Beef over George's religious barb
FEDERAL Member for Dawson George Christensen has been attacked for claiming religion is to blame for cruelty in Indonesian abattoirs, but he is happy his outburst has gained national exposure for the region's suffering farmers.
Mr Christensen addressed parliament on Tuesday, condemning Labor MPs over their handling of the live cattle trade, saying the focus should not be on Aussie farmers but on the meatworkers and their “bastardised interpretation of Islamic halal practices”.
“I criticised Labor MPs for being very quick to sink the boot into farmers on the issue of cruelty to live cattle exported to Indonesia but not saying anything about the religion that actually inspires the torture of the cattle,” Mr Christensen said.
“Now that live exports to Indonesia have been fully banned, the Gillard Labor government has basically signalled they blame the cattle industry for the cruelty because the only people who are hurt by this ban are Australian cattle farmers, particularly those in North Queensland.”
His words sparked outrage, with Labor MP Rob Mitchell saying Opposition Leader Tony Abbott should pull Mr Christensen “back into line”.
“Tony Abbott should stand up and actually show that he's got some form of leadership because he's showing no backbone on this,” he said yesterday.
Nationals MP Darren Chester said while he did not agree with Mr Christensen's comments, he understood the point the MP was trying to make about the hypocrisy of Labor MPs on the issue.
“We shouldn't escape the fundamental facts in relation to the whole live export ban,” Mr Chester said.
“The government has acted in haste and put the cattle farmers across the north in a very perilous situation.”
It's a situation which the Mackay-born MP said needed to be fixed immediately, starting with “laying the blame on the actual perpetrators”.
“Perhaps we should be having a discussion on whether Indonesian Islamic imams can assist in this predicament by better educating abattoir workers, butchers and the Indonesian populace on what actually constitutes halal slaughter,” Mr Christensen said.
“And we could be asking why this hasn't happened already.
"We could also be asking if any action – either by religious or government authorities – will be taken against those Indonesians who are brutalising these cattle in ways clearly not in accordance with either halal rules or international standards.”
Mr Christensen's comments came after Northern Territory beef producers converged on parliament to plead for a quick resumption of live cattle exports.
“While I meant for my comments about Labor's hypocrisy on the live cattle trade issue to be taken at face value, I am glad they have elevated my speech – and local concerns – to the national stage,” he said.
Meanwhile, Trade Minister Craig Emerson denies the near $400million business is under threat from other beef-producing nations as Indonesia looks elsewhere for live cattle.
Dr Emerson said Australia was committed to the resumption of trade to “a handful” of the 600 abattoirs in Indonesia that meet or are near to meeting international standards, “as quickly as possible”.