Live Export

Private members motion sparks live export debate

Sheep Central, March 28, 2024

ALEC CEO Mark Harvey-Sutton.

AUSTRALIA’S peak livestock exporter body has condemned the arguments of Labor politicians speaking against a private members motion supporting live sheep exports in Federal Parliament this week.

The Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council yesterday warned Labor MPs speaking on live sheep exports were simply using tired and factually incorrect arguments in parliament when debating the private members motion put forward by the Member for Grey, Rowan Ramsay on Monday.

ALEX chief executive officer Mark Harvey-Sutton said the debate gave a clear view into the easily refuted arguments that the Federal Government will try and use to ban the trade when they finally respond to their independent Panel’s report.

“The government (members) only had tired old talking points, some even citing examples from up to 40 years ago,” he said.

Mr Ramsey’s motion outlined the importance of the live export trade to the Western Australian economy, condemned the Federal Government’s “reckless and ideological decision” to shut down the export of live sheep by sea, calling for the factual evidence and science underpinning the decision.

The motion also called for the release of the sheep trade phaseout report by the Federal Government and outlined the findings of the Coalition’s Agriculture, Water and Environment Backbench Committee’s meeting with farmers in South Australia and Western Australia. The motion also urged the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry urgently re-open the inquiry into the grooming of and payments made to Faizal Ullah by Animals Australia. Click here to read the parliamentary debate.

Labor MPs defend sheep trade phaseout policy

Coalition members supported the motion, while Labor MPs argued that the live sheep trade was declining as the boxed meat trade was growing and Australia should value-add sheep here rather than export them live.

During the motion debate Labor member Steve Georganas said: When you see thousands and thousands of sheep on these ships—and we’ve seen all the images on TV and in the newspapers—every Australian will tell you that they are cruel images.

“We want to see value-adding to help farmers be able to export more meat, ensuring that it’s done in a humane way and in a way that most people would accept and that is not cruel to those animals.”

Labor MP Libby Coker said the Albanese Government is committed to phasing out live sheep exports but said farmers must be supported in the transition.

“None of us want to see another crisis like what happened on the MV Bahijah,” she said, referring to the vessel’s forced return to Australia by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry while in transit to Israel with a sheep and cattle cargo.

Labor MP Tony Zappia told parliament the government’s phaseout policy has not yet taken effect, “so to argue that farmers are struggling because of an end to the live sheep export trade is absolute nonsense and, quite frankly, dishonest.”

“The policy is one that Labor has committed to, but it has not come into effect as yet,” he said.

Mr Harvey-Sutton said the live sheep export industry has reformed, and it is growing.

“In 2023 volumes were 30 percent higher than 2022, all while this policy has hung over the industry’s head.

“We have also sent approximately 40,000 sheep to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2024 – a market that only reopened this year,” he said.

“To call the trade defunct is insulting in the extreme to the thousands of farmers in WA that have said their businesses rely on the trade.

“The argument that chilled or boxed meat will replace live animal exports is also a fallacy,” Mr Sutton said.

“Many of our international trading partners already take chilled meat, but remain our largest markets for live animals.

“Ignoring their preferences and market demand is an arrogant position for Australia to take,” he said.

“Numerous strategically important trading partners in the Middle East have made representations to the government to this effect – yet they go unanswered.

“The government puts more at risk than international investment in agriculture with this attitude.”

Mr Harvey-Sutton also said the way covernment MPs “parroted anti-ag groups’ lines” regarding stock onboard the MV Bahijah was concerning and disappointing.

“Misrepresentations and half-truths about the animals onboard the Bahijah is another argument that is easily refuted by facts.

“It is also worth noting that this consignment included 5000 head of cattle,” he said.

“A call for bans due to the Bahijah, means a ban on cattle too. Is this what this government really wants? What will be next?”

“If the government really wants to convince the Australian public, particularly the Western Australian public, of their reasons to ban the trade they will have to do better than standing up and reading activist talking points,” Mr Harvey-Sutton said.

“I would suggest they go back to the drawing board and come up with some factual arguments. Or better yet – drop this ridiculous policy that can only cause harm to Western Australians – particularly its farmers.”

“If I want legal advice I would ask a lawyer. If I want medical advice I ask a doctor. If I want advice on farming I would ask a farmer – it speaks volumes that the government is not listening to those that work in this profession.”



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