or ESCAS. Australian farmers are part of the supply chain, but so are the transporters, the shippers and the receiving countries, who have all adopted Australia’s highest standards because we are part of that market. If we leave that market, they will not continue to use those standards. They will continue to source animals. The live export market of Saudi Arabia, which we have not been part of the decade, is some eight million animals, half of them sheep.
Now that Australia is potentially re-entering that market, hopefully in the very near future, the Saudi Arabians have adopted our ESCAS level of animal welfare. We have a concrete example of how Australia’s being in the market actually improves animal welfare standards globally. We can see it happening today. Yet instead of listening to the farmers, instead of listening to the vets, the feedlot operators, those in the supply chain and the shearers, this Labor government wants to listen to groups like Animals Australia—praised to high heaven by the Greens. Animals Australia is a group that has, quite frankly, a despicable and warped moral compass and a completely warped set of ethical standards. In the West Australian today:
The founder of one of Australia’s biggest animal rights charities
— That is, Animals Australia—
has thrown his support behind the idea that people can have a sexual relationship with animals, insisting it’s a better fate for them than being farmed and eaten.
I mean, I just find that completely extraordinary.
And there are plenty of other examples of why Animals Australia’s moral compass, their ethical standards, should not be tolerated by civil society. There is ample evidence on the public record that Animals Australia paid a deckhand to procure the footage that caused such a problem for the industry—the Awassi Express incident a few years back—and that in discussion about that footage being paid for the suggestion was made that the ventilation could be turned off. Think about that for a moment: an extraordinary amount of money, in excess of $100,000, paid to a relatively low-paid ship worker from a developing country, including the suggestion that, in order to procure the footage, ventilation to those sheep could be turned off. That’s Animals Australia. That’s despicable, disgraceful— no moral compass at all, no ethical standards at all.
It’s an organisation that should lose its charity status tomorrow. It’s an organisation that should never be talked to by the Department of Agriculture again. The fact that they have a privileged place at the table with the Department of Agriculture is an absolute disgrace. And every Australian farmer should know that fact. Every Australian farmer should know that Animals Australia have a privileged place at the table with the Department of Agriculture in discussing the future of their industry. It is an organisation that has amply been demonstrated to have a warped moral compass, to have no ethical standards.
Their business model is entirely around procuring, by the payment of cash, photos of suffering animals. Think about the moral hazard that is involved in that transaction. They are willing to give a relatively low-income-earning person from a Third World country large sums of money to procure footage of suffering animals. And guess what? They get footage of suffering animals, and then they show them on social media in Western countries to raise money. What kind of a business model is that? It’s an absolute disgrace. They deserve no status in this country. They deserve no serious consideration in this place. They deserve no consideration from the Department of Agriculture. It’s an absolute disgrace that they have any voice at all in civil society. I urge all Australians not to listen to groups who have that as their business model.
Think about that: paying low-paid workers from developing countries large sums of money for that. In the case of the Awassi Express, from records it looks like it was in excess of $100,000—three or four years of wages for a deckhand. Is that an acceptable way for a civil society organisation in Australia to act? No, it’s not. I call it out for what it is: an absolute disgrace. How could anyone in this place quote that organisation as an organisation that should be listened to, an organisation that is considered virtuous?
It’s not just Animals Australia; that’s the trouble. So many of these radical animal activist organisations have similar business models. They don’t want to close down just the live export of sheep. Don’t think that for a moment, if you’re listening to this debate. They want to close down the live export of cattle. They’re against what they call factory farming, which is basically any modern agriculture. They want to stop horseracing. They want to stop the production of kangaroo meat and the use of kangaroos for leather. They’re opposed to so many things that good Australians support.
These organisations work by showing pictures they have procured, in an underhand, disgraceful manner, through the payment of large sums of money. They show people a picture of a suffering animal and—guess what?—people are touched by it. Of course they’re touched by it, and so they donate. That’s the business model. These organisations don’t actually help any suffering animals. They have a business model that is based around the showing of animal suffering to make money. Think about that, Madam Acting Deputy President. Not just Animals Australia but other radical animal rights groups have a business model based on making money off showing pictures of animals suffering. That is how they operate.
These organisations don’t care about farmers. They want to see them close down. They want to see all animal production close down. Well, we’re not going to stand for it. We on this side of the chamber stand with farmers. In particular, we stand with the sheep farmers of Western Australia, who are currently directly threatened by the Labor government’s policy, driven by Animals Australia’s disgraceful campaign. That’s where it all goes back to. It all goes back to the Awassi Express. It all goes back to those photos procured in such a disgraceful way. On the back of listening to these radical animal activist groups and on the back of a few votes in inner-city seats in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra, the Labor government is going to close down a significant part of the Western Australian sheep industry. Well, we won’t stand for it. My colleagues from Western Australia—and Senator Smith and Senator O’Sullivan are in the chamber—won’t stand for it. We stand with Western Australian sheep farmers. We stand with farmers right across Australia. We stand for exporting the highest animal welfare standards in the world. We stand for selling important sources of protein to our near neighbours and to the Middle East. In particular, we stand with the Western Australian sheep industry, which is the most directly threatened at this point, but don’t think those radical animal activist groups will stop there. The cattle industry will be next in line, and then the wool industry. They’ve already attacked the chicken industry and the pig industry. There is no part of animal production in this country that they will not target next because they will always be able to procure a photo, or they will always be able to buy one if they spend enough money. They will always be able to pay someone enough to engineer a situation where animals suffer, so we’ve got to stop listening to Animals Australia. We have to stop listening to those groups. Their moral compass disappeared a long time ago. They have no ethical standards. They do nothing to help any animals. They have a business model that is actually based on animals suffering. Those organisations should not have a place in Australia’s civil society.