Live Export

Inquiry backs live sheep export ban, but with more money

Terry Sim June 21, 2024

The House Standing Committee on Agriculture at the Muresk Institute hearing at its Western Australia hearing in Northam this month.

THE Albanese Government’s proposed legislation to phaseout live sheep exports by sea should be passed but transition funding should be increased, an advisory report released today has recommended.

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture today released an advisory report from its inquiry into the Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Bill 2024 that would allow the ending of the trade by 1 May 2028.

The committee has recommended that the bill be passed and that the Australian Government considers making additional funding available to support the transition, potentially through the 2026 stocktake of industry progress. The government is currently proposing a $107 million transition package.

The committee has also recommended that the Australian Government continues to seek opportunities to work with the Western Australian Government to refine and implement the transition support package.

Dissenting report slams ‘bad government policy’

However, a dissenting report by committee Coalition members said they did not support the ban of live sheep export by sea, and strongly opposed the Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Export by Sea) Bill 2024. The Coalition members said the “bad Government policy” will be reversed if the Coalition was re-elected. The dissenting report also said the Coalition believes any transition package proposed in this Bill will be rejected by WA farmers and industry supply chain participants who believe the live sheep export industry is not only viable, but a growing industry.

“We the Coalition committee members concur with WA industry that this Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Export by Sea) Bill 2024 is an unwarranted intervention by a poorly-informed government,” they said.

The committee commented in the report that it considers the package established through the bill to be timely and comprehensive.

“In particular, the committee welcomes the Federal government’s commitment to begin spending immediately in the upcoming 2024–25 financial year to support the sector’s transition.”

The release of that report and that fact many of the 8000-plus industry submissions received were not individually considered due to being considered pro forma submissions, escalating calls for a Senate inquiry into the proposed legislation and trade ban.

Committee chair Meryl Swanson said the bill fulfils the Albanese Government’s election promise to end the live export of sheep by sea, while providing time and money for the orderly transition of industry to new avenues of production and trade.

While acknowledging the strong opposition of sections of industry and local WA communities, Ms Swanson said the matter has been extensively canvassed by governments and communities.

“The time has come to transition away from this trade.

“Like all transitions, it will not be without pain, but the outcome will provide industry with long-term certainty in line with community expectations.”

Inquiry was disingenuous – Littleproud

At the WAFarmers annual conference today Leader of The Nationals David Littleproud said the inquiry was disingenuous, after thousands of submissions were sent to the committee and most could not even be read, let alone contemplated or investigated.

“Imagine how insulted farmers feel today after taking the time to write submissions, only for Labor to treat them with contempt.

“While I am pleased to officially open the WAFarmers Conference today, I stand with farmers who feel angry with the way Labor has treated them,” he said.

“One of the most important messages I have for today’s opening of the conference is that a future Coalition Government will reinstate the live sheep export trade.

“The Nationals don’t need an inquiry to understand the consequences of phasing out the live sheep export trade.”

WAFarmers president John Hassell said he was “more than disgusted” the evidence he provided was going to be knocked back because it was attached to a “supposedly pro forma submission”.

Mr Hassell told Sheep Central he was concerned that the inquiry would turn out to be a “cheap, nasty stunt” to get out of holding a full Senate inquiry into the proposed trade phaseout, especially as some documents he tabled relating to the Awassi Express incident were not considered by the House of Representatives committee.

Mr Hassell’s submission and an attachment of documents relating to the Awassi Express incident was among many submissions submitted via Sheep Producers Australia that were considered by the committee to be ‘pro forma’.

“With the evidence that has been given to this inquiry we really need to have a full Senate inquiry.

“This can’t be just a cheap nasty stunt by the government to get out of having the full Senate inquiry,” Mr Hassell said.

“This is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card for the government not to have a full Senate inquiry.”

The Australian Livestock Exporters Council and Sheep Producers Australia expressed concern that submissions submitted on a SPA template provided to producers all had to be personalised and were not to be counted as unique individual submissions.

ALEC chief executive officer Mark Harvey-Sutton said he considered the inquiry a “a whitewash.”

“That’s all it is – it’s a sham, that’s exactly what it is.

“They’ve cherry-picked all the activists’ and union evidence and ignored all the agricultural evidence.”

Mr Harvey-Sutton said there is an urgent need for a Senate inquiry and ALEC is already speaking to the Senate crossbench for support.

“It’s definitely on the card, we need for that to happen.”

SPA also supports a Senate inquiry

Sheep Producers Australia CEO Bonnie Skinner said there must be a Senate inquiry into the bill and it must be held over an extended period.

“The Standing Committee has failed to provide enough time for our industry to present the complex implications of this bill.

“To say it has been a rushed process thus far is an understatement,” she said.

“There simply must be further and proper scrutiny of the bill.

“Failure to allow this will reflect poorly on the government – and the parliament – charged with making policy in the interests of all Australians,’ Ms Skinner said.

“There must also be further hearings held in the sheep producing and southern cattle regions of Western Australia so all local businesses, families and communities expected to be affected by the bill can have their voices heard.

“More time must also be allowed for existing submissions against the bill to be considered,” Ms Skinner said.

“We understand the standing committee has received more than 8000 submissions so far; however, we do not believe there is enough time for all these reports to be read by Friday.

“Further, Sheep Producers Australia is deeply concerned that submissions provided to the standing committee using the Sheep Producers Australia submission template are not being treated as individual submissions,” she said.

“We provided a submission template which allowed people to provide information based on their own businesses and personal experiences.

“We did not provide a ‘one click’ pro forma submission to simply increase the volume of submissions.”

Ms Skinner said while SPA does not know exactly how many submissions have been provided using its template, “we would consider it egregious for these submissions to be considered as pro formas – and ultimately discounted.”

“The people using our template have taken time out of their lives and businesses to put their views forward.

“To simply dismiss these submissions would be more than unjust,” she said.

“Everyone deserves a voice in this matter – most of all those whose livelihoods are on the line.”

RSPCA welcomes inquiry outcome

The RSPCA welcomed the committee’s endorsement of the bill to phase out live sheep export, paving the way for the legislation to pass the Parliament without delay.

RSPCA Australia chief science officer Dr Suzie Fowler said the committee heard that live sheep export has cumulative and inherent animal welfare issues that are simply unfixable.

“It hasn’t been fixed, and there is simply no way it can be fixed.

“The sheep welfare issues inherent to the trade are not ‘old’ problems – they have not and cannot be adequately addressed by regulatory change,” she said.

“We’re pleased that the committee has recognised this and recommended that the bill be passed.

She said independent observer reports show that sheep are still frequently suffering, starving and sick on board these vessels.

“We’re also heartened to see an overwhelming response from animal-loving Australians, with over 6200 submissions made to the inquiry in support of a phase out, Dr Fowler said.

“We also note the committee’s recommendations reflect a commitment to ensuring a better future, including the consideration of additional measures in the future to support Australian farmers and the supply chain to transition away from live sheep export as soon as possible.

“We look forward to the Bill passing the Parliament as soon as possible, to legislate the end date of 1 May 2028 and put an end to this unnecessary and unfixable trade once and for all.”

Committee acknowledges submission disappointment

In its advisory report, the committee acknowledged that some stakeholders will be disappointed not to see their individual contributions or names listed in the report or on the committee’s website.

“The committee recognises it is vital that stakeholders be given the opportunity to contribute to the inquiry, comment on the bill being examined, and that as great a range of views be heard as is possible.

“It is the committee’s view that the criteria used to process contributions to the inquiry, as detailed in Chapter 1, did not detract from capturing the opinions and sentiments expressed by stakeholders on this important issue.

“While more personal stories, views, and opinions could not be made available on the committee’s website, these contributions are captured and reflected in the broader analysis of contributions that express support for and against the bill.”



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  1. Brendan Mahoney, June 24, 2024

    Gillard and Ludwig did it in 2011, Albanese and Watt doing it again.
    The Brett Cattle Company headed up the class action and sued the federal government for about $2.5 billion. Labor and the Greens – be careful in the next election where preferences are going. You might be surprised.

  2. Beth Green, June 21, 2024

    Having been involved in multiple livestock-based public consultations, animal activists have always submitted pro forma submissions. Exactly the same content.
    Sheep Producers Australia provided a template that gave industry somewhere to start in a process they don’t do often, and which directed required individual input, and ultimately allowed contributions in the ridiculous timeframe permitted.
    Helping and representing its members is exactly what a peak council is supposed to do. They are also there under the Red Meat MoU with government to advise government on livestock issues, yet a final announcement was made without seeking that advice.
    Government is not holding up its end of the bargain.

    It would be good if media asked the out-of-date vet advisers and RSPCA to provide the evidence quoted about the ‘unfixable conditions’. Don’t just report – validate.

    Any more news we should drag up from 2011?
    I wonder if Ms Johnson is using the same phone she had in 2011. Or has she made improvements??

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