Listening to Andrew Wilkie introduce his latest bill to ban live exports would be comical if the man himself was not in a position to do so much damage from his ivory tower down in Hobart. He starts simply enough, detailing the various acts of cruelty that have taken place during the last few years (with Adam Bandt trying to squirm into the frame in the background) and goes on referring to the economic reports paid for by the WSPA that many people, including myself, have questioned the validity and accuracy of BUT the real kicker for me was his final line:
"those that do not take this opportunity are either heartless, or gutless or both"
So who is heartless and gutless here Mr Wilkie? As I recall The Northern Territory Cattleman's Association has extended repeated invitations for you to go up north and meet the people whose lives will be forever altered by this bill...
You have refused.
You have refused meet the people whose lives and businesses will be forever changed and see for yourself the reasons why they are so skeptical or to hear first hand their reasons for opposing your bill, the northern weather cycle making it impossible to fatten or truck cattle for long periods, the lack of grain production to fatten cattle in dry seasons and the simple market realities you seem to ignore.
Like the devastatingly low cattle prices we are seeing across the country right now that are at least partially due to the winding back of the live export trade.
That, is the definition of gutless.
You state that Farmers will be better off without live export and that Western Australia has the abattoir capacity to completely replace the live sheep trade. Yet the sheep price remains stubbornly low and these abattoirs are not being flooded with mass orders for boxed sheep-meat from countries that are no longer sourcing live sheep, even though the farmers are nearly giving them away.
That is because the economists that wrote the WSPA's report seem to have trouble grappling (as you do) with that troublesome theory known as C-A-P-I-T-A-L-I-S-M. People in other countries, particularly poor people look to Australia's live export industry to provide an invaluable source of affordable protein but that protein is only affordable when it's fattened and slaughtered overseas by people on similarly low wages.
When you attempt to create the same product but with the costs imposed by western wages that protein is no longer affordable and your customers go elsewhere. Of course you can go some way to alleviating this by importing workers but then your hardly creating Australian jobs are you?
Live export has been only partially curtailed and farmers are as worse off as they have ever been yet you wave your report around and lecture them that they will be better off if you ban the whole lot. Even as hundreds go broke and some even resort to final, desperate and lethal measures. Cattle and sheep are not the only things being shot out in the outback because of your folly Mr Wilkie.
You do not care for their plight and that, is the very definition of heartless.
Our former customers in Indonesia now enjoy beef cruelly slaughtered by gangsters in India and smuggled into the country while sheep and goats are live exported into the Middle East from North Africa and other places. I doubt these people care at all about animal welfare and should the cruelty continue on animals from other nations then what do we really accomplish by banning live exports?
Nothing at all Mr Wilkie.
Andrew Wilkie was a very sad figure in early 2011. A man who had backed an unpopular government into power, whose war on the pokies was going nowhere and the demons of his past were beginning to catch up with him.
He needed a cause to shore up his slim majority. A great legacy or reform he could put his name on that would ensure his backing of the Labor party would be forgotten at the next election, leave the demons of his army days behind and give him clear air to push his pokies agenda.
Andrew was lucky the live cattle issue came up when it did.
Here was an issue that inflamed the sensitivities of his inner city electorate, many of whom have no understanding of the realities of the industry they seek to intervene in but if it all goes wrong Andrews constituents do not lose their homes or their jobs.
Banning live export is the ideal populist policy, the consequences of this bill are reserved only for the people outside his electorate on the other side of the country, the people out of sight, out of mind, that Andrew Wilkie refuses to even face. I guess it's far easier to build a political career on the bones of other people if you don't have to look them in the eye after all.
I wonder if that makes him heartless or gutless or just both?