Today’s Australian has details of some of the government’s antics relating to the recent ban on the live cattle trade to Indonesia. It reads like an episode of “Yes Minister,” but without the savvy and wisdom of Sir Humphrey Appleby. Immediately after the 4 Corners expose of practices in some of the Indonesian abattoirs, a ban on supplying those listed was mooted.
What could have been a reasonably measured response went off the wall when the Agriculture Minister, Bill Ludwig suddenly banned all exports of live cattle to that country. As result a major export market was insulted and tens of thousands of cattle were left stranded in yards at ports all over the top end of the nation.
Now it seems, the Foreign Minister, Kevin Rudd who is at least competent in his current portfolio, was left out of the loop:
His fury was being fuelled by the manner of the cabinet decision to ban exports in an attempt to assuage the public and caucus outcry after ABC's Four Corners exposed brutal slaughter methods in Indonesia.But hey, in government if you screw up, be the fixer:
Cabinet made the decision while Rudd was absent, attending a meeting in Budapest, without written submissions and without options other than a total ban.
Ministers saw it as a quick political decision.
Rudd was informed by telephone of the suspension and told to inform his Indonesian counterpart only a short time before they were due to meet.
The tense interaction between Rudd and Ludwig last Wednesday signaled the moment when Rudd and the well-oiled machine that is the Department of Foreign Affairs began taking a frontline role in the cattle crisis.
The Prime Minister acknowledged the shift in strategy on Thursday when she stated she was part of "Team Australia", which was trying to get the $320 million a year industry restarted with Indonesia.
Team Australia now included Rudd, the Prime Minister, Trade Minister Craig Emerson and Ludwig.Rudd was never overburdened with brains but he appears a bloody genius compared with these idiots who want to do it themselves:
David Inall, the chief executive of the Cattle Council of Australia, said yesterday: "It takes one person to ban a trade and takes two countries to reopen it again. Once you close it, you lose control over it."
The situation in Indonesia worsened upon Ludwig's arrival there on June 20. He delivered the 21-page document outlining the animal welfare standards he wanted met by Indonesian abattoirs -- in English.
Officials were shocked. Translated copies were provided a few days later but the damage was done. Those who saw the original English document said they could not "believe" it was such a lengthy document. They described it as unreadable and bogged down by bureaucratic language.
As departmental staff quickly redrafted the document to focus more on a concrete "checklist" of what abattoirs actually had to do to get trade reopened, Ludwig was facing outcry from affected farmers. "They had absolutely no idea the implications of the ban would be so severe across the industry," Western Australia agriculture minister Terry Redman said.
An internal briefing dated June 21 demonstrated how ill-prepared Ludwig's office was for the impact of the decision. It shows the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences began surveying farmers so they could "determine the effects on farm businesses of the suspension of trade to Indonesia" -- two weeks after the ban was enacted.