WESTERN Australian Premier Colin Barnett will demand live cattle exports resume immediately to two modern Indonesian abattoirs when he meets prime minister Julia Gillard today.
As Foreign minister Kevin Rudd steps in help resolve a worsening diplomatic crisis over the ban, Ms Gillard has flown to Perth to discuss the future of live cattle exports with the WA premier.
The Australian Online understands Barnett will tell the prime minister that an abattoir owned by Australian company Elders and another owned by Santori Beef are up to Australian standards and above the standards set out under World Organisation for Animal Health guidelines.
Barnett will present an economic case to the prime minister for the trade to resume, arguing it is worth $200 million a year to the WA economy and that it supports thousands of jobs.
He will also argue the suspension of exports has created a food security issue for Indonesia, with WA alone estimated to provide fresh meat for between 14 million and 18 million Indonesians.
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Western Australia accounts for about 50 per cent of Australia’s cattle exports to Indonesia and 70 per cent of sheep exports.
Barnett was briefed by his Agriculture minister Terry Redman yesterday following the minister’s three day trip to Indonesia during which he inspected supply chain facilities and met senior figures in the Indonesian government.
The meeting between the Premier and prime minister, and the revelation of Rudd’s involvement in talks with the Indonesians, follows repeated calls from the opposition for the trade to be re-started to selected abattoirs.
Agriculture minister Joe Ludwig returned from Indonesia on Tuesday night after failing to secure an agreement with the Indonesian government on a timetable for trade to resume or agreed standards.
The foreign relations crisis was sparked when the Gillard government suspended the $320 million live cattle trade to Indonesia on June 8 following a community outcry over shocking revelations in an ABC Four Corners programme of animal cruelty in the country’s slaughterhouses.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott today said the Gillard government’s decision to ban all live exports as another over-reaction that would have far-reaching consequences.
“The government should have known about problems at some Indonesian abattoirs,” Abbott said in his regular Daily Telegraph blog.
“If it didn’t know, it should have been alerted well before Four Corners went to air and should have been ready with a considered response.
“Instead, the government didn’t know which Indonesian abattoirs met animal welfare standards (and which did not) so it implemented an-obviously-inadequate suspension followed by a complete ban.”
He said one of the consequences fo the ban was Elders being unable to ship 1900 of its own cattle from Port Hedland to its own abattoir in Indonesia.
“There is no reason why these exports can’t be issued with a licence immediately.”