To my way of thinking the live export trade is a crucial part of both beef and sheep industry. Yet this vital market is being threatened not by insufficient supply, decrease demand nor poor quality of the product. It is being threatened by the unlikely alliance between processors, unions and animal activists.
The alliance goes back to early 2010 with some of the biggest processors along with the unions both of whom met with the animal rights people to plot the downfall of the live trade. It would seem processors hate the competition created by live shipping and in combination with the influence of the rights movement and unions they created an extremely powerful entity plotting to bring live shipping to an end.
The meat industry union have made much of the fact that they believe employment is threatened by live shipments going overseas and live exports must be stopped. Unions contribute enormously to the ALP and it would seem to be more than coincidence that Anna Bligh, then Queensland Premier, announced in Parliament she met with processor group and would conduct a dialogue for action with a cross-section of the industry; one discussion point being the closure of Queensland live exports.
In May 2011 ABC four Corners program aired: a bloody business it would appear that the MLA live Corp animal welfare partnership report was used as a script of the story. The union claimed the report cost $3.2 million and was jointly funded by the MLA and live Corp and a copy of this report was provided the Federal government in 2010.
For their part the MLA to the chairman of the time, Don Heatley, said “if MLA had known about the practices shown on the four Corners program they would have done something about it”. I’d be very interested to see Heatley make these comments under oath.
Whatever happens in 2011 could happen again if the alliance between these three organisations, with huge resources, can get enough information together on the terrible cruelty we saw in four corners. One can assume that they will continue to do their level best to do everything and anything to stop live shipping of stock out of Australia. At present we see debate raging in Queensland where everything possible is being done to stop Port Alma becoming a live export port.
The real facts are producers have no diversity and no competition in the marketplace and producers will be even more at the mercy of the multinational processors and of course the supermarket duopoly. If alternative markets are removed and these corporations continue to squeeze producers the whole industry will collapse and everybody along the chain will be losers including consumers. However, ask producers who have been forced to the wall through interruption of the live exports and drought would tell you how difficult it is to reduce livestock and remain viable with limited market options.
The effect of not being able to trade freely decreased normal property turnoffs and many more stock were held over and made management of the drought even a bigger problem. All these factors worked against producers and to the benefit of the processors and duopoly.
Without producers many other businesses and industry will be affected – this means job losses across a wide spectrum that could threaten the sustainability of many rural and remote communities. Governments and public are seemingly influenced by those with a vested interest in destroying hard-working families, their communities and their daily efforts to provide quality product which contribute not only to the local economy but the economy of this nation.
The fact is as we have seen any interruption to live shipping can cause major damage to Australian livestock producers and we can only hope that everybody along the chain does the right thing. We can only hope.