Author Topic: Ludwig backs Thomson's ability to open new live export markets  (Read 995 times)

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Ludwig backs Thomson's ability to open new live export markets
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2013, 07:28:35 PM »
Ludwig backs Thomson

 FEDERAL Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig says he has “100 per cent confidence” in embattled Labor MP Kelvin Thomson’s ability to open new live export markets and improve access to existing overseas markets for Australian livestock producers.    

  Kelvin Thomson.Kelvin Thomson.     

Earlier this year Mr Thomson was controversially appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Trade following a cabinet reshuffle.

Shadow Trade Minister Julie Bishop described the move as “disastrous” and demanded urgent clarification from the Prime Minister Julia Gillard that the Victorian MP would adhere to government trade policy, supporting live exports.

Mr Thomson’s appointment also caused conjecture among livestock industry members, given his sustained public opposition to live exports.

Concerns were also exacerbated by Mr Thomson’s membership on the ALP Caucus’ influential Live Animal Export Working Group that has proposed implementing an Independent Office of Animal Welfare, to assume control of animal welfare regulations.

Mr Thomson has repeatedly called for a transition away from live exports towards domestic meat processing to enhance local job prospects, economic prosperity and improve animal welfare outcomes. 

But Minister Ludwig said he had “100 per cent confidence in Kelvin Thomson” and dismissed concerns the MP’s personal beliefs represented a conflict of interest with the trade role.

“I’ve known Kelvin for a very long time,” he said.

“He’s parliamentary secretary to (Trade Minister) Craig Emerson.

“He will work with Craig and he will work with me to achieve the outcomes that we want for both the trade and industry and I’m completely confident he’ll do that.”

Minister Ludwig also rejected concerns Mr Thomson was given greater responsibility for trade relations, following another cabinet reshuffle last month after the failed Labor leadership challenge sparked by Simon Crean.

Minister Emerson added Tertiary Education to his existing ministerial responsibilities and has said Mr Thomson will assist him with discretionary travel around the trade portfolio.

But with local sheep prices plunging in Western Australia, industry is becoming increasingly concerned about opening new live export markets like Iran and Egypt and maintaining smooth access to traditional Middle Eastern markets.

Minister Ludwig said he was worried about “detractors” spreading “completely wrong” messages about Mr Thomson’s capacity to handle those urgent trade negotiations.

He said those detractors should “get to know Kelvin” and would find him “good to work with, positive for the industry, including live animal exports, but positive for Australia Inc.”

Minister Ludwig said it was “unkind” to only highlight Mr Thomson’s calls to ban live exports that have been made in recent times, in response to animal welfare concerns.

“I think more broadly if you look at his (Mr Thomson’s) policy responsibilities now he takes them very seriously and he will progress them in a very serious way,” he said.

“What I’m confident about is that he will take those policy responsibilities to heart and….he’ll put 100pc effort into those outcomes.”

Mr Thomson has previously rejected Ms Bishop’s concerns saying it “does the industry no favours by jumping at shadows and trying to raise concerns where none are warranted”.

He also indicated he would step down from the Live Animal Export Working Group following his appointment.

The Australian Livestock Exporters' Council CEO Alison Penfold declined to comment apart from saying the Council was due to meet with Mr Thomson to discuss market access issues.

Ms Penfold said ALEC was looking forward to a “constructive conversation” about the role and place of live exports in Australia’s trade portfolio.

But she said industry remained concerned about gaining government sign off for key markets, especially for sheep sold to the Middle East.

Ms Penfold said industry wanted to see significant advances in gaining final government approval for market access by next month, when a meeting of the industry and government Protocol Committee takes place, which addresses market access issues around animal health.

20 Apr, 2013 02:00 AM COLIN BETTLES
« Last Edit: April 20, 2013, 08:45:52 PM by WA Export News »