Live Export

Nationals Senate push for a live sheep export inquiry fails, but …..

Terry Sim June 27, 2024

Nationals Senate leader Bridget McKenzie led the fight for a Senate inquiry into legislation to phase out live sheep exports by sea.

A SECOND attempt to instigate a full Senate inquiry into legislation phasing out live sheep exports by sea failed by a close margin in parliament today, but has given Western Australian industry leaders heart their battle “is still not over.”

The pro-live sheep exports movement Keep The Sheep and supporters will travel to Canberra next week to continue the fight to raise support among senators to defeat the Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Bill 2024 to end the trade by 1 May 2028.

The first Senate motion to amend the Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Bill 2024 for the Rural and Regional Affairs Transport Committee to hold a Senate inquiry and report by September this year, was lost by 29 votes for and 33 against yesterday.

In another motion for a Senate inquiry today, again led by Leader of the Nationals in the Senate, Senator Bridget McKenzie, the affirmative vote increased to 31, versus 33 senators opposing the amendment.

Senator McKenzie today told senators the inquiry was needed “so that the thousands of small business owners GPs and school children in Western Australia could have their voices heard after “the sham of an inquiry” conducted by the House of Representatives.

“The Coalition will never stop fighting for them,” she said.

Those in favour of holding a Senate inquiry — initially supported by Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt in Senate Estimates recently — comprised mainly Nationals and Liberal senators, along with Independents David Pocock and David Van, the Country Liberal Party’s Nampijinpa Price, Jacqui Lambie and One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts.

The 33 senators voting against the motion comprised mainly Labor and Greens senators, and Independent Tammy Tyrell.

Keep The Sheep spokesperson Benno Sutherland said the second inquiry motion vote indicated the campaign supporting the trade and the Western Australian sheep industry had “done a bit of damage.”

Mr Sutherland said he was feeling more confident — “100 percent” — that the bill could be defeated.

WAFarmers president John Hassell said the closeness of the second vote led him to believe that the Keep The Sheep delegation to Canberra would not be a waste of time.

“I would actually like to meet with Murray Watt and appeal to his commonsense and decency to up hold his promise to hold a Senate inquiry,” Mr Hassell said.

In a Senate Estimates hearing last month, Minister Watt agreed with WA Senator Slade Brockman that the phaseout of live sheep exports was a contentious issue and said he was “sure” there will be a Senate inquiry into the legislation.

When Senator Brockman asked if Minister Watt would guarantee a proper Senate inquiry into the Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Bill, Minister Watt replied “of course there will need to be an inquiry”. The minister added he would “of course” expect the inquiry to have a hearing in Western Australia, adding that would be a “good idea”.

However, since then the government instituted and completed an inquiry into the legislation by  House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture whose advisory report  recommended the bill be passed, but that the proposed $107 million transition package be increased.

Mr Hassell said Mr Watt’s “sneaky dirty little House of Representatives inquiry and then brush it under the carpet doesn’t speak of much in the way of humanity at all.”

“He’s playing dirty politics and if wants to do it, do it fair, but don’t play dirty, and he’s playing dirty.

“I think that won’t hold his memory in good stead and if he wants to be a bit statesman-like do the right thing, have the inquiry, and be a decent human being, because he’s not playing that game at the minute.”

Mr Hassell said the efforts by the industry to get a fair hearing and scrutiny of the trade phaseout had turned into a “bottom of the sewer game” and “sewer politics”, and did not do the government’s credibility any good.

In backpedaling on his previous comments supporting a Senate inquiry, Mr Hassell said he believed Mr Watt had broken a “promise”, whereas the government did not want to break its trade phaseout policy promise.

“It’s another bloody broken promise.

“It is still not over.”

Fight is about transparency and accountability – McKenzie

Senator McKenzie told Sheep Central that many senators will vote for the bill, but they also believe in the right of its issues to be aired and “for industries and communities to have their say.”

She said what was clear “in the sham process that Minister Watt set up in the House of Representatives” was submissions from many people to that inquiry haven’t been made public or even considered by the committee for the writing of its advisory report.

“And we know that the Senate does have greater scope in their inquiries, they’re not controlled as heavily by the government.

“Everyone knows a Senate inquiry is a much more robust process than a House of Representatives process,” she said.

“All we’ve been asking for all week, is to send this legislation to a Senate inquiry so that these communities and industries can be heard and the impacts understood.

“That means all parties, not those in favour of keeping live sheep exports, but all sides of the argument should be able to be heard and that’s part of a vibrant democracy,” she said.

“The Labor Party has obviously shut that down with the assistance now of two senators, (Lidia) Thorpe and (Tammy) Tyrell.

“We attempted to suspend standing orders when the bill came across to the Senate from the House, I assume we are going to be debating it next week.”

Senator McKenzie said the Coalition was looking forward to welcoming and assisting the Keep The Sheep delegation talk to key crossbenchers next week.

“We are just going to keep fighting.”

The Coalition’s efforts appeared to be gaining some ground, “for those senators who actually care about transparency and accountability of government spending,” Senator McKenzie said.

“Putting these issues through a Senate inquiry is a way to give them surety, so we are going to keep doing everything we can with Senator Tyrell and the Greens.

“Giving the right for Australians to have their say is something that the Greens talk a big game on, well this is the opportunity for them to actually demonstrate that they haven’t done a deal with Labor and are prepared to silence the dissent.”

ALEC calls on Senators to ‘consider the issue properly’

Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive officer Mark Harvey-Sutton said ALEC is encouraged that the bill was only two votes shy of being referred to a Senate inquiry.

“We are calling on Senators to consider the issue properly, noting that the government-led House of Reps inquiry was a whitewash that didn’t properly consider the issues and disregarded many of the submissions.

“We hope that Senators will consider the damage this ban will do and that if the government will do it to regional communities in WA, they will do it to communities in other states,” he said.

“The moves to quash a Senate inquiry show that the government doesn’t have a commitment to transparency on this issue.

“We think they know the harm it will do and the harm it is doing them electorally and want the issue gone,” Mr Harvey-Sutton said.

“ALEC has always maintained that the policy is unfair and should be scrapped.”



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  1. Dennis Bell, July 1, 2024

    I’m writing to implore you and your fellow Senators to vote against the live sheep export ban now before parliament.
    My sister has predominantly been a sheep farmer in WA for 40-odd years and will likely be forced into bankruptcy if the reliable revenue of live sheep exportation is not available to her.
    I wish our representatives in Canberra would understand what effect this Ban will have on our farmers and associated industries, many of whom will be left destitute and what considerable damage this Ban will do to rural communities and life within them.

    Yours Sincerely,
    Dennis Bell
    Booragoon, WA

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Katrina Love, June 29, 2024

    A Senate inquiry is a redundant waste of taxpayers’ money. Everything that needed to be heard has already been raised in the House of Reps inquiry and the initial independent panel review. We don’t need to hear yet again that people will lose money; we know that a live sheep export phase-out will inconvenience a tiny fraction of WA’s population.

    Aussies get retrenched/made redundant all the time and we just have to suck it up, adapt and evolve as do those who will be inconvenienced by this policy that the majority of Australians support.

    Focus on the other 11.5 million sheep in WA who will still need truckies, shearers, feed-growers and vets.

    What sheep producer actually thinks it’s a good animal welfare outcome to send their sheep for three weeks and thousands of kilometres at sea on heaving, rolling, noisy, 24/7-fluoro-lit ships to have their throats cut whilst fully conscious?

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