Dr MEHREEN FARUQI (12:14): On behalf of The Greens, I express my strong support of the motion put forward by the Hon. Mark Pearson. Animals are not mere cargo. They are alive, they can breathe and, most importantly, they can feel and suffer. And they do suffer—they suffer immensely because of the incredible and inherent cruelty of the live animal export trade. We all know and have always known that the lucrative live export industry has dark secrets to hide from the public, which is why cameras have never been allowed on board these ships of misery. But the animals’ pain and suffering has been exposed repeatedly by brave activists who have risked everything, including their safety and in some cases their livelihoods, to capture on camera and reveal the heart-wrenching anguish of these animals.
Almost exactly two months ago,60 Minutes revealed that on one of these live sheep exports and just on one day alone, more than 800 animals died from heat stress. I ask members present in this Chamber to imagine the blast furnace‑like heat conditions, where sheep are falling dead every two minutes at a rate of hundreds per day. The brave whistleblower in this case was a trainee navigation officer of the vessel, 25‑year‑old graduate of Pakistan Marine Academy Faisal Ullah. He described the conditions on board the vessel to be the same as “putting live animals into the oven”. Mr Faisal Ullah said he felt a personal obligation to expose the cruelty because of the severity of suffering he witnessed, including lambs born on the ship being crushed to death and the crew slitting the throats of sheep to throw them overboard. I remind the House that currently the export of pregnant animals is prohibited by regulations but that is obviously not working at all.
On the three‑week journey from Fremantle to the Middle East, the sheep—including pregnant animals‑—have standing room only. How is this allowed to go on? How can Labor members say they have problems with the wording of the motion? We have to look at the motion’s sentiment, as well its wording. Anyone who has seen the images recorded by Mr Faisal Ullah can only agree that the dreadful practice of live export must be stopped.
We are shocked and saddened by these images, but we should also be enraged that this is happening under the watch of the Australian Government and under the control of Australian companies supposedly governed by regulations that the Government seems to deem enough. We should be ashamed and we should be furious. I absolutely agree with the words of this motion in front of us today, especially that the live export industry has a 40‑year history of systemic animal cruelty causing suffering and death. There is no way around this cruelty. The brutality is inherent and it is deliberate. The exporters know the conditions into which they send these animals when they load them by the thousands onto the ships. It is clear that the only way to end this is to stop the entire live animal export trade for good.
I am proud to support this motion. The Greens have always been the party to strongly speak out against and call for an end to the live export trade. Senator Lee Rhiannon’s tireless and passionate work on stopping live exports speaks for itself. Senator Rhiannon currently has two bills in the Federal Parliament on this issue: one to end live exports and another to create an independent office of animal welfare to oversee the live export trade until it has been phased out. Some members from other parties have come on board, but the Government has not.
The Greens have a five-point plan to phase out live exports which is the only reasonable and practical way out of this mess. Not only will this plan help end the excruciatingly cruel trade of living and breathing animals, but it will also create jobs and livelihoods in Australia through expanding the local meat processing industry.
For a Government that claims to create and support local jobs, it has not even bothered to pay lip service to the issue. The Liberal-Nationals Government did not have the guts to even temporarily suspend live exports, let alone take any meaningful action. Instead, the live export trade issue has been thrown into the review basket. That is complete nonsense. Nothing has been done even after inspectors in Western Australia raised serious alarm over another ship that still left Western Australia shores just days after the cruel conditions were exposed on television.
As we debate this issue over and over again in Australia, thousands of animals are dying in terror, suffering in oven-like temperatures, frightened, and in constant pain. We know that the lies and cover-ups from the live export industry will continue but we can no longer—and the Government can no longer—continue to excuse the horrific brutality of what goes on in those ships.
One of my favourite quotes is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi: “The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” There is a lot we have to do before we become great. Thousands of people from communities across Australia have rallied again and again for this change and many animal welfare organisations such as Animals Australia are working hard to end live exports. Australians do care about animals, whether it is greyhounds, koalas or sheep. We want them to be treated with kindness and compassion. I commend the courage of activists who have exposed the dreadful conditions on board the live export ships. I commend the motion to the House and implore my colleagues to support it.