The Australian taxpayer is about to take another hit propping up the Australian live export industry, following an announcement by Barnaby Joyce over the weekend that he has allocated $8.3 million of their money towards improving ”efficiency and competitiveness” in the sector.
Barnaby Joyce is an avowed supporter of the live export trade, even going so far as to make the suggestion last year that a ban on live exports would result in an increase in refugees arriving by boat.
That incredulous suggestion was immediately ridiculed by experts and analysts — but then again, live export supporters don’t exactly have a history of being in touch with the facts.
Bleeding the meat industry to death
While the live export industry grows from strength to strength, the local meat processing industry is bleeding out.
Local jobs are disappearing at a rapid pace and local communities are feeling the pinch, as more and more cattle are shipped overseas for processing in places like Indonesia, Vietnam and Kuwait.
More than 40,000 meat working jobs have been lost since 1990, and thousands of meat workers are out of work around Australia.
Meanwhile, Barnaby Joyce is eagerly promoting the China Free Trade Agreement which will see an additional one million live cattle exported from our already thin herd.
The live export industry has powerful friends in Canberra and deep pockets. Using these connections, it’s been able to convince people in power that sending animals overseas on ships somehow creates jobs.
However, when pressed on the issue, the breakdown of what those jobs actually are and who benefits from is nowhere to be found. Whenever he is questioned, Joyce resorts to the same meaningless talking points provided to him by the Live Export Council: “live export is a two billion dollar industry that is a valuable part of Australia’s trade market”.
Even the slightest amount of digging reveals the uncomfortable truth behind the spin: the live export industry is a parasitic, minimal-labour enterprise, which employs as few people as possible in order to generate massive profits for cattle companies and billionaire magnates like Gina Rinehart (who just happens to be Barnaby Joyce’s close personal friend and who donated $50,000 to his re-election campaign).
Multiple comprehensive studies in 2009 and 2012 have shown what anybody who isn’t in the pocket of the Live Export Council could tell you: local meat processing creates local jobs, which supports local communities.
Live export does not.
No jobs, no futures
Youth unemployment in rural meatworking towns (like Barnaby Joyce’s own electorate of Tamworth) is through the roof, skyrocketing at more than double the national average as kids who would once have got a start in the local abattoirs find themselves with nowhere to turn.
In 2011, the meat working industry was taking in more than 7,000 trainees each year. Now in 2016, as Barnaby’s government finishes gutting the agrifoods training fund, that number of incoming trainees has dropped to almost nothing.
Instead, Joyce is sending millions overseas to train Indonesian meat workers in how to process the Australian cattle they receive from live exports, while the cost of TAFE rises every year and employers offer agreements at the minimum wage (or lower!).
But perhaps it’s not surprising that Barnaby Joyce is willing to let Australia’s rural youth go hungry. After all, he made his views on meat working as a profession quite clear last year: he think it’s disgusting. So disgusting, in fact, that second-class international workers need to be flown in to do the “unpopular” work that is beneath ordinary Australians.
Australia must act
This weekend’s announcement is more evidence of Barnaby Joyce’s utter contempt for the meat working industry – now the largest manufacturing industry in Australia after the collapse of the car industry, and a vital part of Australia’s economy.
Australia’s deputy prime minister is more than happy to let Australian jobs and Australian kids rot if it means more money for his mates in the Live Export Council and for his billionaire donors like Gina Rinehart.
Joyce’s funding announcement comes at a time when Australian farmers who provide the live export cattle in the first place are seriously worried that the export industry may be sabotaging itself, thanks to the potential of re-packaged and re-branded “Australian beef” being shipped out of the overseas export destinations.
We call on Joyce to put the people of Tamworth, and the people of rural meat working communities around Australia, ahead of the support of his rich and powerful friends. It’s time for Joyce to end the unfair, taxpayer-funded subsidies which are allowing live export to wreak havoc on local jobs, and to stand up for a future for Australia’s rural youth.