On this day, 30 May in 2011, the ABC’s Four Corners aired its Live Cattle Exports program “A Bloody Business”.
This shocked the Gillard Labor Government into a knee-jerk response, shutting down Australia’s live cattle exports trade to Indonesia (around 65% of Australia's total live cattle trade). This punished the operators supplying cattle to the Indonesian slaughter yards filmed, other operators in the business and – critically – the farmers and service industries throughout the supply chain.
Whilst this response made some inner-city folk in far-away capitals feel 'virtuous', it hurt and even ruined the lives, businesses and communities of many in the outback – some of which still have not recovered.
In July 2016, the Turnbull Government’s equally rash response to another Four Corners program about the NT’s Don Dale youth detention facility resulted in a highly-expensive and poorly-targeted Royal Commission without knowing the context, the ABC’s selective reporting and editing, and the NT Government’s position. Moreover, one of the two Royal Commissioners signalled his verdict on social media soon after he was selected – well before any hearings had occurred. NT police recently confirmed (24 May 2018) that no charges would be laid despite the Commission’s findings, prompting even the chief “victim” of the Four Corners program, Dylan Voller, to say it was all a “waste of money”.
Australia – and especially its rural and regional parts – cannot afford drastic, knee-jerk government responses to sate the baying inner-city mob every time a bush-bashing Four Corners program goes to air.
Thankfully, the Turnbull Government seems to have learned from the Don Dale travesty with its measured response to the Four Corners exposé on Australia’s live sheep export trade.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud’s response includes:
- reducing the number of sheep per area (stocking density) on vessels
- a whistle-blower hotline for the live exports industry
- jail time for those breaking the new laws
- halving the reportable mortality rate from the current 2% to 1%, which triggers immediate reporting and investigation
- shifting the regulatory focus from attrition rates to animal welfare more broadly
- reviewing the Live Export Regulator, and
- accepting and implementing all 23 recommendations made in the short, sharp McCarthy Review (into the standards for the live sheep trade during the Middle Eastern summer).
This has not stopped Liberal backbench MP (and former Health Minister) Sussan Ley, and others on the political Left, pushing for a private members Bill to ban the trade.
Help Australia put a halt to the ABC's scalp-hunting and Labor’s blanket ban approach by:
- re-watching that Four Corners program that caused so much fall-out
- reflecting on what it would be like when governments blanket ban your industry overnight (or within a week), on the basis of an ABC program, without a chance to respond and/or make-good
- researching where our live cattle (and other stock) exports go and why, current rates of welfare and attrition along the way and reports on the investigations that result from thresholds being breached
- supporting our farmers by tucking into a steak or roast, and/or
- sharing this Action Plan post on social media with family, friends, farmers and other clear-thinking Aussies.