Government spends $2 million to train overseas meat workers as cruel live export industry carries on

Australian meat workers, already reeling from the ongoing meat industry crisis, were stunned today to learn that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has just signed a new deal to spend over $2 million on training Indonesian workers to do their jobs.

This astonishing move comes as the barely-re-elected Liberal Government continues its run of slashing more and more funding from blue-collar training, including stripping the last of the $15 million that was allocated in 2011 towards training for agrifoods workers.

At that time, the meat working industry was taking in more than 7,000 trainees each year. In 2016, that number has now dropped to almost nothing.

This decision becomes even more incredible when you consider the cost of the previous Commonwealth training program supporting a meat worker was a maximum of $4,000. This $2 million being sent to Indonesia will train only 100 workers – at five times more than the cost of training a local worker. Couldn’t this money be better spent on investing in a future for Australians?

These new Indonesian meat workers will be practicing their skills on cattle hand-delivered by Australia’s powerful live export corporations – the very same corporations which are suspiciously good friends with Government ministers such as Barnaby Joyce, who we recently exposed as being regularly flown around Australia by one of the largest live export suppliers.

With friends like Barnaby Joyce in their pocket (and high-ranking former politicians like Simon Crean heading up the Live Export Council) it’s no wonder that live exporters are able to get away with some of the cruellest and most horrific animal abuses on record. Even the Live Export Council’sown staff veterinarian was sacked for speaking up about the abuses she’d witnessed!

An industry of cruelty

The live export industry has been in the news lately after appalling footage shot in Vietnam was aired on ABC TV’s 7:30 Report. This inherently cruel industry continues to spin a tale of a robust regulation, with ‘a few bad seeds’ that just need to be weeded out – but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

As the Department of Agriculture’s own website shows in black and white, the live export industry has been subject to an incredible 107 investigations in the last 4 years. That’s one investigation every two weeks, and a damning indictment of an industry that profits from cruelty and underpaid foreign workers.

It is now abundantly clear that the live export industry is nothing more than a money-spinning exercise for powerful corporations, assisted by friendly politicians looking to line their own pockets. Unlike local meat processing, which supports local families and local economies, and provides careers for Australians in need, live export sends cattle overseas to be processed by underpaid foreigners at maximum profits.

How are struggling Australian communities meant to stay afloat when their own Government is doing everything possible to undermine them? Youth unemployment in rural areas like Tamworth is at a staggering 19%, more than twice the national average — and now money that could be used to help them into vocational education and training is being sent overseas to help greedy live export companies.

Perhaps Barnaby Joyce should be looking at ways to direct this sort of funding into his own home town of Tamworth, where some of Australia’s biggest meat processors are relying on temporary international workers who need to be continually trained up. Millions of dollars in traineeship funding would go a long way to convincing these companies that they can afford to employ local Australians, as well as giving those people a start in skills and training.

How long can this situation be allowed to continue? All Australians should be deeply concerned about the Government’s calculated attempt to undermine its own working class by depriving not only them, but also their children, of a shot at a decent future.