Live Export

Industry to fight on as Watt plans live sheep phaseout by 2028

Sheep Central, May 11, 2024

The Albanese Government has proposed to end of the export of live sheep by seas on 1 May 2028.


THE Federal Government’s announcement today to end the live export of sheep by sea from Australia on 1 May 2028 has been widely condemned by farmer bodies and welcomed by animal welfare groups.

Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt announced the proposed phaseout date in the Western Australian capital Perth, promising $107 million to assist producers, processors and the whole sheep supply chain in a transition plan.

The government also released the final report of the independent panel into the phaseout and said it would present legislation to meet the 2028 deadline in this term of government.

Mr Watt said the $107 million is nearly five times the estimated economic annual impact estimated by the Western Australian Government, but the WA Government said it is not enough.

And Leader of The Nationals David Littleproud reiterated that a future Coalition Government will maintain the live sheep trade if it wins the next election.

“Minister Watt didn’t even have the courage to fly to Western Australia and face farmers, instead announcing from a high-rise in Perth, it’s just a big ‘up yours’ to Western Australian farmers,” Mr Littleproud said.

““Industry has never had the science explained to them (as to) why they are closing the industry down.

“Compensation of just $64.6 million is an insult, especially when Meat and Livestock Australia figures show live sheep exports were 84,430 in December 2023, which was a 177 percent increase in comparison with November export (58,732) and a 44pc increase on December 2022 exports (30,531),” he said.

“The legislation will be introduced in this term of Parliament, even though the industry embraced world leading animal welfare reforms in 2019, not only in transport but also the processing of sheep in the Middle East.”

Farmers are being left behind – WPA and SPA

Peak bodies Sheep Producers Australia and WoolProducers Australia said they will “continue to unite and fight against the ridiculous policy and fight for the people whose livelihoods and mental health are being destroyed.”

WoolProducers Australia chief executive officer Jo Hall said Labor is blindly sticking to a minor election commitment.

“Despite all the evidence and data this policy cannot be implemented without causing devastation to our regional communities only to serve a preference deal.

“Where is the commitment by Labor to their key election promise to “leave no Australian behind,” she said.

“What we have seen today is a government so removed from agriculture and the people who work in and rely on this industry. Instead, the government chooses to add to the burden of the current situation – enough is enough,” Ms Hall said.

Sheep producers Australia CEO Bonnie Skinner said the proposed phaseout is an issue of precedent and trust, “not just for the Australian sheep industry but for Australian agriculture.”

“If the industry and regional communities are to have faith that there will be “No one held back, no one left behind” under the current Government, public policy processes must be evidence-based, strategic, inclusive, and collaborative.

“This announcement further erodes what little trust existed between producers and the federal government and this will leave them and their rural communities behind,” she said.

“What we are seeing play out is a complete disregard for what is currently happening in WA.

“The timing of this announcement cements the Commonwealth’s utter lack of understanding of our industry,” Ms Hall said.

“Producers are seeding, carting water, supplementary feeding, and many currently lambing, how much more stress are they expected to bear?”

Ms Skinner said clarification is needed on next steps.

“We have kept the government regularly informed of the challenges WA producers are facing for the past twelve months.

“It is bitterly disappointing to see the media make this announcement before industry is briefed,” she said.

“Where is the respect for human welfare – for people’s lives and livelihoods? We will continue to fight for our people and our industry.”

A blow to WA sheep farming families – PGA

Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA president Tony Seabrook said the phaseout deadline decision is yet another blow to WA sheep farmers and their families, and the tens of thousands of Western Australians that are employed along the supply chain.

“The Albanese government’s decision to ban the live sheep trade in four years was not based on science nor on any evidence of mistreatment of stock,” he said.

“This is solely a political decision driven by animal activists in the eastern states – with no regard to the impact this will have on not only on WA’s regional economy, but also the tens of thousands of Western Australians who work throughout the sheep industry supply chain,” he said.

Mr Seabrook said a four-year phase out period is ridiculous given that the government was told it would take over a decade to change flock composition.

“Minister Watt has had the Independent panel’s report on how to phase out the live sheep trade for over 200 days, and did not have the guts to personally front the farmers and their families who now face an uncertain future thanks to this reckless decision by Labor,” he said.

“This shows how out of touch Minister Watt and his Labor colleagues are with the WA sheep industry, and the utter contempt they hold towards farmers in Western Australia.

“And if Minister Watt thinks the $107 million over four years will in any way address the situation he has created, it shows his total lack of any understanding of the financial implications of this decision.”

‘A disgraceful pandering to extreme animal activism’ – RMAC

The Red Meat Advisory Council said its members are appalled and dismayed by the live sheep exports by sea phase out transition plan that “can only be described as a disgraceful pandering to extreme animal activism.”

“Today’s announcement shows that no industry is safe from political and activist agendas, irrespective of evidence of reform, improvement and performance,” Independent RMAC chair John McKillop said.

“$107 million over five years is grossly inadequate and the plans to introduce and pass associated legislation to phase out a legitimate agricultural industry by 1 May 2028 nothing short of a disgrace.

“When it takes $6 million to produce a report on how best to phase out an industry, despite the lack of a single legitimate, science or evidence-based argument, it is clear that $107 million to actually phase out the industry is well below par,” he said.

“Particularly when $11.1 million of that figure goes straight into government coffers to ‘implement and engage’.”

Mr McKillop said the transition package completely ignores the flow-on impacts this policy will have on the broader supply chain and Western Australian economy itself.

“Live cattle export shipments as an example often rely on consignments of live sheep to be viable.

“The government’s head remains firmly in the ground on this front,” he said.

“To make matters worse is the complete disregard for the tough climatic conditions currently being experienced by many Western Australia producers.

“For the government announcement to be in the media before industry is even briefed is staggering,” Mr McKillop said.

“Industry will continue the fight and to provide support. However, individual support services are also available at:

“The Australian red meat and livestock industry helps feed the world with safe, high quality and nutritious red meat,” he said.

“While extremely disappointed and angry with today’s announcement, we won’t let this government’s pandering to a noisy minority made up of extreme animal activists take that away from us.”

‘Radical’ timeline spells catastrophe for communities – NFF

The National Farmers Federation said the “radical” four-year phaseout timeline ignores industry advice that it would spell catastrophe for farming communities, for animal welfare, and for Australia’s global trading partnerships.

“Murray Watt has decided to book us on the express train to disaster, but this isn’t the final chapter in this story,” NFF CEO Tony Mahar said.

“We’ll keep fighting.

“Make no mistake, this battle is far from over,” he said.

“We will not rest until this misguided policy is overturned, and we urge everyone, especially in the west, to keep fighting tooth and nail.”

The NFF accused the Government of treating victims of the policy with utter contempt by failing to properly consult, refusing to share the report, and announcing the paltry package just days before the budget unveiling. The false rhetoric from the Government about wanting to work collaboratively with industry is disgusting and disingenuous.

“Fresh from handshaking and smiles in Rockhampton, the Minister has flown straight to WA and dropped a bombshell on our farmers.

“From the very start, this government’s conduct and mistreatment of farmers on this issue has been an absolute disgrace,” Mr Mahar said.

“It also shows a stunning disregard for the situation unfolding on the ground in WA – where emergency task forces are scrambling and hotlines are lighting up to help producers through a crippling tough patch,” he said.

“This is not just a betrayal of Australian farmers.

“It runs directly counter to our national interests; we’re turning our back on crucial Middle Eastern partners who have plead for this trade to continue.”

The NFF warned that the announcement legitimises extreme animal activism at the expense of farmers and their families, demonstrating that no agricultural industry is truly safe from ideology-driven policies if it means scoring political points.

“This is what happens when you pander to fringe activists and sideline the grown-ups.

“They’ve adopted this misguided crusade and decided to trade the livelihoods of regular working people in WA for inner city votes on the east coast,” Mr Mahar said.

“It’s a wretched political act.”

‘It is done’ – RSPCA and Animals Australia celebrate

The RSPCA strongly welcomed the phaseout announcement and said it hailed the beginning of a better future for Australian sheep.

RSPCA Australia CEO Richard Mussell said a swift and orderly phase out of live sheep export, with appropriate measures to safeguard animal welfare in the meantime, is the right decision for Australian sheep and Australian farmers.

“We congratulate the government for listening to the science and the Australian community and for outlining a clear plan for phasing out this cruel and unfixable industry – including funding a transition package in the upcoming Budget.

“There has been an extensive consultation process involving every part of the live sheep export supply chain,” he said.

“Now, we have a clear way forward.

“We’re pleased that the government has agreed to practical and tangible measures to support farmers to transition away from this trade,” Mr Mussell said.

“The RSPCA supports these initiatives, such as measures to expand processing capacity here in Australia.

“We know that supporting Australians involved in the sheep industry supply chain is critical to the success of this phase out, so we congratulate the government for making this commitment and funding it in this year’s budget.”

After the announcement, Animals Australia posted on its Facebook page: “Friends – it is done.”

“Today, we breathe a sigh of relief. Together, we have fought so hard for this outcome.

“You have been at our side year after year, ever since we sent investigators into the field decades ago,” the post continued.

“You have shared our anger, our distress, our heartbreak as we documented so many gentle, bewildered animals who have been forced to endure unimaginable suffering, all because they were born into an industry that treats them as nothing more than a commodity. As cargo, to be shipped thousands of kilometres from their homes, crammed into pens inside metal ships for weeks at a time, only to be slaughtered when they arrive at their destination.

You have seen their faces, you have witnessed their suffering, and you have remained steadfast in your promise to each and every victim of this cruel trade: to never look away.”

The post said the organisation is taking this moment in time to celebrate the victory, “and we invite you to also take a moment to reflect on your part in this historic step forward.

“But our work is not yet done. Four more years of live sheep export will mean further suffering for millions of animals.”

The AA said the organisation would “continue to shine a spotlight on this cruel trade, we will hold this industry to account, and we will never stop telling the stories of the “invisible” animals for as long as they suffer silently inside these death ships.”

Australian Greens deputy leader and spokesperson for animal welfare, Senator Mehreen Faruqi said today marked a pivotal moment in the party’s for animal welfare.

“This win belongs to the brave whistleblowers, the determined animal welfare organisations and the Greens who have fought tooth and nail for the inherently cruel and morally bankrupt live sheep export trade to be shut down.

“I want to congratulate everyone in the community who joined our tireless fight to shut down live sheep export,” she said.

However Senator Faruqi said “2028 is still far too many years away.”

“Thousands of sheep will continue to suffer and die on sweltering, packed death ships until then.

“The Greens will be looking to bring forward the live export ban date and ensure that the industry doesn’t ramp up the cruel exports in the years leading up to the ban,” she said.

“The Greens will push for reduced numbers of sheep exported, a complete summer ban, and inspectors aboard every live export ship until this cruel trade is finally shut down.

“I look forward to seeing the government’s bill to legislate the date as a matter of urgency.”

PETA campaigns advisor Mimi Bekhechi said Australia’s live-export industry “has put greed over basic decency, thrown kindness overboard with ailing sheep, and caused animals to suffer dehydration, starvation, and illness, trampled by their shipmates, and suffocated by their own faeces.”

“While PETA is relieved to find the end in sight, it’s years off and the government should act now to stop the misery and cruelty, not wait another four years.

“It’s no coincidence that Australia is the world’s largest exporter of wool and live sheep, as the wool and live export trades are intertwined.”

Livestock exporters say fight will continue

Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive officer Mark Harvey-Sutton denounced the government’s announcement of the package for the phase out of live sheep by sea as a disgrace, saying it was clear that the Government was throwing out Australia’s vital agricultural industries in favour of activist ideologies, as well as a few votes.

“This is a paltry package that completely ignores the complexity of the Australian sheep farming supply chain.

“It’s an insulting way to attempt to compensate for a ban that will decimate WA farmers and their families,” he said.

“Today’s announcement was evidence that the Albanese Government didn’t understand agriculture and had aligned itself to militant anti-agriculture groups to somehow help garner votes in inner city seats.

“Not only will all of Australia’s agriculture industry feel let down by Minister Watt’s announcement today, but all West Australians will feel let down by their Federal Labor MPs, who have sold out their farmers for east coast votes,” Mr Harvey-Sutton said.

Mr Harvey-Sutton said the WA State Government has confirmed that this will negatively impact WA communities.

“Even today Minister Jarvis has confirmed that the WA Government does not support this policy.

“In light of this, the Federal Government must reconsider its absurdly short timeframe and the crisis it will create for WA families and their towns,” he said.

Mr Harvey-Sutton said the way the package was announced was a disgrace.

“Just this week, Minister Watt was shaking hands with people who depend on live export at Beef Australia and hearing first-hand the devastating impacts of the 2011 ban.

“Yet, unfortunately, the first thing he does after that is fly straight to Perth to breeze in and shut live sheep exports down,” he said.

“Instead of meeting with farmers and their communities on the ground, he made the announcement from an ivory tower in the centre of Perth.

“To add further insult to injury, the Minister advised farmers at the same time as anti-agriculture activists!

“They cheered on the policy, despite being on the same call as farmers and producers, with investment in the industry, who stand to lose everything.”

However, Mr Harvey-Sutton said the Australian livestock industry would like to deliver a very clear message to WA’s sheep farmers: “we are standing with you and this is only the beginning of the fight.”

“Rest assured, this will be an election issue in WA at the next Federal election and potentially across Australia.”

Chairman of the Western Australian Livestock Exporters Association John Cunnington said today’s announcement “is another case of WA being dictated to by east coast policy that will decimate the WA sheep flock.”

“This isn’t about science; it is politics and dirty back room deals. This is people’s livelihoods that they are playing with and it’s absolutely disgusting,” he said.

“A three-year phase out is a slap in the face to the investment and work that has gone into building this industry that has provided so much support to the WA sheep industry.

“Minister Watt and the Labor Government must be held accountable for the devastation that this has caused to our WA communities in the past year and going forward,” Mr Cunninton said.

The WALEA chairman also called on WA Premier Roger Cook and Minister for Agriculture Jackie Jarvis to fight for WA producers and businesses “in this devastating attack on regional and rural communities.”


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  1. Richard Maloney, May 19, 2024

    I’m questioning whether there is an argument over slaughtering our sheep, freezing them and then selling them to suppliers overseas. The other argument is sending them alive to be slaughtered overseas, maybe freezing them through the suppliers, and selling them. I thing the argument is emotional for live exporters and not rational. I cannot see a real argument.

  2. Eric Goodchild, May 18, 2024

    First step in their agenda to get rid of the red meat industry to pander to the climate change fanatics.

  3. Hugh Walley, May 15, 2024

    What right do governments have to interfere in a legitimate business?
    The live sheep trade ban is a well-run business that supports thousands of families. The Labor government should stick to governing the country and stay away from things that don’t concern them.

  4. Tom Casey, May 13, 2024

    Let’s hope they can prove he misled Senate and can get Watt expelled, with the Dunkley by-election preference deal.

  5. Katrina Love, May 13, 2024

    I don’t think Littleproud would understand the science if it was explained to him if he thinks 25,698 — the increase in the number of sheep exported from November to December — is a 177 percent increase on 58,732. Hint: it’s 30pc.

    He also keeps banging on about “If we don’t export them, other countries will take over our market share and do it worse than we do”.

    Other countries *already* export live sheep. Other countries already export more live sheep than we do. One country we export live sheep to (Jordan) exports more live sheep than we do. Why are we now running the Houthi gauntlet in the Red Sea and risking attack to supply live sheep to a country that can export more than Australia does? Are the sheep we’re supplying getting re-exported? How can we be sure?

    Other countries will export live sheep whether we do or not, and if we are not, we can actually take the moral high ground rather than condoning the suffering by being complicit in it.

    Unlike the emotional chest-thumping of industry and producers who supply it, the Labor policy is backed by science, current and historical data, Independent Observer reports, the industry’s own failure to regulate itself, the expert opinion of hundreds if not thousands of vets, and the opinion of the majority – yes, the majority of the community, both urban and rural.

    Live sheep exports declined from over 6 million in 2001 to under 500k in 2022 and rose slightly again in 2023 thanks to (stupidly) opening trade up again with Saudi Arabia. It was closed for serious animal welfare violations and animal abuse in 2011.

    You can’t tell me that a decline of 5.5 million in head of sheep exported didn’t ruin the WA sheep industry, but ending the export of that last 500k over four years will decimate it and everyone connected to it.

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