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15 April 2014

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Live export industry leaves Wilkie on the dock

The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, has condemned the live animal export industry which this morning effectively withdrew an invitation for him to travel on a live export ship to Indonesia.

Mr Wilkie accepted the invitation from the industry to experience a live animal export ship, as well as feedlots and abattoirs in Indonesia, when he visited producers in the Northern Territory in January as part of his campaign to ban live animal exports from Australia.

``I agreed to go on a vessel to Indonesia, not because I’m about to roll over and end my opposition to the live trade, but because I thought it was important to look for ways to improve animal welfare practices with the system we’ve got,’’ Mr Wilkie said.

``But since the invitation the industry has stonewalled and come up with every excuse under the sun as to why it can’t provide a firm date to host me on a live export ship.

``Today in Brisbane I met with representatives of the Australian Livestock Exporters Council and the Northern Territory Livestock Exporters Association who expressed numerous concerns with the journey going ahead, everything from difficulty obtaining visas to space on ships, the Indonesian election and lack of trust between the industry and me.

``Today’s meeting proved the industry had got cold feet and was searching for an excuse to call the whole thing off so it could continue business as usual.

“All the industry could commit to today was for me to visit a loading dock in Australia.”

Mr Wilkie said the report of animal cruelty and alleged fraud by an exporter, aired on ABC television last night, was more proof that the live export trade had to end.

``Livestock Shipping Services is a repeat offender: it has persistently breached licence conditions in the past, and it beggars belief that the Department of Agriculture appears again to have granted it a licence,’’ he said.

``The only explanation can be that the Government simply doesn’t care about the trade being systemically cruel, not being in Australia’s economic self-interest and that the trade lacks popular support.

``It is no wonder that popular support is lacking when an exporter like LSS with repeated cases of cruelty against its name is allowed to continue to operate.’’

``I understand the Department is investigating the alleged fraud but in reality this is a matter for the Federal Police. If no one else refers these allegations to the police then I will.”

In February Mr Wilkie introduced a Bill to ban live exports from July 2017, his fourth legislative attempt to end the cruelty.

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13 April 2014

Wilkie media

A statement regarding the RHH rebuild

I share new Tasmanian Health Minister Michael Ferguson's assessment that the situation with the rebuild of the Royal Hobart Hospital is "appalling."

The need for the rebuild is pressing and self-evident. That's why I made it one of my top priorities for federal funding and secured $340m after the 2010 federal election, most of which has been sitting in the Tasmanian Treasury for years.

But, despite the importance of the fully funded project, it’s about 20 months behind schedule and, as we've learned from the State Government's report today, beset by a string of problems.

Governance of the project is unsatisfactory and much of the contingency reserve budget is now spent. Moreover Mr Ferguson has advised me today that the temporary patient accommodation plan - decanting - is in need of review.

In other words the rebuild is a mess and the previous State Government misled the community every time it claimed the project was on track, and every time it rebutted my concerns and criticisms.

I do not criticise Health Department or RHH officials for this appalling situation. They are doing their very best in difficult circumstances.

At the heart of the problem is the complete absence of strong and effective political leadership of the project under the previous State Government. The Premier and the Health Minister should have gripped this up, they didn't and the Tasmanian community is all the poorer for it.

The pressure is now on the new State Government to get the rebuild of the Royal Hobart Hospital back on track. The project's simply too important for the health of the community, and for the State Budget, to be allowed to continue to bumble on the way it has so far.

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08 April 2014

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A statement on cuts to Antarctic Division jobs

Confirmation of staff cuts at the Australian Antarctic Division is dreadful news.

Although the promise is of voluntary redundancies, workers would be justifiably rattled by the uncertainty such deep departmental restructuring brings.

Equally alarming is what all this means for Tasmania remaining a centre of excellence for Antarctic exploration and research, and also Tasmania’s prospects for becoming the global gateway to the Frozen South. The bottom line is that AAD should be expanding, not shrinking.

I’ve conveyed my concerns directly to the Department tonight in the strongest possible terms.

This was a big early test for the new Liberal State Government and it failed. The new Premier should have used all the leverage at his disposal with the Liberal Federal Government to save these jobs and he didn’t.

For the next four years we can only hope the Tasmanian government tries a whole lot harder next time the State’s workers, intellectual capital, economic prospects and very reputation is put to the blowtorch in Canberra.

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April 13 2014
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