Live Export

Prime Minister called out on ‘keep the sheep’ comments

Sheep Central June 19, 2024

ALEC CEO Mark Harvey-Sutton: welcomes trade phase-out reprieve.

AUSTRALIA’S peak livestock exporter body has hit back at Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s belittling of the Western Australia sheep industry’s Keep The Sheep campaign messaging.

Mr Albanese was asked in a Radio 6PR interview yesterday if the Federal Government had miscalculated the backlash to its live sheep trade phaseout policy.

The Prime Minister was told that more than 57,000 people have now signed the Keep The Sheep petition in support of reversing the policy to phase out live sheep exports by sea.

“No. It’s interesting, the term that you use, ‘keep the sheep’ in favour of actually not keeping the sheep, but those sheep leaving Australia’s shores,” Mr Albanese responded.

“It’s live export, it’s not ‘keep the sheep’.

“And we clearly have a position where we’ve given four years notice,” he said.

Prime Minister Albanese at Beef 2024.

Mr Albanese said the phaseout policy had been taken to two elections, with an extensive process and an inquiry before the date – 1 May 2028 – was decided. He reiterated that the sheep meat industry was worth billions of dollars compared to his estimate of the live sheep trade’s worth of $80 million, less than the value of the Federal Government’s $107 million transition package.

Mr Albanese said he thought that “overwhelmingly, Australians want this industry to end.”

“And that’s why the campaign isn’t saying, “keep live sheep export,” it’s saying, “keep the sheep.” How are the sheep being kept?

“If they’re being put onto these vessels for weeks in conditions which have seen real concern about animal welfare and real loss of the jobs that can be created if we value add, as overwhelmingly our sheep exports, our lamb and our mutton overwhelmingly isn’t in the form of live sheep,” he said.

“It’s in the form of the product, which is the best in the world. And it’s a product we can be very proud of and farmers can be very proud of the role they play in producing that product.”

PM tried ‘a tricky play on words’ – ALEC

However, the Australian Livestock Exporters Council today said the Prime Minister tried “a tricky play on words” in the interview by saying he wanted to ‘keep the sheep’ by banning live exports and had effectively dismissed the Keep The Sheep signatories.

ALEC CEO Mark Harvey-Sutton said the Prime Minister had failed to read the room on the public’s support for the campaign and that his disdain for agriculture was plain to see in this latest interview.

“It’s bad enough that the farmers, truckies and communities in Western Australia have to put up with the current sham of an inquiry being conducted by the Labor-dominated House of Representatives committee.

“On top of this, they now have to listen to the PM poking fun at them, continuing to parrot activist talking points and repeatedly insinuate that the government’s “transition package” is generous,” he said.

“Overwhelming evidence has been presented to the government’s inquiry by agriculture groups about the devastating impact this ban will have.

“It will not create the thousands of jobs the government and their union and activist mates are touting,” Mr Harvey-Sutton said.

ALEC said the Western Australian State Government has estimated the transition of the industry would cost $123 million per year for 10 years and the Western Australian Meat Industry Authority told the House of Representatives inquiry into phaseout legislation that more than $400 million in investments would be needed for WA sheep meat processing facilities to successfully transition.

“It is economics 101 – if you remove competition from a market, there is less value in production.

“Less competition means farmers will walk away from sheep farming altogether, meaning less sheepmeat production,” Mr Harvey-Sutton said.

“Not only is the PM taking an economic contribution away from WA, he and his government are wilfully driving into a policy that will ultimately increase prices on the supermarket shelf.”

Mr Harvey-Sutton said it takes a lot for farmers to get angry, but now they are being patronised by their own government and openly treated with contempt.

“Australians aren’t stupid.

“They can smell a dud policy when they see one and it’s not just farmers being treated with contempt,” he said.

“The Australian community is being lied to while rural communities are being devastated. This is no laughing matter, Mr Albanese.”


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  1. Wayne Arnel, July 7, 2024

    Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is hell-bent on mainly activist and ideology policy and nothing of any significance for the future of Australia, whether that be in farming, real manufacturing processes, defence commitments or sensible opportunity in regards to energy infrastructure. The faster this inept government is voted out of office the better for our countries future. His intentions of appealing to a small contingent of activists with the destruction of the lamb industry by stopping exports is pathetic, not to mention lacking common sense.

  2. Rob Alver, July 6, 2024

    Queenslanders must get rid of Murray Watt. What Watt is doing to WA farmers you can bet he will do to your ag and fishing industries to please the activists. And of course Albo, do not trust him to look after any Queensland people in business. You will be his next target.

  3. Rob Alver, July 2, 2024

    Where are you Sam Kekovich? The Australian ‘Lambassador’. The sheep farmers need you now before we won’t have lamb on the supermarket shelves anymore. Thanks to you Albo, these farmers and their families will transition away from farming sheep all together.

  4. Kerry Lee Angel, June 30, 2024

    The government should leave the sheep industry to the farmers. They know what they are doing and are the best ones to know how to run this industry. They’re not mugs. They know their sheep and collectively earn this state of WA a significant income. It’s about time the Albanese Government paid some attention to what really matters to all Aussies and leave the farmers and their sheep alone. I’m a fourth generation farmer now retired. I grew up helping my grandfather and father in the sheep yards and the shearing shed.
    Keep the pressure on. They won’t win this one.

  5. Rob Alver, June 28, 2024

    Mr Albanese, when you first became Australia’s PM you promised you would look after all Australians. Who or Watt happened for you to go back on your promise?
    How can you ask voters to respect and trust you with their vote if they now know you can’t be trusted?
    Sheep farmers, along with all farmers on the land, are some of the hardest working Aussies you will ever meet. Don’t do this to them, go and meet them in these small towns and see for yourself.
    Thank you Kate Chaney for supporting the sheep farmers; you are a real person, unlike some MPs.

  6. Rob Alver, June 28, 2024

    Keep the sheep, not the government.

  7. Rob Alver, June 27, 2024

    Go ahead Albo, make jokes and laugh if you must, but “He who laughs loudest laughs last”.
    You are no different to Julia Gillard’s “All Australians want this” a quote we heard many times. It didn’t do her much good did it. Come on mate, did you learn nothing with your vote?

  8. George Hamilton, June 21, 2024

    Albanse’s point in ““And that’s why the campaign isn’t saying, “keep live sheep export,” it’s saying, “keep the sheep.” How are the sheep being kept?” isn’t immediately clear. Nevertheless, he is alluding to the methods not of ‘possessing’ sheep, but of their well-being and comfort.

    I have circumspection about the dissertation of Mr. Harvey Sutton. This makes no commercial validity “if you remove competition from a market, there is less value in production” Please explain.

  9. Colin Trengove, June 19, 2024

    The PM can make his smug comments on radio about the Keep The Sheep campaign and think he is being witty, but federal Labor is not prepared to release the findings of the inquiry into the live export trade as it would be damaging to their argument. Blind Freddy can see that Labor policy is based on heavy lobbying from animal activists and a proportion of the public completely ignorant of any factual aspect of farming. It also totally ignores the best interests of the agricultural community.

    The baseless argument that it will boost the local meat processing industry in WA overlooks the benefit of alternate marketing options for sheep producers and the remarkable improvement in the welfare standards of the live sheep export trade. It also ignores the limited opportunity for chilled meat trade as well as religious customs in the Middle East.

    The welfare standards for live sheep export from Australia are the best in the world equivalent to those in the feedlot industry and far exceed those of foreign competitors that will fill the void left if Australia is forced to exit the live sheep export trade. However, animal activists and the Labor government are not concerned about the welfare of sheep beyond Australian shores. They can think this policy is a laydown misere at their peril.

    • Katrina Love, June 20, 2024

      What inquiry?

      Labor’s policy is based on science, current and historical data. The fact is that the trade can’t or won’t be regulated despite majority community sentiment and the expert opinion of hundreds if not thousands of vets.

      Sheep are still suffering from heat stress, succumbing to conditions on board that they would not be affected by in the paddock. Anyone comparing on-farm mortality rates would have to be losing seven fit-to-load, healthy sheep every three weeks, but not from drought, flood, fire, lambing, exposure or predators to equal the mortality rate that industry is so proud of.

      I can tell you from two decades of interaction with both, that is the “farmers” not the public, who are ignorant about the facts of exporting live sheep to the Middle East for fully conscious slaughter.

      By “best interests of the agricultural community”, are you questioning why most Australians think it’s wrong to subject sentient animals to long-haul transport, three weeks at sea and fully conscious slaughter, because it’s convenient for a few sheep producers in WA? Sheep producers who, by the way, have not been ruined by the 5.5 million decline in the number of sheep exported from 2001 to 2022, but will suddenly see the ruination of their lives and communities by ending that last 500-600k with a transition phase and financial and tactical assistance from the federal (and I hope) the state governments.

      How do you figure there is a limited opportunity for the chilled meat trade when the Middle East chilled meat trade ($632 million) is worth eight times the value of the entire live sheep trade ($77 million)? Every ME country we export live animals to, except Israel, imports chilled beef and/or sheep meat from animals stunned and Halal slaughtered in Australia.

      Other countries already export live sheep, including Jordan, who we send live sheep to. Those countries don’t NOT export because we do. We have no control over the on-board conditions for their animals – never have had and never will have. The conditions won’t get any better if we stay in the market and they won’t decline if we leave. It’s important to note that voyages from most of the countries that would fill the gap are much shorter than from Fremantle – up to 17 days shorter.

  10. Jason Gordon, June 19, 2024

    The real problem is this government chose inner city preferences over a viable Australian industry.
    If you look at old photos of any industry you would ban it today.

  11. Katrina Love, June 19, 2024

    It’s a valid point. The first thing I thought when I saw #KeepTheSheep for the first time was “absolutely – we (the activists and the millions of other Australians who want to see an end to the trade) have been saying for decades, keep the sheep off the ships and keep the sheep in Australia.”

    Why would those who want to keep sending the sheep, i.e. not keeping them, be asking to keep the sheep?

    Bizarre marketing ploy, but I guess it helped them get thousands of signatures on their petition from other people who also want to #KeepTheSheep safe.

    • George Hamilton, June 21, 2024

      I think Albanese is proposing that ‘keep the sheep’ actually means ‘keep exporting the sheep.’

      Mr Harvey Sutton is reported as saying:
      “Australians aren’t stupid.
      “They can smell a dud policy when they see one and it’s not just farmers being treated with contempt.

      “The Australian community is being lied to while rural communities are being devastated. This is no laughing matter, Mr Albanese.”

      The mixed metaphor “they can smell a dud…..when they see one” ….makes me smile. However, if Australians are ‘not stupid’ why do they need his explanation?

      Livestock exporter beneficiary Mr. Harvey-Sutton considers that rural communities are being devastated. I doubt that is owed to live sheep export.

      He does however unwittingly give support to animal activists which have shown irrefutably that the ‘Industry” is far less concerned about the cruelty than about the profits gained by live export, no matter how many thousands die horribly during he voyage….and that is setting aside the treatment they receive on arriving.

  12. Glenn Nix, June 19, 2024

    All hat and no sheep.

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