Live sheep trade upbeat despite Labor stance

Terry Sim, May 4, 2022

Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council CEO Mark Harvey-Sutton dockside.

AUSTRALIA’S peak live exporter body is confident about the future for sheep exports despite confirmed reports Labor will phase out the trade if it wins government.

Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive officer Mark Harvey Sutton said he was very confident in the future of the industry.

“It’s an industry that has proven itself, that it can ship safely – it’s a very important industry to our trading partners geopolitically, so I am very confident that the industry has a future.”

The Australian Labor Party is yet to formally declare it will continue with the live sheep export stance it took to the 2019 election – to end the trade – and neither Labor leader Anthony Albanese at the party’s campaign launch in Perth on Monday, nor Shadow Agriculture Minister Julie Collins in a recent National Rural Press Club debate have offered further details.

Yet the Australian Alliance for Animals today confirmed as reported in the Australian Financial Review that Labor, in responding to a survey for a AAA political scorecard on parties’ animal welfare policies, said the trade is declining and the party would re-commit to phasing out the live sheep export trade, “consistent with scientific advice in consultation with industry and the state government.”

Alliance co-director Dr Jed Goodfellow.

Alliance co-director Dr Jed Goodfellow confirmed that Labor said in the survey that it would retain the current moratorium on live sheep exports to the Middle East during the hot Northern Summer months. Labor also committed to spend $1 million annually to set up an independent office of an inspector-general for animal welfare and outlay $2.5 million to renew the Animal Welfare Strategy.

“I assume they (the Labor Party) has the intention of publishing it (a live sheep export policy) soon.”

Dr Goodfellow said several independent candidates and standing members surveyed also indicated support for phasing out the live sheep export trade. He said the alliance wrote to about 17 political parties and surveyed candidates in about 20 electorates, focussing on the marginal electorates and those of prominent independents. The survey indicated the Coalition’s position in support of the trade, citing its “strong regulation”, had not changed, he said.

Dr Goodfellow said the alliance would be publishing the responses received from all the parties and candidates it surveyed and all the scorecards are available now.

Mr Harvey-Sutton said ALEC would let the Labor Party announce its policies, not activist groups.

“The performance of the industry has been outstanding over the last three years,” he said.

“The results speak for themselves and Labor is aware of how good the performance has been and they have given us a commitment to engage on that.

“I’ll be relying on Labor to announce their policy.”

Mr Harvey-Sutton believed Labor’s policy on the trade was the same as it was for the 2019 election.

“But it is a very different industry now.

“The performance of the industry, those results speak for themselves,” he said.

“We’ll be engaging with Labor on the issue and letting Labor announce their intentions, not activist groups.”

Labor no plans on cattle, but sheep ….

A Labor spokesperson said the party has no plans to change the live export of cattle and “will continue to support this important industry”.

“The Morrison Government’s draft report into the current ban on live sheep exports to the Middle East during the Northern Hemisphere summer has recommended that the current ban continue.

“Labor supports the continuation of the ban based on the evidence contained in the draft report,” the spokesperson said.

“Labor will have a broad animal welfare policy that we will be releasing before the election.”

WA graziers say trade is not on its last legs

The Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia today said the ALP’s commitment to phase out live sheep exports was reckless and irresponsible and that Ms Collins’ recent comments that the trade “has been reducing” – from 1.1 million in 2019 to now just over 500,000 sheep — showed how ill-informed the Opposition is about the importance of the trade to WA’s regional economy.

PGA president Tony Seabrook said Western Australia is the largest exporter of sheep in Australia, with live sheep exports worth over $136 million – making the trade a vital and important part of the WA regional economy.

“Any suggestion that the trade is on its last legs is misleading, as the only decline that the trade has suffered over the past three years comes not from a lack of demand from our overseas customers, but from the current moratorium on exports during the northern hemisphere summer months.

“In Western Australia, the live export industry is the largest buyer of our livestock, supports regional businesses, and provides much needed regional jobs, which in turn strengthens our regional communities,” he said.

“Any commitment by Labor, to phase out live sheep exports will only serve to destroy regional jobs, regional communities, regional businesses, and hard-working Western Australian regional families.

“While the Labor party is happy to throw Western Australian sheep producers ‘under the bus’ to appease a small number of animal activists who are committed to ending what is a one hundred per cent legal, humane, and variable trade, the reality is that once they phase out live sheep exports, cattle will be next,” Mr Seabrook aid.

“It is time for Anthony Albanese’s Labor party to stop trying to secure inner city votes to the detriment of regional families.”




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  1. Katrina Love, May 4, 2022

    Actually, Tony, what Labor is not willing to do, is throw the majority of Australians, who find the live sheep trade abhorrent, under the bus to appease a small number of producers.

    2017: 1,883,547 sheep exported down 727,539 = 39% decline to

    2018: 1,156,008 sheep exported down 53,897 = 5% decline to

    2019: 1,102,111 sheep exported down 304,773 = 28% decline to

    2020: 797,338 sheep exported down 227,902 = 28 % decline to

    2021: 569,436 sheep exported
    Total decline of 1,314,111 = 70% over five years and 25% decline per year on average
    The sheep trade has declined from over 6 million in 2001 to 570k – that must be around a 92% decline.

    You never have been fond of science and statistics, have you?

    With around 30 million lambs/sheep slaughtered in Australia every year, 570k isn’t exactly an unmanageable economic problem.

    • Nick Pitaluga, May 4, 2022

      That’s an interesting and informative response. Thank you for the numbers.
      Considering that yet another cattle carrier went down only very recently, with the loss of crew as well, following engine failure in seas it probably should not have been sailing in, it’s astounding that any farmers wish to risk their product and the resulting losses/waste, by marketing via this sort of method.
      Or is there an insurance pay-out on these losses?

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