INDEPENDENT South Australian Senator, Nick Xenophon, is standing by his proposed legislation to phase out live cattle exports by mid-2014, despite hearing strong opposition to his Bill, while spending 10 hours with cattle producers in the Top End of Australia yesterday.
Among those who urged Senator Xenophon to withdraw his bill was Northern Territory Chief Minister, Paul Henderson.
“This Bill would not just destroy an entire industry – it would decimate the livelihoods of thousands of Territory families,” Mr Henderson said the day before Senator Xenophon’s arrival.
“I will not cop some outsider trying to implement a change to the law that will destroy the livelihoods of Territorians.”
Following the meeting, Mr Henderson described Senator Xenophon’s proposed legislation as “an insult” to hundreds of thousands of people in the NT, who rely on the trade for their livelihoods.
Senator Xenophon visited the Northern Territory ahead of today’s Federal Senate inquiry that’s looking at the animal welfare standards in Australia’s live export markets.
The Senator met several producers and industry members yesterday, who told him how the Federal government’s snap trade suspension in June, following the ABC Four Corners program’s exposure of animal cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs, had devastated their businesses.
The Senator’s program included a helicopter ride over Twin Hills, an aboriginal run station, and a tour of Mt Kepler station, guided on his journey by Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association executive director, Luke Bowen.
Some producers criticised his calls to process cattle on-shore and increase exports of chilled and packaged meat to Indonesia and other markets as part of his trade phase-out plan.
But the Senator says his plan would re-structure the industry to cater for animal welfare concerns with greater certainty and build a more robust industry by processing Australian beef on-shore.
Following the day’s meetings, he spoke to Rural Press and was also critical of the government’s $30 million compensation package, rolled out while the snap trade suspension was in place.
But he praised cattle producers saying their facilities and animal welfare practices were “world class”, adding they were “blameless” for the animal cruelty that sparked the Indonesian market suspension on June 6, while traceability and auditable animal welfare standards were implemented throughout the supply chain.
“The producers are blameless because they have been paying their $5 a head levies for many years in good faith,” he said.
“You have to ask what have MLA been doing?"