Australian cattlemen group want gov't to lift animal export ban in days, not months

08:43, June 22, 2011      

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A group of Northern Territory cattlemen on Tuesday arrived in Canberra to lobby the Australian federal government for a restart of the live animal trade.

The men are in the capital, as debate rages over what the appropriate reaction should be to the mistreatment of Australian cattle in Indonesian slaughterhouses.

The group will spend three days in Canberra meeting with members of parliament on the live animal export issue.

"It is a chance to take our story to Canberra, explain how the industry operates to members of the public searching for the truth and put forward solutions that we think can quickly get the live export trade back on track," Northern Territory Cattlemen's Association executive director Luke Bowen said in a statement released on Tuesday.

According to Northern Territory Chief Minister, Paul Henderson, live exports to Indonesia need to resume in days, not months.

He brought with him Emily Brett, who runs a 10,000 head cattle station in the territory's Victoria River Basin, with her husband and their extended family.

He said the livelihoods of hundreds of cattle producers in the Northern Territory depended on a resumption of trade.

"I want to see this trade up and running in days, not weeks, if it is at all possible," Henderson told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

"We've got hundreds of families like Emily's right across the NT who do not know when the next pay cheque is coming.

"There are thousands of jobs across the NT at stake here."

When the government suspended all live animal exports to Indonesia three weeks ago, it killed the station's earnings and Brett fears she will have to let some of her 12 staff go.

"We can't pay for that fuel ... we don't know when we're going to be able to pay for those (mustering) products," she told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

"We're just hoping that the live exports will resume as soon as possible so we can get some income.

"We don't want to lay our staff off, but it may come to that ... we can't last six months."

Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig is in Indonesia for discussions on when trade can resume. But there are concerns following a day of meetings in Indonesia that the process could still take some time.

Indonesia is the biggest buyer of Australian live cattle, accounting for about 60 percent of the market. The cattle export industry, which worths 362 million U.S. dollars for Australia per year.

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