A number of Coalition frontbenchers are meeting the Indonesian ambassador in Canberra today.
They say they’re trying to help smooth the way for a speedy resumption of the live cattle trade.
The Opposition’s agriculture spokesman John Cobb is one of those meeting the Indonesian ambassador.
He just returned from a visit to Indonesia with Northern Territory Coalition Senator Nigel Scullion, who spoke to Alexandra Kirk.
The Indonesians are really working on getting this going, they can’t really start issuing import permits until they actually know that export permits are now allowed again in Australia.
Now this is a bit of a sticking point, but given that Australians’ behaviour without a doubt has infuriated and insulted the Indonesian Government. In fact the people – I’ve been speaking to people in wet markets are simply saying well why did you do this?
Couldn’t we – if you want something differently done, we can do that but you don’t have to stop it all.
The problem though is, isn’t it, that at the moment the Government can’t guarantee that Australian cattle will be stunned in the abattoirs in Indonesia before they are slaughtered?
Well I disagree, I think they can. I know that there are abattoirs that only stun. The Government are now saying well look, we still can’t actually tell whether cows leap out of the truck or get kidnapped out of the truck between there and a processing facility ironically owned by the same people.
But I understand, yes that has to be acknowledged, that we want to make sure that doesn’t – but that’s 120 days away. If that cattle leave tomorrow, there’s 120 days where they are in a facility, so you can actually make a sophisticated, you can actually say well listen, we will now lift the embargo on trade subject to these conditions being met.
And that actually allows those conditions to be met, that allows the Indonesians to be able to issue import permits, have a more sophisticated approach.
So what do you believe is the sticking point then that prevents the trade being re-opened?
I just don’t think the Minister is really across this at all. This is just in complete meltdown, nobody knows when – the Minister says, oh all in good time, we’re not going to waste another day.
And yet the whole time I was in Indonesia – yes I met with some people from MLA, a lot of industry people are doing a lot of things but what I can tell you, it didn’t appear that the Australian Government are connecting particularly well with the Indonesian Government or in fact the Indonesian industry and Australian industry over there.
They feel completely isolated and they just feel that they’ve been abandoned.
The Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd, is going to Indonesia later this week. He’s going to meet his counterpart, Marty Natalegawa. Do you think that is going to make a tangible difference and may break the impasse?
You know, like any slight, any insult, the quicker you apologise, the more fair dinkum it is and I think Kevin himself would acknowledge that an awful lot of time has passed since the slap in the face to the Indonesian Government, that they didn’t even bother to follow the correct protocols about before they put a sanction on our nearest and dearest neighbour.
I’m sure Kevin would acknowledge that.
So do you think he’s the man for the job?
Well I’m not sure who’s the man for the job now, I’m not so sure that we shouldn’t show as I’ve always said – Julia Gillard herself should go. And sure, Kevin’s having to go now, but you know it’s a little bit in the too little too late stage.
Unlike others who’ve tried to go to Indonesia and get access to the abattoirs there, including Australia’s chief vet, you were able to get access but you chose in the end not to go to the abattoirs – why?
I spoke to people on the ground, Indonesians on the grounds and I think they, I detected there was a bit of a sensitivity about the view of the Indonesian Minister for Agriculture. And I think he has a sensitivity and a reliable one.
You know, there’s no point after your massive criticism of what we do over here, now you know, you’re going to come over and look at our abattoirs and what, you’re going to embarrass us again and all these sort of things.
We didn’t want to ensure that we built on the sensitivity – it’s a very, very sensitive diplomatic situation at the moment and it would have been very easily, just simply your presence in a place, to take a risk and I’m not going to take any further risks with this industry.
It’s okay for Kevin to go over there and sort of try to repair some of the diplomatic gaffes, but fundamentally the Government needs to be helping industry far more on the ground than they are. Let’s just hope Kevin can make a bit of difference, but I have to say I’d have to commend industry on their work in Indonesia at the moment, they are doing very well.
That’s the Northern Territory Coalition Senator, Nigel Scullion, speaking to Alexandra Kirk in Canberra.
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