Meatworkers protest against live exports.
Meatworkers protest against live exports.

Meatworker: Live cattle exports responsible for lack of work

MEATWORKERS from Casino joined a union protest at the Tamworth campaign office of Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce on June 7.

Mark Cook, who works on the slaughter floor at Casino's NCMC meat processing plant, has missed out on about two weeks of work this year - he says live cattle exports are partly responsible for the lack of work.

"I've been a meatworker for 35 years," Mark said.

"Nowadays, they can't source the cattle - we put it down to live export.

"There are other things; coming out of the drought, cattle numbers were depleted."

Mark says casual workers have lost their jobs and younger workers with mortgages and family commitments have little job security.

"We used to have a lot of casuals. About eight months ago, the casuals were told there's no work for them," he said.

"All the workers out there would like to see no live exports.

"I'd like to see live exports cut right down so it's only countries who really need to do it.

"There's not many jobs created through live export."

The Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union has called on Mr Joyce, the Minister for Agriculture, to stand up for local workers and fight for a local supply quota to support Australian jobs.

The union's national secretary, Graham Smith, said Mr Joyce had historically demonstrated his support for the live export trade over the local meat processing industry.

Paving the way for a massive live export deal with China last year, Mr Joyce told Fairfax Media that the agreement would open up the Chinese market to Australian beef farmers and  would hopefully lead to up to a million cattle being supplied.

"We do about 1.2 million head a year (live exports) at the moment; we would need to double it," he said.

The deal proved the government was making a difference for farmers, Mr Joyce said, and would mean the "long-term prospect of better prices - we have a heap of buyers out there, we have record prices and we are going to keep it up".

The union says Mr Joyce has ignored facts around supply issues in the industry.

"They are quite simple - as hundreds of thousands of live animals are shipped overseas, local meat processors can't get the supply they need to sustain local jobs," Graham Smith said.

"Live export only makes up around six per cent of Australia's meat export market. Yet it jeopardises thousands of Australian jobs as it puts demand on our supply chain when our national herd is down."

The Casino abattoir employs more than 1000 local workers and processes 400,000-plus head of cattle per year.

Australians go to the polls on July 2 to decide on a Federal Government.

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