Monthly Archives: March 2016

MEDIA RELEASE: “RSPCA should look in its own backyard for animal welfare concerns: O’Sullivan”

23 March 2016

THE RSPCA should dedicate more resources to tackling the rising number of domestic animal cruelty cases than politicising and incriminating our live export trade, says Queensland Nationals Senator Barry O’Sullivan.

Senator O’Sullivan said the RSPCA’s recent announcement to target the live export trade during the coming Federal election ignored the success of the world-leading Export Supply Chain Assurance Scheme (ESCAS) and would ultimately only further jeopardise the financial viability of thousands of North Australian businesses.

The RSPCA has in recent weeks launched an information campaign, targeting federal politicians in time for the election, calling for a radical overhaul of the Australian beef cattle and sheep industry supply chain to dramatically increase the number of livestock processed in Australia.

Senator O’Sullivan said the RSPCA’s campaign purposely overlooked the serious animal welfare concerns in its own backyard.

Instead of demanding changes to the successful ESCAS program, Senator O’Sullivan said the RSPCA should focus its energies on investigating the cause of the rising number of reports of animal cruelty against domestic pets and native wildlife across Australia.

“By the RSPCA’s own figures, it has investigated 221,222 complaints of animal cruelty against domestic animals and native wildlife since ESCAS commenced in 2011,” Senator O’Sullivan said.

“Between 2012-13 and 2014-16, the number of these complaints rose by more than 20 per cent. This is an alarming spike that the RSPCA should be investigating.”

Senator O’Sullivan said the live export trade had comparatively few animal welfare complaints in comparison.

“Between 2011 and 2015, Australia exported 14.6 million head of livestock in more than 1200 consignments,” Senator O’Sullivan said.

“In that time there has only been 89 complaints of potential breaches of the ESCAS system, many of which were reported by the live export industry.

“It’s clear the ESCAS system is leading the world in the push to improve animal welfare standards.”

Senator O’Sullivan said the live export supply chain absorbed the cost to administer ESCAS, which is estimated to be between $50 and $100 per head, in order to ensure there were world-leading animal welfare practices in place.

“We know that all that would be achieved by banning Australian livestock exports is that animal welfare standards in the markets previously serviced by Australia would worsen,” Senator O’Sullivan said.

“We know that our live export markets have an expressed desire for freshly slaughtered meat. Australia cannot expect to prescribe market tastes in other countries.

“The live export industry is proving that ESCAS is working and now is not the time to tinker with a winning formula.

“There are serious cruelty issues closer to home that the RSPCA should be focussed on.”

 

Surat Basin News Op-Ed “Reflections on 2016 ABARES conference”

13 March 2016

Some of the best and brightest in the Australian agriculture sector gathered in Canberra earlier this month for the 2016 ABARES Outlook conference.

These events are always an important opportunity for those involved in rural industry to examine and discuss the directions and trends that is shaping our sector.

The ABARES conferences have increasingly generated significant attention in recent years as the Australian economy continues its successful transition from the mining-led investment boom to broader-based growth, driven by services, exports, innovation and technology.

Some of Australia’s greatest exports—particularly agriculture, international education and tourism—are spearheading this transition, and they have helped to add more than 300,000 new jobs to our economy over the past year.

As the latest figures show, Australia’s economic growth is about three per cent, which is better than the OECD average. That is a good sign of the overall management of our nation.

The gross value of farm production for the financial year ending 2015-16, however, is predicted by ABARES to be at 9.3 per cent.

This is three times better than the national average growth across the whole economy, and at least four times better than the OECD growth.

Livestock is a classic example of this.

In the 2014-15 financial year Australia recorded a 13.3 per cent gross value increase in livestock production. This is profit that is going all the way back through the farm gate.

These are the highest prices for livestock in 20 years, and it shows that we are standing behind and delivering on our promise to deliver a better return through the farm gate.

Overall, Australian agriculture has performed very solidly in recent years. This is the result of a strong economy and growing global food demand.

The increasing middle class of our major trading partners means the demand for protein is increasingly rapidly.

Farm exports are forecast to reach nearly $45 billion in 2015-16. That’s a 37 per cent increase since 2010-11.

These figures are edging closer to our top export earner in mining – iron ore currently tracking at $49billion and surpassing number 2 on the list – coal, at $37billion.

Our exports to Asian markets, in particular, are expected to grow even more as a result of the entry into force of FTAs with our three major markets in North Asia, and eventually the TPP.

Under the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement, tariffs on exports of fresh beef to Japan have already fallen from 38.5 per cent to 31.5 per cent. They will fall again on 1 April this year, to 30.5 per cent. As a result, exports of fresh beef to Japan grew by 22 per cent in 2015.

The Korea-Australia Free Trade Agreement (KAFTA) has already seen three sets of tariff cuts since it entered into force in late 2014. KAFTA immediately eliminated tariffs on wheat, sugar, wine, fodder and many horticultural products. Tariffs on beef, cheese, lamb and other products will be eliminated over time. As a result, Australia’s beef exports to Korea grew by 30 per cent in 2015.

As the figures from the ABARES conference reveal, there has already been a significant impact from the Federal Government’s focus on agriculture as one of the most significant sectors in our transitioning economy.

And we fully expect this impact to continue to will grow as agreements achieve full implementation and we continue to do the work to addressing market access issues and building resilience in family farms.

 

An open letter to Billy Gordon, State MP for Cook

8 March 2016

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad is currently tying up her shoelaces and limbering her legs as she prepares to kick farmers in the guts with her much-maligned changes to vegetation management laws.

In the coming weeks Trad will bring legislation to state parliament that will re-detonate the land clearing wars at a time when landholders are still recovering from multiple years of drought, debt and other difficulties.

It is clear the Labor party has already chosen to side with the green groups, no matter the economic toll it will take on our state.

We know the extreme green groups have tallied up the amount of clearing across the state and used this figure to create unnecessary alarm among city-based politicians and voters.

This is despite the simple truth that vegetation cover has actually increased in real terms across Queensland in recent years.

In fact, studies have demonstrated there has been 943,000 hectares of new woody vegetation has emerged across Queensland between 2010 and 2014.

It is essential that all rural and regional MPs, no matter their present or past political affiliations, stand up for the real science and economic opportunity the existing vegetation management provide for people across rural Queensland.

When Labor flops its dirty legislation down on the legislative assembly, the people of rural Queensland expect you to stand for proven science and proven economic opportunity and prevent Trad from giving farmers the boot.

Rural Weekly Op-Ed “Labor forgets its roots in land clearing debate”

6 March 2016

Last week I was one of many Senators who were surprised by the sudden resignation of West Australian Senator Joe Bullock.

I was fortunate enough to know Joe through the short time he has been in the Senate.

We both served on the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport (RRAT) Senate Committee that held inquiries which had significant impacts on rural Queenslanders, especially those in the sugar and beef sectors.

We travelled across the nation together as we fulfilled these committee duties.

Joe might have been a trade union official who was born in Sydney and cut his teeth in Perth, but he always showed a genuine empathy for the farmers who appeared before the RRAT committee.

In turn, Joe earned the respect of rural people through his sincere desire to understand the issues affecting their lives.

I first bonded with Joe over our shared disdain for Canberra.

Having arrived in Federal parliament at about the same time and both towards the end of our working careers, we were able to see through the rose-coloured veneer that blinds many younger arrivals to Canberra.

We both swore never to travel business class on the taxpayer dollar; we avoided the Comcar services and we told anyone who would listen that Federal parliament would never change our proud working class outlook.

Indeed, we joked that we looked so similar, and thought so similar, we could have switched seats in the Senate chamber and our colleagues would have been none the wiser.

Joe Bullock was a real, ‘old-school’ Labor man – which is, sadly, an endangered species these days.

His kind is quickly being pushed out of the Labor party by urbane, grandstanding, apparatchiks.

You know the kind – pointed booted, thin-tied peacocks who are more interested in discussing Tim Flannery’s latest manuscript while sipping vanilla soy cappuccinos from their inner city terrace than getting their hands dirty alongside a real, working man.

The Labor party has degenerated so much that it frequently steals its policies and election promises from the green playbook and all of Australia is poorer for it.

It must never be forgotten that Labor had rural origins.

Indeed the Labor party was founded by striking shearers under the shade of a ghost gum in Barcaldine in 1891.

The early battles that shaped our political scene centred on real debate about how wealth in rural communities should be distributed between landholders and workers.

As recently as 1978, Labor was able to win a ‘heartland’ National party seat, in New England, by focussing on real issues impacting rural people.

But, in the 21st century, Labor has given up on rural people. Instead, Labor calls them environmental vandals and attempts to stifle any hope of their economic development.

These days it is becoming a sad reality that North Australian landholders are being forced to factor the election of any Labor Government into their disaster management preparations.

People in rural areas have generally lower incomes, reduced access to health, education and transport services and declining employment opportunities.

After years of struggle, the staggering demand for our food and fibre in the burgeoning Asian markets is promising real economic opportunity for the bush.

Yet, just as we look set to launch, Jackie Trad and Annastacia Palaszczuk attempt to trample on our plans with their continued threats to rescind vegetation management legislation.

The land clearing debate is about providing economic opportunity to rural Queenslanders.

To deny landholders the ability to responsibly manage their properties and increase their productive capacity is economic vandalism on an unforgivable scale.

To introduce legislation to state parliament to appease green groups will only prove the Palaszczuk Government has no economic plan to improve living standards across our state.

And it will show how far the Labor party has moved away from the founding fathers of its movement.

Speech – MATTERS OF URGENCY – Donations to Political Parties

2 March 2016

Senator O’SULLIVAN (Queensland—Nationals Whip in the Senate) (16:53): I will take up the invitation to follow the money. As I have said often in this place—

Senator Cameron: Make the pledge!

Senator O’SULLIVAN: Doug, kick your shoes off, sit back and have a listen. Who is Zi Chun Wang? He donated $850,000 to Labor. Do not go, Senator Cameron. I will pause to give you time to get back to your office and turn your television on. You need to listen to this. There was $12,000,057 from the organised crime outfit of the CFMEU. There was $4.5 million from the ASU and $9 million from the AWU. You want to talk about connecting money and influence; we are happy to have the conversation with you. Some of these are criminal entities. There are 81 CFMEU representatives currently before the courts for standover tactics, blackmail and extracting money from industry, affecting the productivity and jobs of this nation. And what do they do? They take it with this hand, transfer it to this hand and slide it over to the Labor Party. Let’s keep going. I do not even know who the SDA are. Can someone help me out? It is an acronym for some union. They donated $15 million. The TWU donated $7.2 million. The CEPU donated $4,400,053. The HSU donated $1.4 million. The NUW donated $5.9 million. It goes on and on. United Voice donated $10.5 million.

But forget about the trade union movement because we already know the dirty connections between the Australian Labor Party and the trade union movement. Doug, I will yield some of my time to you so you can stand up and tell me who Zi Chun Wang is. He donated $850,000. What about the Australian Kingold Investment Development Company? They donated $600,000. And you are on your pegs here talking about tax reforms that have to do with developments. We have Australian Chinese Business Elite Awards Pty Ltd. Doesn’t that sound like a great, upstanding commercial corporate citizen? If that is not a $1 company, I am not here, but it donated $260,000. You might, at your next opportunity, tell us what Wei Wah International Trading Pty Ltd trade in. I think they might trade in favours with the Australian Labor Party. They donated $200,000. It goes on and on. I can hardly find a name that is not Chinese here. Mr Zhaokai Su—I am sorry to him if I have not pronounced that right—donated $70,000.

The Yuhu Group—I would like to run into the Yuhu Group—donated $60,000. Hong Kong Kingson Investment donated $50,000. Truly, this sounds like the evolution of the first democratic party of the republic of China, and you want to talk about influence. I would like you to get up and deny some other time that these entities are not connected—that they are not brothers, sisters or subsidiaries—because the information that is published is not enough. You are right about one thing, Senator Cameron: we need transparency. That is what we need. We need serious transparency in this space. We have situations with our friends in the Greens. The Wotif founder, Graeme Wood, donated $1.6 million in a one-off donation to a political party. You cannot avoid influence when that occurs. You will not find these numbers with the Liberal Party or the National Party—and I know a thing or two about this.

Senator Lines interjecting

Senator O’SULLIVAN: They have brought you down here to try to drown me out. I tell you what, I will lift it up a decibel or two. What we have here is the fact that the Australian Labor Party is owned, lock stock and barrel, by a collection of trade unions, some of them almost organised criminal entities. There are ways you can deal with that, Senator Cameron. If they are not organised criminal outfits, support us as we bring the legislation into this place for the ABCC and also for the registration of these entities. Of course you will not. In the whole time I have been here, every day I call out to you, Doug—or Senator Cameron, through you, Mr Acting Deputy President—to condemn them. Not once have you condemned them. When the evidence is hard and cold and fresh from our ministers, what happens is that you sit there silently with your head on your chest.

The organised criminal activities of the CFMEU are well published—they are no longer allegations—and here they are on the list of donors to the Australian Labor Party. What might be useful Senator Cameron and others in the party to do the next time they get up—I have not heard these condemnations, might I say, but I accept what the senator has said—is look squarely down the barrel of the camera and tell the CFMEU and everyone in Australia that you are not going to take one more red cent, not a razoo, off the CFMEU to fund the ability of you people to return to your seats.

It is breathtaking that you would pick the subject of corruption and influence from donors. It is unbelievable, Doug—sorry, Senator Cameron. I have only 10 minutes to run through the list. Ten minutes is clearly not enough. We are talking about amounts of money that are breathtaking. Since 1995 it is $100 million. Actually, I am being unkind. I should be accurate in here: it is $98,951,511.11. You pick a spot anywhere you like. Run a ballot amongst yourselves. I am happy to do the against case; you do the for case. Let us get a couple of old soapboxes in the middle of Sydney or Melbourne or you can come out to my patch at Charleville and let us see whether people believe that $100 million buys you influence or not. It does not just buy you influence; you have the full ownership. You get a lifetime warranty with a hundred million bucks. I promise you cannot find any other cohort who would blow whistle up the kilt of our collective parties in the coalition with those sorts of donations. It goes on and on. I say to you, Senator Cameron, it would be a hell of a lot more if many of the officials—

Senator O’SULLIVAN: I am telling you now, it would be a lot more if most of these union people did not clip the ticket on the way through. They have big bills to meet, themselves—house payments, buying houses, going to bordellos, rich wine—it goes on and on. Many of these people are unsavoury individuals. Long before you want to start trotting out questions about transparency and putting caps on donations, the first thing you need to do, on behalf of my coalition—I have been given no right to do this but I am going to do it anyway—I say to the people of Australia: we will never take one dinar off organised crime, not one. One of you, whoever is making the next contribution, needs to stand up and repeat that. I know you cannot. I know you will not. The $100 million from the trade union movement, I have to be honest, I am only human: if they rolled out $100 million to my mob I probably would have been absent from the chamber today. I probably would not have come in. I probably would have had to think long and hard about it. But it is not my mob that is taking the money. I agree with you all, particularly Senator Cameron when he says we need to have a long, hard look about the patronage that comes with the big donations. You and I could make a two-man committee, Senator Cameron, and we would come back to this place with recommendations. When we do there will not be one single trade union left in the legislation if they take into account my contribution to the report.

This is atrocious. It is embarrassing. You shouldn’t just condemn them. Anyone can get up here and say. ‘I’ve told them not to be bullies. I’ve told them not to threaten people. I’ve told them not to rip off their members. I’ve told them not to misappropriate the funds.’ Anyone can do that. I can do that. It takes courage, a courage your mob does not have, to stare down the barrel and tell them you are not going to take one more lick of those trade unions that are organised criminals. It is easy to do. You will fit it into a sentence with six or seven words in it. If you are having a struggle with the narrative pop around to my office and I will help you draft it.

MEDIA RELEASE – “Bullock’s departure a loss for rural and regional Australians, says Senator Barry O’Sullivan”

2 March 2016

Queensland Nationals Senator Barry O’Sullivan said the courageous resignation of Senator Joe Bullock overnight was a disappointing yet gracious exit from a man who had gained genuine respect from rural and regional Australians during his short tenure in the Senate.

Senator O’Sullivan said Senator Bullock’s valued contribution to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport (RRAT) Senate Committee during the past two years had delivered significant supply chain and industry structure reforms to major Australian agriculture export commodities, including sugar and beef.

Senator O’Sullivan said Senator Bullock showed real commitment to tackling market power imbalances to deliver fairer outcomes for family farms and rural communities.

“Joe might have been a trade union official for the ‘shoppies,’ who was born in Sydney and cut his teeth in Perth; he always showed a genuine empathy for the farmers who appeared before the RRAT committee,” Senator O’Sullivan said.

“While the farming sector and the Labor party don’t always see eye-to-eye, Joe was able to quickly earn the respect of landholders across the nation through his sincere desire to understand the issues affecting the sector.”

Senator O’Sullivan said Senator Bullock’s decision to resign from the Senate on principle rather than sit on the crossbench was consistent with his commitment to integrity in public service.

“I first bonded with Joe over our shared disdain for Canberra. We both swore never to travel business class on the taxpayer dollar; we avoided the Comcar services and we told anyone who would listen that Federal parliament would never change our proud working class outlook.

“Joe took a principled stand against gay marriage early in his political life and has never wavered since. He courageously and consistently called for a conscience vote on gay marriage despite overwhelming opposition from his Labor colleagues.

“Joe has remained steadfastly and unapologetically true to his own moral compass during his short time in the Senate. He ended his career last night as he started, in a dignified manner. His example has shone a bright pathway for every member of our Senate chamber.”

Speech – ADJOURNMENT – Australian Trade

1 March 2016

Senator O’SULLIVAN (Queensland) (19:20): Whilst I do not want to take too much of my time in making reference to the contributions by our colleagues across the chamber, I have noticed a trend since I have returned, and that is: every time they speak, it is negativity followed by negativity followed by negativity, with absolutely zero reference to an alternative plan. The reason they cannot put an alternative plan is that, if they did so, it would be held up against the reference point of their performance before the change of government and they would be exposed for being the inadequate economic managers they are. But that was not the reason I secured the opportunity to speak tonight.

I want to talk on a subject that is close to my heart—and, indeed, I know is close to Senator Sterle’s heart—and that is the economic wellbeing and security of large parts of our country. It is close to your heart too, Senator Smith, and to the heart of any senator, indeed, who represents a large state, as you do with Western Australia and I do with Queensland. We want to see that we have got viable communities and viable economic programs assisting all of those sectors that work.

A fact of life, a reference point that we need to start from, is that we are a trade-exposed nation. Well over 60 per cent of all the soft commodities that we produce are traded, and therefore our fortunes are intrinsically linked to the performance of our nation in developing trade opportunities and then maintaining them.

Australian farmers and producers are amongst the best in the world for innovation, for the use of technology and for labour practices. This, of course, is borne out of the massive amount of foreign investment that occurs in our nation. Other countries and other interests want to invest in our country because of the fact that we have a very solid and stable sovereign risk environment. We have a very settled nation without any border conflicts and so we are very attractive destination. Nonetheless, at the end of the day, we are a trade exposed nation. I say—and I want to continue to talk about this over the coming months—as a government and as a parliament as a whole, we need to now start to look thoroughly at what we can do to support those who produce the trade.

Obviously, one of the first things we need to do is expand our markets. This government, to date, has a terrific track record with the free-trade agreements with Korea, Japan and China, and hopefully, eventually, when the US makes a decision, the adoption of the TPP. There are winners and losers in all of this but, by and large, when I say there are losers, there are people whose fortunes in life are sectors—sugar is one—whose fortunes did not really increase. The FTAs have not diminished the existing opportunities for many of the sectors, but there are some who have not grown under it. There are so many, as I mentioned in a speech earlier today, that we have seen an increase about 27 per cent in the value of our exports in this preceding year, where the figures are kept.

The gross value of farm production is forecast to increase by eight per cent in 2015-16 to around $57 billion. Now eight per cent, of course, in any economy is a leap. That is higher than what the Chinese economy is growing at —it is about 6½ per cent. Our farm economy is growing very strongly in the face of some very severe difficulties such as drought. We have to do some things in relation to competition policy. My colleague Senator Sterle very competently, I must say, chaired a references committee into some competition issues within the sugar industry in my home state. At the end of the day, he got it right when he signed off on recommendations in relation to what we might do to solve some market problems.

We have to expand the markets of the soft commodities because we are transitioning from a resources market. This same area of our nation—away from the metro centres, away from the high populated eastern seaboard, and away from the south-western seaboard of Western Australia—is feeling the impact of the economy coming off from the resources sector. Many of our areas, large tracts of land in both our states and indeed to various degrees in the other states, are starting to feel the impact of this transition from the resources sector. The only solution is the increase in the agriculture sector, so it is an old economy that has come good. It still faces the challenges I talked about such as droughts. The Panama race 4 is a great example of how we can go to bed one night with an entire industry—the North Queensland banana industry—and wake up with what is possibly a serious crisis in that sector.

Farmers are very resilient. We know that primary producers are very resilient. They have dealt with droughts and they have dealt with these biosecurity challenges before and they will continue to do so. But they deserve our government, my government, with the support of others in this place, to assist them to be able to take advantage of these increases that we are starting to see in the farm sector. We are travelling at about 70 per cent higher than the average $50 billion over the five years 2014 in nominal terms according to the ABARES agriculture commodities report. So we are really on the lift. What we have to look at are the things that are keeping some of these sectors and individual enterprises within the sectors back. It is very important that we never abandon the concept that much of these sectors need to be populated by farm family enterprises, primary production enterprises and generational businesses in many cases. I am not against corporate farming. I think that it has a place. I am not against foreign investment as long as, of course, foreigners do not come in and vertically integrate their operations and take their commodities offshore across our road networks and out through our port networks without making a significant and just contribution to the economy of the nation through the tax receipts.

But there are so many things that we have to do. We have to visit upon the issue of farm finance and we have to get much more flexible farm finance products in place. I have often said that the only thing a poultry farmer living next to a sunflower farmer living next door to a feedlot have in common is gravel from the grid to the house, and perhaps a big hat. But when they go in for farm finance arrangements, someone reaches around and pulls down a gumboot—not a thong, not a pair of slippers, but a gumboot—and simply asks them what size gumboot they want. They try to fit all these things into the one finance product. That has to change.

We have to support some of our larger regional councils and we must certainly continue to keep an eye on those services that we, as the government, have an obligation to provide: communication, rural health, education. We also have to support some of our more remote communities. Our Aboriginal communities continue to need the assistance to be viable to continue to grow their contribution to the country’s economy in these remote areas. The time that I am allowed does not give me the opportunity to put a lot of detail under each of the subjects, but in the coming weeks and months I intend to unpack these issues through this place. My behaviour outside this place will be to start, with the cooperation of others, to try and push to get some solutions, particularly in the farm finance sector. We have all had constituent farmers and primary producers come to us. If you look at their problems, many times it is as a result of the restricted nature of the arrangements that they have with the banks. Now I am on meeting No. 6 with the major banks in this country. They have entertained me—and I must pay them credit for that—as we have talked about the prudential regulations that they say are inhibiting their ability to provide a more flexible finance product to our primary producers. I hope to come in here and talk about that in the not too distant future when we have a settled position. In effect, I am simply using this opportunity tonight to put on notice that I intend to now carefully pursue resolution to many of these issues over this calendar year and I look forward to the support of this Senate in that journey.