Live Export

Awassi Express issues raised at WA live sheep inquiry hearing

Terry Sim June 14, 2024

EFFORTS to re-open investigation of the sourcing of video footage of suffering sheep on the live export vessel the Awassi Express  in 2017 continued in the House Standing Committee on Agriculture inquiry into the Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Bill 2024 at Northam in Western Australia today.

Whistleblower footage taken on the Awassi Express in 2017, when 2400 sheep perished on board in the Persian Gulf, prompted industry reform and regulation, and has been a major plank in the activist and Federal Government campaign against live sheep exports.

WAFarmers president John Hassell said he was disturbed to hear that his tabled inquiry submission with attachments might not be accepted by the committee.

He said he had attached to his submission some statutory declarations from Awassi Express ship board staff.

“I think that is a gross misrepresentation of me if that is not accepted, because it (the submission) was not a pro forma, it was altered quite significantly.”

Mr Hassell said the Kuwaitis and WA farmers are not happy about the decision to phaseout live sheep export by sea.

“But my main comments are going to be around the statutory declarations by Lyn White of Animals Australia and a shipboard staff member who actually testified to the fact that the conditions that were created on the Awassi Express were done deliberately and paid for by Animals Australia.

“And I think that is the basis of this entire legislation and that’s why it is so badly wrong,” he said.

“I think the questions need to be asked as to why did the department drop the case against Emanuels, which they did for good reason, but not then go after Animals Australia for animal cruelty, for bribing shipboard staff, for corporate sabotage and for that kind of dishonesty?

“Why wasn’t that investigated, why was that dropped by the Department of Agriculture and why Department of Agriculture activists allowed to get away with biasing this entire discussion based on this evidence?” Mr Hassell asked.

“Why are they allowed to get away with biasing this entire debate and doing damage to an Australian industry based on lies and deception created by Animals Australia and RSPCA staff?”

Responding to a question by committee vice-chair and WA Liberal MP Rick Wilson, Mr Hassell said in case his submission and its attachment “was going to be knocked back, I, thank you Mr Wilson, I am going to be tabling that information.”

In a later discussion about the increase in cropping over sheep production in Western Australia, Mr Hassell said it was not right for a government to change an industry’s economic imperative.

“Because that’s when it fails, that’s when it hits our hip pocket.

“If we can make our changes based on our own businesses, borrow the money and make the changes that’s fine, but when a government comes in and tells us to change our businesses, with no consideration for the devastating impact it will have on our businesses, and on the communities in which we live, that is a wrong decision,” Mr Hassell said.

“Especially when it’s based on the Awassi evidence which shows very clearly that that was perpetuated by Animals Australia’s deliberate action and especially when it is a dirty filthy little backroom deal with the Animal Justice Party.”

Mr Wilson and Mr Hassell have previously supported further investigation of the circumstances behind the Awassi Express incident believing it could potentially undermine the justification for the Federal Government’s intended phaseout of live sheep exports by sea. A Federal investigation in 2019 found no evidence whistleblowers fabricated footage of sheep dying under heat stress on a vessel bound for the Middle East and a Department of Agriculture investigation found the footage was not contrived and no illegal payments were made. Animals Australia has also claimed no wrongdoing in obtaining Awassi Express footage.

Mr Wilson has also tabled at the inquiry 52 questions on notice for the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry. Click here for Mr Hassell’s submission to the inquiry.

The inquiry hearing today heard a number of statements from representatives from several farming, rural transport, shearing, stud Merino breeders, grains and farm advisory groups who declared their support for the live export of sheep by sea, detailing the expected negative impact of the phaseout policy on rural communities and service, flock numbers and wool production.

Several WA community members gave statements at the inquiry hearing supporting the proposed phaseout and the inquiry continued this afternoon to hear evidence from livestock and meat exporters, WA councils, RSPCA WA and the Stop Live Exports group.

People power mobilises at Muresk

Speaking from the Keep The Sheep rally in Muresk today, Keep the Sheep campaign spokesperson, Ben Sutherland said it sent a strong message back to Canberra that there were thousands of supporters and that the Albanese Government’s policy to ban live sheep exports was a losing one.

“We’ve seen another 2-3000 people travel, in some circumstances thousands of kilometres, take a day off work, out of school and away from their lives because they feel so strongly that we had to send a message that this ban will affect people’s lives and livelihoods.

“Australians believe in a fair go,” he said.

“Sweeping in from Canberra with a policy that puts people out of business that is based on a ‘vibe’ from activists that discounts fact is unfair and un-Australian.”

Mr Sutherland said Keep Sheep supporters are very worried the inquiry committee is rushing towards a stitched up political outcome.

“The Canberra hearing demonstrated the bias the committee has already showed.

“It is frustrating to have MPs that aren’t from WA thinking they know what’s best for us.”

The House Standing Committee on Agriculture is inquiring into the Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Bill 2024 that will end the live sheep export trade by sea from 1 May 2028. The committee also held a public hearing in Canberra this week and has been asked to produce an advisory report by 21 June 2024.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


  1. Ann Clarke, June 16, 2024

    Live export is absolute animal abuse and suffering. I am shocked that our so-called civilized country would allow this. I would’ve thought the RSPCA would be more active in this issue also. Shameful.

  2. Carol Vickery, June 15, 2024

    Stopping live exports will create more jobs for Western Australians in the processing sector. Shearing and transport will still be needed. Let’s face it live export is cruel.

  3. Alan Hansen, June 15, 2024

    Keep the sheep. WA rural farmers’ businesses need this industry to stay viable. We don’t need city-based activists involved.

  4. Ian Harrison, June 15, 2024

    What is past is past and we should have done better. Why not talk about the here and now where processes have changed so much for the health and well-being of the animals?
    Unfortunately we can’t teach the sheep or cattle to only have female progeny. We need the market and the buyers need the protein, and not in frozen form. Even if our trade is stopped, I wonder if the activists will harass the other countries who will supply the stock into our markets?

  5. Mary Julia, June 15, 2024

    I don’t care how the footage was obtained. Sending animals in long sea journeys to countries that cannot be overseen in how they treat them at their destination is a good enough reason to stop live export. It’s cruel. Doesn’t make us look or feel good human beings. The businesses currently involved just have to diversify. Times change. NZ did it and that’s a farming country.

  6. Roy Gray, June 15, 2024

    We will have to sell up our farming altogether sell or maybe lease our land and move on. Four generations gone, all to this dumb vote-grabbing decision from government. So sad.

  7. Kathryn Melbourne, June 15, 2024

    What is so disappointing is the fact that there is no enthusiasm about improving and expanding the processed meat trade from Australia. A four-year phase out and compensation is better than most people ever get when their occupation is changing direction. Australian sheep do not deserve to be put through these horrendous journeys and a far from humane death. Thank you Labor government for following through with your promise. It will be a great day when this cruel trade ends.

  8. Derek Newton, June 15, 2024

    Decision making, like debate, without due consideration of all evidence, leads to poor decisions, equally or worse poor outcomes and egged faces.

  9. Geoffrey Power, June 15, 2024

    I fully support live sheep exports by sea. Why should people thousands of kilometres away in Canberra and beyond be able to dismantle the lives of people through legislation?

  10. Janet Pooley, June 15, 2024

    Keep the sheep.
    Fraudulent protesting that harms another primary produce industry in Australia is not an improvement. Politicians must wake up fast in support of farmers.

  11. Janet Pooley, June 15, 2024

    As a senior Australian having grown up on a sheep farm in Western Australia, I am in support of farming in WA. My father worked in the early years of shearing teams up north-west, wool classing and teaching. The WA wool and sheep export industry deserves the rightful place to thrive as an industry it has grown to be without corruption from protesters. The stopping of live exports is short-sighted and wrong. The government and those protesting must be held accountable and put their money where their mouths are toward ongoing improvements. Don’t stop an industry, especially as it is known Australia has a long-standing and substantial sheep industry. This protest action has to be seen as fraudulent and stopping sheep exports is not the answer. It would be immediately and long-term more devastating for Australians than our politicians have considered possible. Keep the Sheep is the only option. Farmers face daily challenges with climate changes, droughts, floods, cyclones, worker shortages and isolation, to mention a few hardships. This issue is huge and the only solution is to continue live export with continual over seeing of improvements of processes in support of maintaining the sheep industry.

  12. Basil Edwardes, June 15, 2024

    I believe that the argument to retain live sheep exports by sea is motivated by the desire to increase profits. It is far better for the sheep to be exported from Northern Hemisphere ports as the distance travelled will be less arduous for the animals. I believe the compensation offered is more than adequate and that farmers will adjust to frozen meat exports. I note that the UK is also considering similar legislation to Australia.

  13. William Hearn, June 14, 2024

    What is the main reason why live sheep are preferred to frozen meat? I have observed little discussion about this important matter.

  14. Lawrence Anderson, June 14, 2024

    Western Australia is being penalised without a fair hearing. A lot of effort has gone into improving conditions for live export of sheep and more can be done. Other countries will take over live sheep transport and will take less care than Australia. It will just be out of sight out of mind.

  15. Wayne McCallum, June 14, 2024

    Would Watt and Albanese like there livelihoods taken away? No, to them it doesn’t matter. They make out they are promoting trade, what a joke. How can these radical minorities have so much say when they produce nothing?

Get Sheep Central's news headlines emailed to you -