Shadow Agriculture Minister John Cobb said it was obvious that Australia’s active involvement in the live export market was “a force for good in international animal welfare”.SHADOW Agriculture Minister John Cobb has praised the high standard of animal welfare standards now engulfing the live export trade to Indonesia and Australia’s positive impact on animal welfare standards, internationally.
Mr Cobb was involved in a senior Coalition delegation that visited Indonesia recently, which included party leader Tony Abbott and Shadow Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Julie Bishop.
The delegation held several meetings over three days with the Indonesian President and senior Indonesian government and business representatives.
They addressed several pressing issues including bilateral trade relations, with the live cattle trade underpinning some of that discussion.
Upon his return, Mr Cobb said it was obvious that Australia’s active involvement in the live export market was “a force for good in international animal welfare”.
He said Mr Abbott and Ms Bishop were impressed by the quality of the facilities they visited, including feedlots with attached processing facilities, and the high standards of professionalism exhibited by industry members.
Mr Cobb said the Australian and Indonesian beef industry appreciated the Coalition’s engagement and Mr Abbott allocating extended time to the live export industry.
Mr Abbott said, in some respects Australia’s relationship with Indonesia was our most important due to Indonesia’s proximity, size and potential.
In his discussions with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Mr Abbott described the ban on live cattle exports last year by the Australian government as a low point in Indonesian and Australia relations.
Mr Cobb said he was proud to be able to show how much effort the industry had put into developing the new Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) over the past 12 months to comply with traceability requirements around animal welfare.
He said Indonesian feedlots are now building what amount to community abattoirs with stunning equipment on site.
This allows local butchers to enter the feedlot and buy a couple of prime animals and then process them on-site in modern facilities so animal welfare can be maintained at the highest standard, he said.
That differs from the situation before the ban where smaller abattoirs operated independently and processed a handful of animals each night, to provide meat for sales in wet markets the next day, with the lack of regulations decreased animal handling standards.
“This is a win-win for all those concerned,” Mr Cobb said.
“Importantly, none of it would have happened without the continued Australian involvement in the live export market.”
Mr Cobb said Indonesia remained Australia’s largest live cattle export market, accounting for 60 per cent of the trade since 2011 and 80pc in 2009.
But he said Labor’s “botched handling of relationships and the knee-jerk ban last year” had forced trade volumes to fall.
Mr Cobb said approximately 80pc of approved facilities in Indonesia now use stunning equipment, coming off a low base of approximately 15pc when the trade suspension occurred in June last year.
He said progress on animal welfare was “real and rapid”.
“Australia’s leading role in international animal welfare and our investment and involvement in the live export market is critical in lifting animal welfare standards around the world,” he said.
“There is no doubt the Coalition delegation, which won rare high level access to Indonesian heavyweights, was well received and has started the bridge-building.
“Many Australians were embarrassed by the actions of the Gillard government in unilaterally banning live exports, without speaking to Indonesia.
“The Indonesians have made it clear they wanted to work with us to solve the problem and get trade back up and running at full steam.
“The extraordinary step of sending a delegation of four senior Shadow Ministers to Indonesia demonstrates the importance we place on their country as a valued trading partner and that we will work closely with them to maximise the economic opportunities between our two countries.
“That message was welcomed by Indonesia.”
Mr Abbott said Indonesia was in the process of a “remarkable transformation” with enormous potential for Australia, our region and the wider world.
“I want this to be the start of many visits to Australia’s giant northern neighbour,” he said.
“Indonesia has done a lot of work in recent years to improve its agricultural industry generally – but its cattle sector in particular – and we want to continue to work with Indonesia to ensure that its cattle sector keeps improving.”
Mr Cobb said the trade discussions would also help in building relations with Indonesia to improve wheat exports.
He said in 2010-11 Australia exported over 3.5 million tonnes to Indonesia, most of it from Western Australia, and much of it to feed Australian cattle in Indonesian feedlots.
But he said banning live exports put the Indonesian export wheat market at risk.
Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean questioned how the Coalition would handle the live cattle trade any different to the Labor government and conduct trade relations with Indonesia, if they came to power.
Mr Crean – a former Trade Minister – said the live cattle trade required bipartisan support.
He said the broader trade relationship with Indonesia needed developing, to secure ongoing market access, rather than only focusing on grain or live cattle exports.
In contrast to the Coalition’s three-day delegation to Indonesia, Federal Trade Minister Dr Craig Emerson held talks with his Indonesian counterpart – Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan – in Canberra last week.
Minister Wirjawan was asked by journalists about his country’s moves towards beef self-sufficiency and if they would no longer require live cattle exports from Australia.
He said, “I don’t think we’ll not be needing ever anything from the outside world, including cattle”.
Judging by Indonesia’s demand for beef, he said there was “huge upside opportunity here”.
The long-term view is that Indonesia wants to go from two kilograms currently, to 20 kilograms of beef consumption on an annual per capita basis.
Minister Wirjawan said at a $7 price tag per kilogram, “we’re talking about a $35 billion business per year here – US dollars”.
“That should make it pretty sexy for anybody that wants to do business in the cattle industry in Indonesia.
“So, not only do we have a trade component here, but we also have an investment component.”
Minister Wirjawan said Indonesia’s vast reduction in cattle import permits from Australia – dropping form 520,000 to 283,000 since last year’s trade ban – was also discussed during talks with Minister Emerson, but he said the Indonesian resolution was unknown and depended if the issue was interpreted as either a regulatory issue or non-regulatory.
“This is something that I’m immediately going to raise with the relevant stakeholders in Indonesia, with the view and hope that we can seek a solution; that would be win-win,” he said.
“And again, I think the more people from both sides understand the long-term benefits for the two countries, the easier it becomes to resolve stuff like that.”
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