Labor troubled by Thomson and Thomson

Backbencher Kelvin Thomson has boldly flagged the demise of live exports and the baby bonus. Why aren't our leaders addressing these big questions instead of squabbling over Craig Thomson and the like?

I'm sure there are days when Prime Minister Gillard and Treasurer Swan would like to put a bucket over Labor backbencher Kelvin Thomson's head.

Thomson has twice in the past month stirred controversy on contentious topics. In early October he called for "transition out of the live animal export trade altogether", and yesterday was calling for a scrapping of the baby-bonus altogether too – to help pay for the government's Gonski reforms.

The government would rather keep a lid on live export comments – it's an emotive topic, and a policy area which it pretty badly bungled when it enforced a snap ban on the trade following a Four Corners expos on animal cruelty in mid-2011. That move hurt many businesses in the top end, and enraged the Indonesian government.

The bigger picture, though, is that whatever our government does, that export industry will gradually grind to a halt – Indonesia, the market in question, is rapidly ramping up its own production of those funny-looking, hump-backed Brahman cattle.

But then Labor backbenchers should never say that – such comments invite immediate howls of 'killing jobs', 'wrecking communities' and 'starving Indonesia for our own political correctness'.

On a flying visit to the Northern Territory last week, I was starkly reminded of how much investment, both human and financial, is needed in the top end. A new goldmine or mining services company here, an new irrigation project there, and there are plenty of jobs to be created to replace the live cattle exports.

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