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Banning live sheep exports

I second the motion. I thank the member for Clark for moving this disallowance motion for the Export Control (Animals) Amendment (Northern Hemisphere Summer Prohibition) Rules 2022, made under the previous government. These rules weaken the ban on live sheep exports to most ports in the Middle East during the hottest months of the Northern Hemisphere summer. Two-thirds of Australians say that they support moves to completely end the export of live animals. Ending the live animal export trade has been one of the top issues that people in my electorate have been writing to me about. Australians have been horrified at the reports of sheep under extreme heat stress enduring cruel conditions and perishing in staggering numbers during the long voyages to the Middle East. They are also horrified by the treatment of sheep upon arrival at their destination, where they are subjected to brutal methods of transport and slaughtered with practices including tendon slashing and eye gouging.

In 2018, 60 Minutes televised footage taken by the whistleblower Faisal Ullah during a voyage that resulted in the death of nearly 2,400 sheep in horrifying conditions. This footage revealed to Australians the reality of the live sheep export trade. During these voyages to the Middle East, sheep endure weeks of torturous conditions, packed tightly onto ships, forced to stand for days on end in their own urine and faeces and experiencing extreme heat stress. Those that perish decompose so quickly in the heat that some deaths can't be counted. The 60 Minutes footage shocked Australians. It shocked people in my electorate and it shocked me. Four years earlier, in 2014, even more sheep perished on a similar journey. On that journey to Qatar 4,200 sheep died in simply awful conditions.

These incidents and others led to a ban on the export of live sheep to most ports in the Middle East during the hottest four months of the Northern Hemisphere summer. The previous government shortened the length of the ban by two weeks, allowing live sheep exports to resume through the Red Sea from 1 June to 14 June. However, when considering the suffering of these animals, we should look beyond mortality rates and also consider the heat stress indicators, such as open mouth panting. The most recent Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry report, September 2022, showed that sheep on 60 per cent of voyages during the Northern Hemisphere summer demonstrated extreme behavioural and physiological responses to heat. Simply put, they are suffering, it is torture.

Rather than shortening the ban on live sheep exports, we need to transition towards ending this practice altogether, as the current government have agreed to do, although they have not yet provided a timeline. We're keeping an eye on that. In this context, it makes no sense to be weakening these bans.

I also want to recognise the work done by the member for Farrer, who introduced a private member's bill in 2018 to phase out live sheep export by ship to the Middle East where the voyage last 10 days or longer. As the member for Farrer said: 'If we increase the processing capacity in Australia, we actually don't need this trade at all.' I agree with the member for Farrer. According to Pegasus Economics, the Australian live sheep export industry is in structural decline, with exports down 70 per cent since 2018. Rather than propping up this declining industry, Australia should focus on investing in our onshore processing sector. This is both more humane for livestock and better economically for Australia, with the potential to add jobs and millions of dollars to local farming communities.

However, before we investigate the full phase-out of live sheep exports, this parliament must back this disallowance motion and reinstate the original four-month ban. To do anything less is inhumane and deprives local Australian farming communities of the economic benefits of onshore processing. The member for Clark's disallowance motion, reinstating the original, full four-month ban on live sheep exports, is a step in the right direction. It is the right thing to do. It can be a springboard to help the parliament to go further and begin phasing out live sheep exports completely. I support this disallowance motion and call on the House to support it as well.