PEOPLE FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS CAMPAIGN
Motion Accorded Priority
Mr STEVE WHAN
(Monaro—Parliamentary Secretary) [3.45 p.m.]: I move:
(1) congratulates the Iemma Government for its continued support of New South Wales farmers in their fight against PETA over the mulesing of sheep; and
(2) applauds the effort of farmers across regional and rural New South Wales to raise awareness of the truth behind this important issue.
It is with a degree of sorrow that I move this motion today. From the commencement of its campaign, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals [PETA] has been unable to accept clear evidence about the need for mulesing to continue until a viable alternative is available in Australia. Such organisations, which generally are based overseas where conditions are nowhere near the same as conditions in Australia, cannot comprehend the impact of flystrike on sheep. I would have thought that any organisation genuinely interested in the welfare of animals would take that issue into account when waging this sort of campaign.
As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, from the time I first raised this issue in the House, campaigns have been waged and efforts have been made to get international celebrities and international fashion businesses on side. When those international celebrities and fashion houses find out the truth behind this issue they often change their minds and realise that it is more important to support the Australian wool industry. I also feel some sorrow about the fact that Opposition members will not support my motion.
Mr Thomas George:
That is not true.
Mr STEVE WHAN:
Opposition members cannot deny that they just voted against debating this issue. However, given their earlier comments, I am sure they will support this motion. I was disappointed when the Leader of the Opposition criticised my motion and said that it should not be accorded priority as I had raised this issue several years ago. As I said in my opening remarks, I raised this issue several years ago but it has to be raised again because of the ongoing campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. To my memory, the Leader of the Opposition has never moved a motion in this place to do with regional and rural New South Wales.
A check of the parliamentary records will reveal that in almost every sitting week another member of Country Labor or I have raised issues of importance to rural New South Wales in this place, but Opposition members rarely raise issues of importance to rural New South Wales. The earlier comments of the Leader of the Opposition were nothing more than hypocritical, which is no surprise when we take into account the fact that his website shows that he is more interested in good surfing spots than he is in anything to do with regional and rural New South Wales.
Mr Andrew Constance:
Point of order: My point of order relates to relevance. This debate, which relates to mulesing, is not an opportunity for the member for Monaro to rant and rave about the websites of the Liberal-Nationals Coalition or about previous debate relating to which matter should be accorded priority.
Order! I note the concerns of the member for Bega, but the remarks of the member for Monaro are relevant to the motion.
Mr STEVE WHAN:
I would be interested to see whether the member for Bega contributes to debate on this issue as he never has anything to say about rural issues. Let us face it: 13,000 sheep producers are under siege as a result of the campaign being waged by the so-called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. As I said earlier, the mulesing that occurs in Australia prevents flystrike. The campaign being waged by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has been characterised by misinformation; its intention is to mislead the international community about the Australian wool industry. Campaigns are continually being waged—Opposition members are not aware of them but I certainly am—in which the tactics used are designed to attract the attention of the media. The campaigns feature good-looking people, often without many clothes, who capitalise on this issue and who try to convey false messages about the sheep industry in New South Wales.
The wool industry has attempted to put forward sensible, well-argued positions, which, unfortunately, do not receive the same level of international coverage. The industry has made commitments to end mulesing by 2010 through examining developments such as the use of intradermal injections, or selection of genetic make-up to breed sheep that do not grow wool around the crotch and inner hind leg areas. Recently I received a call from someone who promised to forward more information on bare-breech sheep but, unfortunately, I have not yet received it. The industry is also considering genome mapping of the sheep blowfly, and clips. Members can glean more detailed information from the Australian Wool Innovation [AWI] website. Obviously, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is not interested in those alternative procedures. The Minister for Primary Industries also tried to put forward supportive arguments. The Minister invited representatives of Hugo Boss, a big international fashion house, to visit New South Wales sheep farms in an attempt to prevent that fashion house's planned boycott of Australian wool. The Minister said:
I want Hugo Boss to visit the hard-working farmers of our State and see first-hand that farmers are doing their best to prevent fly strike, which is one of the most serious issues affecting our wool industry.
If mulesing is not carried out, three million sheep will die annually in Australia. I am constantly amazed by the member for Bega, who shows his lack of concern for the Australian wool industry by continually making silly interjections. The 13,000 sheep producers in New South Wales want government support on this issue. They want the Parliament to state, "We do back the wool industry in New South Wales. We back our Minister in his efforts to educate fashion houses, the international industry and wool buyers about why mulesing is important." We want to continue to support the sheep farmers in their campaign by letting the community know of the efforts to replace mulesing with a viable alternative that will ensure that our sheep do not suffer from flystrike. Without a viable alternative, we will be inhumane by not protecting sheep from flystrike. I would have thought animal welfare lovers would be interested in avoiding that consequence.
Mr ANDREW FRASER
(Coffs Harbour—Deputy Leader of The Nationals) [3.52 p.m.]: I noted that the member for Monaro, in giving reasons for his motion to be accorded priority, sought to congratulate this House on its bipartisan support on this issue. Therefore, I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting the words "the Iemma Government" with a view to inserting instead, "the Parliament".
The New South Wales Parliament is extremely concerned about the campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals [PETA] against our woolgrowers. I should like to set out a few facts about the wool industry: 85 million sheep in Australia produce a total of 437 kilotonnes of wool, with a gross value of $2.69 billion Australia-wide. Yet this group of faceless people are trying to convince people that mulesing sheep is inhumane. I challenge those people to look at a sheep suffering flystrike because anyone who has seen it understands the necessity of mulesing, as I did during the period I lived in Moree when it was a big wool-producing area.
The New South Wales Farmers Association and Australian Wool Innovation have moved to ensure that the current mulesing program is phased out by 2010. I doubt that phasing out will come to fruition because currently we know of only one New South Wales sheep grower who has bare-breech sheep. Unfortunately, sheep growers are divided on mulesing because the program espoused by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals intends to destabilise the wool industry. It is disgraceful that only a couple of weeks ago Adidas said that it will no longer use Australian wool. Soon sheep growers will try to outbid their neighbours because they may have been growing bare-breech sheep over the past 4, 5, 6 or 10 years. Sadly, that means that sheep growers using world's best practice by mulesing sheep using pain relief such as Trisolfen will be disadvantaged by other members of the same industry.
The mulesing issue is extremely divisive because People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is not presenting a true argument; it does not show anyone examples of sheep that have died from flystrike. As the member for Monaro said, more than three million sheep can be in danger of dying a painful death from flystrike if mulesing is discontinued overnight. Australian Wool Innovation has proposed a number of strategies, including the National Mulesing and Assurance Program, and pain relief. If the Government is serious about assisting sheep growers it should subsidise farmers for the cost of pain relief treatment—a cost of approximately $2 per sheep—for the interim period up to 2010, when mulesing will have been phased out. Australian Wool Innovation also includes in its strategies clip technology, husbandry options, better wool marketing, having a clear and well-defined breeding objective, reducing breech wrinkle, selection for high-performance and low-wrinkle animals, selection for worm resistance and low dags, bare-breech sires, other sires, and field day visits. Australia Wool Innovation also wants to remain connected with customers.
Rather than debating the good or bad aspects of mulesing, or what is better or worse for sheep, we should be telling those who market or buy our wool that we are moving towards positive solutions. The industry is concerned about mulesing, but we should educate the buyers and not talk to this faceless group known as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Let us show the buyers, as the Minister offered to Hugo Boss, what New South Wales sheep growers are doing to ensure, through animal husbandry best practices, that these animals do not suffer flystrike. We must get the message through to buyers and the market that our wool is the finest in the world, but it is grown in areas where flystrike is a massive problem.
New South Wales is suffering the effects of its worst drought, yet these idiots are campaigning for buyers not to buy Australian wool. Those sheep growers lucky enough to have clip technology should be guaranteed premium prices for their wool. Every government, the industry, the New South Wales Farmers Association and the National Farmers Federation should ensure that those who buy the clip will receive premium prices for their wool and that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is ignored. We must ensure that buyers are aware of the good animal husbandry practices used by our farmers. I am disappointed that the member for Monaro spent so much time in this debate attacking The Nationals, who have always supported the farmers in their electorates.
This issue is not about party politics; it is about an industry that brings in almost $2.7 billion annually to Australia through a difficult export market. With the increasing value of the Australian dollar, not many export commodities are thriving, but for many generations Australian wool has had a fine reputation for garments and other uses recognised worldwide. Let us support our sheep growers. I challenge the member for Monaro to support the amendment to the motion because Opposition members have always supported sheep growers. I challenge the member for Monaro also to speak to the Minister for Primary Industries to determine a method to subsidise sheep growers for the pain relief techniques they employ. Sheep growers are doing it tough in these drought conditions. The Opposition supports the motion. We divided on the question that the motion be accorded priority, not on the substance of the motion. The member for Monaro should not play politics on this issue of priority. We support the motion.
Mr PHILLIP COSTA
(Wollondilly) [3.59 p.m.]: I thank the member for Coffs Harbour for his comments. As we are all well aware, the mulesing issue is, and will continue to be, extremely important for New South Wales, and particularly the sheep industry. I am pleased that our small property is an alpaca stud and does not have the same issues that confront the wool industry. In New South Wales thousands of hardworking farming families depend upon the wool industry for income, and it is one of our country's major agricultural industries. The Merino sheep industry commenced on the Macarthur property, which is part of my electorate, in the 1800s. Australia is currently the world's largest producer of wool.
As mentioned earlier, in 2005-06 more than 100 million sheep shorn in Australia produced 461 million kilograms of greasy wool. During that period wool exports were valued at approximately $2.64 billion. The figures speak for themselves and show what is at stake if the mulesing debate remains unchecked. Thanks to the recent efforts of the animal welfare movement, particularly People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals [PETA], the waters surrounding mulesing and its use have been muddied deliberately. Animal welfare groups have exaggerated the impact of mulesing, coerced ill-informed celebrities to spout messages they do not understand, and affected Australia's wool exports adversely. This has placed the sheep industry under enormous pressure. The likes of musician Pink and Hollywood actor Joaquin Phoenix threw their support behind the "Save the Sheep Campaign" by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Fortunately, Pink later backed down from her stance, after admitting she was misinformed and had failed to do enough research.
The alternative for sheep that have not undergone mulesing is to die a horrible death by flesh-eating maggots. Unfortunately, I have witnessed the distress of sheep that are flyblown—an alternative that is not in the best interests of sheep. That fact is not pretty but it is the truth. Unfortunately, major fashion houses are joining a growing list of major companies that are banning, or are planning to ban, wool sourced from mulesed sheep. On 5 June the Daily Telegraph
Hugo Boss, Timberland, Victoria's Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, H&M, suit retailer Perry Ellis and more than 10 other retailers have announced they will not use wool from mulesed sheep.
The New South Wales Government is working hard to address the issue using the facts—not just hype and myth. As I mentioned earlier, the fact is that three million sheep will die annually if mulesing is not carried out. Our climatic conditions demand that our farmers employ protective practices to ensure that our flocks are protected from the devastation caused by flyblow. Our wool industry is working towards a clearly defined target of 2010 by which to develop alternatives that provide our sheep with effective protection from flesh-eating maggots.
The Iemma Government and the New South Wales Farmers Association are working closely both with the industry groups that are researching alternatives and with independent bodies, such as the Australian Veterinary Association, to assess the best options. We look forward to discovering a solution to the problem for the long term. The sheep industry and the Government will work together to achieve that outcome.
Mr KEVIN HUMPHRIES
(Barwon) [4.02 p.m.]: I support the amendment that congratulates the Parliament on its continued support of New South Wales producers on the issue of mulesing. The motion centres on the farmers and woolgrowers of New South Wales, not so much on People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals [PETA]. My background in the wool industry is both current and past. I acknowledge my wife's family, who have a property at Emu Creek, Walcha, and who have won two Golden Bale awards for export wool. That is a credit to them. The family still breeds fine wool sheep. In 1989 I had the opportunity of visiting a woollen mill in northern Italy through the auspices of Giovanni Schneider, a fine wool buyer based in Australia.
This issue has been discussed in Australia for 20 years; it is not a "today" issue. Recently I had the opportunity of attending the Nyngan Show, where there was an exhibition of all the aspects of mulesing that are currently being discussed. There is no doubt that mulesing is still an accepted and legal practice in this country. The target for phasing out mulesing is 2010, and I assure the House that the industry is well on its way to achieving that target. We should highlight that fact. The Nyngan Show's mulesing exhibition included a demonstration of mulesing by Chick Olsen as well as a segment on the use of anaesthetics in mulesing, an explanation of the intradermal injection system, the patented system alluded to by another speaker during the debate, which is being rolled out as I speak, the application of clips to the wrinkled skin in the breech area, and a very interesting presentation by the McKidd family, who are breeding breech-free sheep in the Marra not far from Nyngan.
A group of wool producers in Australia are breeding breech-free sheep and in years to come mulesing will not be a necessary practice. The important issue is that the wider community, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the buyers on whom our fine wool market depends need to be educated that mulesing is being phased out and will be replaced. The issues are being dealt with. I believe that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has been sidelined by our young people who have grown up in country areas, moved to the cities and made a big impression on the sporting, fashion and entertainment world. They have got the message out that the mulesing issue is being addressed. When the issue of mulesing is resolved and the practice is no longer followed by the industry and when the go-ready stamp can be applied to wool produced in this country, Australia's wool exports will increase dramatically. Good on the graziers, who are doing a great job!
Mr FRANK TERENZINI
(Maitland) [4.05 p.m.]: There is no doubt that mulesing is a very important issue for an industry from which many farmers make their living. Australia has the best woolgrowers in the world. Millions of people in Europe and other places around the world wear garments made from wool that is produced in New South Wales, and I congratulate the industry on that. The Australian fine wool industry and five Japanese retailers spent $1.4 million on an advertising campaign to promote wool throughout the world, and they also should be congratulated.
Unfortunately, in recent times the wool industry has had to defend itself on the international scene because of the mulesing practice. Although mulesing is legal, problems based on misinformation have affected designers and retailers. Adidas, the producer of sporting goods, has joined 10 other retailers who have boycotted the use of wool from mulesed sheep. Yet designers such as Jason Brunsdon support Australian wool, whether from mulesed or unmulesed sheep. In a recent Daily Telegraph
article he said:
I love working with wool. It's reusable, sustainable and biodegradable. You can shave it off the sheep's back and grow it out the next year without killing any animal.
I have no doubt that Mr Brunsdon agrees that mulesing should be phased out, but he has adopted a proper, reasonable and leadership view that it should be retained until a reasonable alternative is found. Australian designer Alex Perry also should be congratulated on his leadership on this issue. The harsh reality is that if mulesing suddenly stopped approximately three million sheep would die from flystrike, and that is an outcome that cannot be entertained for even one minute. I am completely at a loss to understand why People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals [PETA] does not understand that. The wool industry is working overtime to develop alternatives and has set a target date of 2010. The alternatives have been devised in conjunction with the Australian Veterinary Association
The State Government and the New South Wales Farmers Association have pointed out that retailers should not base commercial decisions on anything other than the facts—and not what they hear from animal rights groups. The latest boycotts are a major threat to hardworking wool producers. It is a concern for the entire industry, especially when millions of dollars have already been invested in developing non-surgical alternatives such as breech clips. Those alternative methods should be closely examined. The debate clearly needs more information, more facts, and less scaremongering. I am pleased that there is wide support for progress on this important issue.
Mr STEVE WHAN
(Monaro—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.08 p.m.], in reply: I thank the member for Coffs Harbour, the member for Wollondilly, the member for Barwon and the member for Maitland for their contributions to the debate. The Government will accept the Opposition's amendment.
Mr Thomas George:
Well, this is a first!
Mr Frank Terenzini:
We are all team members here.
Mr STEVE WHAN:
We are all acting in the interests of the industry. It is appropriate to acknowledge the hard work of the Minister in ensuring that the industry and buyers of wool are better informed on the mulesing issue than has been the case previously. I encourage the dissemination of information, and I hope that members on both sides of the House will give credit where it is due and acknowledge the efforts of the Minister and the Government in this regard. That is most important.
The member for Coffs Harbour spoke about the potential for division in the industry in moving to eliminate mulesing by 2010. It will certainly be a challenge. We hope that we can avoid any division, but organisations such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals [PETA] happily take a divide-and-conquer approach to this issue. The member for Wollondilly and the member for Maitland added much to the debate by detailing some of the fashion houses and buyers who have been influenced by PETA's dishonest campaign against mulesing. We will continue to point out that group's dishonesty. Perhaps people who research the practice of mulesing will find the transcript of this debate on the Internet. I hope that they will digest the facts that members have provided today and realise that mulesing is important for animal welfare reasons.
The member for Coffs Harbour warned against scoring political points but I point out that if The Nationals had succeeded in having their motion accorded priority this afternoon we would not have had the opportunity to debate and pass this motion in support of New South Wales and Australian farmers. This is an important issue. On occasion we would like to see politics and the relentless pursuit of headlines put aside in the interests of debating matters of importance. Country Labor in New South Wales continues to support Australian farmers, as well as the single desk in wheat. I must put that on record.
Mr Andrew Fraser:
So do the Nats.
Mr STEVE WHAN:
Yes, The Nationals do too.
Mr Andrew Fraser:
So you have no Country Labor members federally?
Mr STEVE WHAN:
That is totally separate from the debate. This is an important motion, and I welcome members' support of it.
Question—That the amendment be agreed to—put and resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Motion as amended agreed to.