Live Export

Live sheep export regulator expects no WA farmers to exit

Terry Sim, May 31, 2024

Live sheep export regulator Andrew McDonald in Senate Estimates: not expecting WA sheep producers to exit the industry.

WESTERN Australian farmer leader John Hassell has hit back at a live sheep export regulator’s comment that the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries is not expecting farmers to exit over the proposed trade phaseout.

In Senate Estimates yesterday Nationals Senator Matt Canavan and other senators over several hours grilled Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt and the department over the phaseout policy’s impact, transition package, timeline and political influences.

Senator Canavan asked how many farmers was the government expecting to exit the sheep industry as a result of the live sheep phaseout policy.

Reacting to an “all of them” comment from Senator Perin Davey, Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt retorted that “absolutely not all of them (farmers)” were expected to exit.

“In fact, as a result of our $107 million transition package we want to build a very secure long-term future for WA sheep farmers in the same way as has occurred in every other state that got out of live exports.”

However, DAFF live sheep export regulator Andrew McDonald then told the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee: “Firstly, as the minister said we are not expecting farmers to exit and the (independent phaseout) panel, in fact, said that it saw a future for sheep farmers going forward, particularly in WA.”

When Mr Canavan sought clarification as to whether Mr McDonald was suggesting that not a single WA farmer would exit farming as a result of the ban, Mr McDonald said: “That’s a different question.”

Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt in Senate Estimates yesterday.

Mr Watt said he didn’t think “anyone is saying that not a single current sheep farmer in Western Australia will exit the sheep industry, whether it be for this reason, or for drought or for other reasons.”

“Just as each and every day, farmers in different parts of the country enter particular sectors and exit particular sectors.”

However, Mr Canavan said: “I think we’ve established that it’s going to be more than zero will leave because of the ban on live exports.”

Mr Watt said he was saying that he was not sure whether anyone could predict how many sheep farmers will leave the industry because of the phaseout policy.

“What I’m saying to you, is that I am sure there will be people in WA who leave the industry, there will be people go into the industry and that will be for a range of reasons.

“My message to Western Australian farmers, is that from the government’s perspective there is no need for them to leave the industry because of this decision,” he said.

“And I know there is a lot of talk out there and there are predictions that will happen and there is a lot of commentary about this, but our plan is to build and extend the processing industry in WA.

“As it is, it is only about 12-14 percent of sheep in WA are turned off for live export,” Mr Watt said.

“That is a pretty small proportion of the sheep industry; the vast majority are already sent to processing and what we want to is build up the processing industry over the next four years so that sheep farmers can remain profitable in WA and all that would change is that sheep would be processed onshore, creating more jobs and more value-adding rather than sent offshore.”

Watt recklessly indifferent to the truth – Canavan

Senator Canavan told Sheep Central that Senate Estimates last night saw “the Labor Minister that has concocted an independent panel process to shield himself from the inconvenient truth about the harm that will be inflicted by his government’s shut down of an agricultural industry.”

“The Labor Minister has not even bothered to read a government commissioned report that was critical of his government’s ban.

“The last time a Government Minister was this recklessly indifferent to the truth was when Joe Ludwig banned the live cattle trade,” he said.

“At least Joe had the excuse of acting in the panicked fallout from the Four Corners documentary.

“Joe Ludwig’s reckless indifference was an act of passion, Murray Watt’s reckless indifference is premeditated,” Senator Canavan said.

“Now the minister claims that a $64 million fund (just $16,000 per farmer) will help.

“How is a farmer going to transition to another industry with an amount that less than the cost of a Suzuki Swift?”

“What’s worse is that it appears that farmers will have to compete against each other for these limited funds in a Hunger Games-type process,” he said.

“Not only is the government being indifferent to the pain they are inflicting on people, they are being heartless too.”

Sheep farmers already planning to exit

WAFarmers president John Hassell, speaking while in the KeepTheSheep convoy demonstration in Perth today, was incredulous at Mr McDonald’s claim and an admission by Mr Watt that he had not read the Episode Three report commissioned by the live export phaseout panel.

Mr Hassell told Sheep Central his stock agent had told him that at least three clients who said that have “had a gutful of the uncertainty in the industry and were pulling the pin on sheep altogether.”

“He said they told him as soon as the price gets back to $100 they’re out.”

Mr Hassell confirmed that WA sheep producers could not get sheep into abattoirs, prices in the saleyards were so low that farmers were unwilling to risk them being declared as of ‘no commercial value’ and sheep had been shot and buried on farms.

“The trouble is if you get them in there (the saleyards) and they are of ‘no commercial value’ it costs you $25 to have them destroyed.”

Although Mr Hassell said the Federal Government needs to take financial responsibility for the current impact of the phaseout policy on the WA industry, he said WAFarmers position is not to accept the transition package, which seems unlikely to come into effect until a Senate inquiry into the phaseout is conducted and legislation making live sheep exports by seas illegal is passed.

Mr Hassell said the KeepTheSheep campaign — that began with a huge convoy of trucks and other vehicles through Perth today — was doing a fund-raising campaign to finance the targeting of five marginal electorates in Western Australia to “roll” the Albanese Government at the next election.

“So the point is, it’s not negotiable, we don’t want the package, it’s worth nothing.

“The industry is actually worth $1 billion to the economy every year, not just $143 million, it’s a billion and they want to through $100 million at it, what an insult,” he said.

“I think what they’ve done is they’ve decimated regional Western Australia.

“The only option here is to reverse this decision because they have completely misread the damaging effect it is going to have.”

Mr Hassell said the Albanese Government is not taking any responsibility for what is happening in WA now. However, it seems the transition package will not be available until a Senate inquiry is held and the Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Bill is passed through Federal Parliament.

In a media release yesterday, Minister Watt said the legislation to formalise the end date for the export of live sheep by sea from Australia on 1 May 2028 tabled in parliament yesterday contains provision to get the transition funding rolling, with assistance to those who need it.

“We have taken our time to listen to all views and get this right.

“Nevertheless, with a timeframe in place and money on the table, farmers and supply-chain participants can now plan with confidence for the future,” Mr Watt said.

Once the legislation is passed, more information on the transition support programs will be available in the second half of the year to assist people to start preparing, the release said.

A spokesperson for Mr Watt told Sheep Central the government will make further announcements about the transition package at a future date.

The spokesperson said it is routine for Senate committees to hold inquiries into legislation before the parliament.

“Senate inquires always occur before the final vote on the legislation in the Senate.

“It’s a regular part of the deliberations taken by the Senate when considering the Bill.”

KeepTheSheep convoy overtakes Perth

ALEC CEO Mark Harvey-Sutton speaks at the KeepTheSheep rally in Perth.


KeepThe Sheep spokesman for the Benno Sutherland said more 1000 vehicles participated in the demonstration and the support from city residents was “overwhelming.”

“I couldn’t believe how many people supported us in the city and the amount of people who showed up today is really heart-warming.”

Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive officer Mark Harvey-Sutton rode in a truck in the convoy and said that the mood on the ground in Western Australia reflected the dismay with the policy.

“I am pleased to be here, standing together with farmers and uniting to have this disastrous policy reversed.,” he said.

“We hope that the people of Perth join with us in supporting this,” he said.

“It’s not just a policy that will hurt farmers.

“The impact on the entire sheep supply chain will hurt families throughout WA.”

The convoy was organized by the KeepTheSheep campaign that has received over 15,000 signatures on a petition aimed at halting the proposed live sheep export ban.

“We won’t stop fighting this ban and it will be an election issue for the Government in Western Australia and beyond.”



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  1. Barry Hodnett, June 1, 2024

    Banning the live sheep trade, is just another nail in the coffin for farmers. The elite is pushing us to eat Bill Gates insects. Fact. Meat eaters are generally found to be more healthy and productive. Notice the worldwide political aggression against farmers.

  2. Tom Silcock, June 1, 2024

    The government hasn’t paid the allocation of damages to halting the cattle export trade yet. They have already caused so much financial ruination and financial damage from their intended live sheep ban announcement over the past 12 months right across Australia. The sheep industry will survive, but why do they have to cope with government caused financial losses on top of the normal seasonal and market challenges? They can’t even recognise the financial damages they have already imposed.

  3. Glenn Nix, June 1, 2024

    Lies, denial and bullshit . These guys are in touch with reality like Donald Trump. It’s never their fault. If people are not mating and others are giving sheep away for free, just what do they think that means? 550,000 sheep trucked east because the meatworks can’t cope and then add live export sheep, and these people think it’s all fine.

  4. Beth Green, May 31, 2024

    $600 million for an offshore footy team that will return nothing to the country.
    $107 million to close a legitimate global food source for reasons that are no longer valid.

    – How much has industry already invested to meet the improvements demanded of it since 2017?
    – How much has this government invested over the years in establishing the live export market?
    – How much producer levy money has been spent establishing these markets and safeguarding the welfare at destination?

    Far more than $107m.

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