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A monumental failure of conscience and courage

Dear Beagle Editor,

A monumental failure of conscience and courage

At last week’s council meeting, councillors were presented with what I and others thought was a no-brainer – which should have suited perfectly. In a motion by Councillor McGinlay, they were being asked to write a letter to the federal government advocating for the phasing out of the horrendous, scandalous live export trade.

There were just six councillors there to decide this matter: Deputy Mayor Mayne (chairperson, in the Mayor’s absence), and Councillors McGinlay, Constable, Tait, Brown and Thomson.

For anyone who has seen the footage on television of the most recent revelations of the brutal suffering inflicted upon the sheep and new-born lambs on board the dreaded hulks that take them to a barbaric slaughter in foreign lands, nothing could be simpler than to send off a letter condemning the trade and advocate for it to be phased out – you might think.

Unbelievably, unimaginably, a majority of councillors - Tait, Brown, Thomson and Constable - voted against the motion! You can see and hear what is meant to pass as a debate, on council’s archived video record of the meeting by clicking on this link.

Councillor McGinlay found strong support from Councillor Mayne – and only from him. Both spoke very well indeed. In fact Councillor Mayne received a round of applause from the public gallery for the eloquence and passion of his contribution to the debate – in stark, stark contrast to other ‘contributions’ that could only be described as gibberish.

Councillor Brown, the quintessential, surly contrarian, spared us his particular form of self-serving gibberish and contributed nothing to the debate and did not even vote in favour of Councillor McGinlay’s motion for a 10 minute adjournment for him to consider his options, following Councillor Constable’s objection to the ‘broad’ wording of Councillor McGinlay’s original motion. What Councillor Brown did petulantly offer on the subject of the live exports – after the debate - was a complaint that “it’s disappointing that so much time is spent on a toilet block [Albert Ryan Park] and a motion of Green’s policy”, when, as far as he was concerned, presenters should have been speaking about the Delivery Program and Operational Plan – never minding that it was yet to be placed on exhibition, following the meeting, and therefore not available for comment at the meeting! He not only can’t get his head around the fact that members of the community speak on the subjects that they regard as important, as opposed to what he regards as important, he refuses to listen to what they have to say – unless he is already in agreement.

Like so many others, Councillor Brown gets caught up in simplistically labelling issues according to his view of what policies ought to be assigned to what parties. And if there is an issue that an ‘enemy party’ supports, then it must be opposed. This is an infantile approach to the world.

Councillor Tait, with sincerity, became quite lost in his own words. In sharing with us that no one he knows has said anything critical about the live export trade (or has even mentioned it), we can only wonder about the circles in which he moves. He strongly objected to being placed in a situation – as he saw it - in which he had to express his own view on a subject but would happily vote in favour of Councillor McGinlay’s motion if he had hard evidence that 50% + 1, at least, of the residents of the Eurobodalla Shire expressed opposition to the live export trade! But, clearly, he would not vote according to his own conscience. In fact, it was “not fair” to expect that of him, he said.

In spite of my request – made when presenting to councillors in public forum - to please not attempt to insult our intelligence by expressing the view that the matter did not concern local government, Councillor Thomson, though well meaning, did in fact do just that. He, like the other dissenters, simply doesn’t get it: that this abominable cruelty, inflicted on defenceless creatures, is a matter not just for all levels of government, but is an overwhelming matter for us as a species. It transcends politics in one sweep. This really is a case of “If I need to explain it, you won’t understand.”

Councillor Thomson, like so many who don’t get it, suggested that the industry just needs “cleaning up” – as though this latest revelation is the first occasion of the atrocities being committed; while in fact it has been going on for many, many decades.

He went on to say that “dead animals aren’t worth anything” – and that, presumably, is why we wouldn’t want them to die in unspeakable conditions and why improvements would be made! This mercenary view overlooks the mercenary practice of insurance payments for the losses. There is no real financial incentive to keep animals alive. That’s business.

Councillor Constable showed that he is both sincere and conflicted on the matter. His heart has him leaning one way, it seemed, and his ingrained loyalties, the other way. He proposed a motion that was very narrowly passed – with Councillor Mayne needing to use his casting vote, as chair, to get it across the line. The motion reads as follows:

“THAT a briefing be held to discuss the live export industry, including advice from relevant industry [the criminally liable perpetrators] and government officials [the criminally liable, useless regulators].”

And why would such a briefing not specifically include seeking advice from animal welfare groups, such as Animals Australia?

The culprits in this ongoing, massive criminal practice, of inflicting unbearable suffering upon millions of defenceless creatures, are caught out by whistleblowers – never the regulator – and nothing is ever done to ‘clean it up’. There are never any consequences, no convictions, and no imprisonment. Such is the way of our unaccountable, morally rudderless, and corrupt corporate and political world. It is a world in which the dollar is almighty and truth and honesty are discarded as a matter of course.

Simon Crean, chair of the Australian Livestock Exporters Council, is a disgrace and must accept ultimate responsibility for these crimes. But, no doubt, he continues to smile that smile through it all.

How, I wonder, when faced with the images that we have seen of the atrocities, does anyone have a mind which does not immediately become incensed and determined to bring this suffering to an immediate end? Is it simply a lack of empathy? Or is it pure and simple, if not impenetrable, ignorance – or both?

Whatever the reasons, it is well and truly past the time for ‘cleaning up’. The barbarity must be brought to an end immediately.

Council’s majority decision on this matter represents what can only be described as a monumental failure of conscience and courage by those who so voted.

Peter Cormick

#Opinion #Weekly #Council #LocalStateFederal