Live Export

Senate passes law to ban Australia’s live sheep exports by sea

Sheep Central July 1, 2024

Australia’s Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt debating the bill to end live sheep exports by sea.

THE ALBANESE Government’s policy to ban live sheep exports by sea from Australia on 1 May 2028 was passed into law tonight, despite vocal opposition from several Nationals, Liberal and Independent senators.

However, in a secondary win for a Western Australian sheep industry now destined for transition, Greens amendments to limit shipments and phaseout the trade in 2026 were denied with the support of government senators.

In a ‘guillotined’ debate bypassing the usual committee referral stage, the Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Bill 2024 passed the Senate by 33 votes to 30 after amendments from Opposition and Greens were lost.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Murray Watt said the bill’s passing was a significant moment for animal welfare and enabled the rollout of a range of financial assistance under the $107 million phase out transition support package.

“We made a commitment at two elections to phase out the export of live sheep by sea, after years of community concern about the trade.

“Around 70pc of West Australians support ending this industry and the Parliament has now acted,” he said in a statement.

“The Albanese Government’s transition plan provides certainty, time and support.

“This law is a critical foundation for transitioning towards the end of the trade,” he said.

“This legislation delivers certainty for the sheep industry to make decisions for the future by enshrining the 1 May 2028 end date.

“Sheep producers, the sheep supply chain and trading partners can now plan and take action with confidence, knowing there is four years until the trade ends,” Mr Watt said.

Minister Watt said the Albanese Government is committed to supporting the sheep industry to continue to thrive, including by leveraging more onshore meat processing, particularly in Western Australia.

“Live sheep exports by sea from Australia have been plummeting over the last 20 years.

“It’s an industry that’s been in long-term decline with the evolution of global food supply chains, and it now represents less than 1pc of Western Australia’s agriculture sector.

“At the same time demand for our lamb and mutton is going through the roof, both here and overseas – and just as other states have moved from live exports of sheep to more onshore processing, that’s the high-value future for Western Australia,” he said.

“The fact is Australians and our trading partners buy a lot more processed sheep meat than live exported sheep.

“Our sheep meat exports are worth $4.5 billion and the domestic industry worth $3.5 billion, while the live trade is worth just $77 million.”

Mr Watt said enhancing demand for Australian sheep products in Australia and in other international markets is a key component of the government’s transition plan.

“The government will work with a range of delivery partners to stand up programs to assist with the transition and appoint a Transition Advocate, as recommended by the independent panel which consulted widely with interested parties.

“I remain optimistic for the future of Australia’s sheep industry and WA’s sheep industry for that matter,” he said.

“I’m confident that the transition package will continue to take the sheep industry and the communities of Western Australia forward.”

Greens and RSPCA celebrate ‘huge win’

The Greens said bill’s passing delivered a huge win for the party, as well as animal welfare advocates, organisations and whistleblowers it said had tirelessly campaigned “to shut down this cruel trade for years.”

The government opposed several amendments to the bill proposed by the Greens. These included bringing forward the end date to 1 May 2026; reducing the number of sheep exported each year until the ban is in effect; requiring independent observers and veterinarians to be on all live sheep export ships until the ban is in effect and imposing a ban on ships travelling to the Northern Hemisphere between 1 May and 31 October each year in line with the Northern Hemisphere summer, until the full ban is in effect.

Deputy Leader of the Australian Greens and animal welfare spokesperson Senator Mehreen Faruqi said shutting down the cruel live sheep export trade is a historic win for every single person who cares about animal welfare in this country.

“Years of pressure and activism has finally forced Labor to see the writing on the wall and set the date to end this brutal trade. Animals should never be fodder for the profits of a cruel industry,” she said.

“A huge congratulations to the community, animal welfare organisations and activists who have fought tooth and nail for this barbaric trade to end once and for all.

“I’m proud that the Greens have always been on the right side of history when it comes to animal welfare,” Senator Faruqi said.

“We will finally stop these ships of misery from ever sailing again.”

Senator Faruqi said while Labor opposed her amendments to bring forward the live sheep export end date to 1 May 2026 and to improve animal welfare to reduce the suffering of sheep, the party would be vigilantly monitoring the trade until it ends.

RSPCA Australia welcomed the bill’s passage, with chief executive officer Richard Mussell calling for government, industry and the animal welfare sector to accept the decision and work together towards a better future for Australian sheep.

“Like the whole animal welfare community, we’re feeling a mix of emotions today,” he said.

“But most of all we’re relieved.

“Relieved that, from 1 May 2028, sheep will no longer be sent on long-haul journeys that the animal welfare science overwhelmingly tells us puts them at a great risk of suffering,” he said.

“Relieved that so many MPs and Senators, from across the Parliament, have supported the phase out and seen this legislation for what it is – about animal welfare.

“And relieved that soon, disasters like we’ve seen so many times involving Australian sheep at sea will be a thing of the past as we put this shameful chapter of Australia’s history behind us and protect the welfare of sheep,” he said.

“Australia is now truly leading the way for animal welfare, with this definitive commitment to ending live sheep export by sea and transitioning to a more sustainable and humane future.”

Opposition amendments fail

The government said the passing of the bill strengthened animal welfare and opened up opportunities for more jobs and value adding in Western Australia, but senators opposing the legislation repeatedly cited its current and expected negative impact on the Western Australian sheep industry, regional communities and business.

A number of Opposition amendments that delayed the eventual passing of the bill failed to get the support of the Senate.

Senator Michaelia Cash unsuccessfully sought to amend the bill to state “the Senate notes that this legislation, in banning the export of live sheep, is a clear demonstration that Prime Minister Albanese and WA Federal Labor Members and Senators are turning their back on the shearers, the truck drivers, the fodder suppliers, the livestock agents, the farmers, the producers and their families—whose livelihoods depend on a vibrant sheep export industry”.

WA Senator Slade Brockman sought to have the bill be referred to the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 5 September 2024.

Am amendment from Senator Bridget McKenzie called on the government to reverse its policy to shut down the industry, and sought recognition that it was widely opposed, that the industry employed more than 3000 people and had reformed with high standards of animal welfare. The amendment also criticised “the government for the mismanagement and lack of consultation on this policy to end live sheep exports with farmers, sheep producers and impacted communities.”

In a separate amendment, Senator McKenzie sought an independent review to be conducted of the operation of the amendments made by the bill.

No livestock industry is safe – Littleproud and NFF

Leader of The Nationals David Littleproud said Labor has turned its back on the farming industry today, after ignoring a delegation of Western Australian farmers and obtaining the numbers needed in the Senate to phase out live sheep exports.

Mr Littleproud said Labor had once again treated farmers with contempt, ignoring pleas from groups including Keep the Sheep, Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council, Sheep Producers Australia, the WA Shearing Industry Association, Wool Producers Australia and The Livestock Collective, who spent the day at Parliament House in a last-ditch attempt to persuade Senators to save live sheep exports.

“Today is a devastating day for the farming industry in Western Australia and around the entire country.

“Farmers now know Labor is willing to sell them out and shut down a successful, world-class trade based on ideology,” Mr Littleproud said.

“No amount of reform matters to Labor.

“It means any future industry, including live cattle, could be next.”

NFF President David Jochinke said the decision had been met with widespread dismay from farmers who had invested into significant reforms for the trade, resulting in world-leading animal welfare outcomes.

“Farming communities have been sold out for political gain, and they’re gutted.

“The government vowed to kill off the jobs of farmers, shearers and truckies in WA,” he said.

“Whether it was fixing the outcome of the Independent Panel or the House Inquiry, or backflipping on senate scrutiny and guillotining debate – the government pulled out every trick to silence those affected.”

Mr Jochinke said unless the ban is reversed, farming communities, animals and Australia’s strategic trade partnerships will all suffer.

“We now have a dangerously unscientific precedent that will be celebrated tonight by groups who want to shut down Australian livestock production.

“This isn’t just about live sheep,” he said.

“This government has just told every farmer in Australia to sleep with one eye open.”

Mr Jochinke paid homage to the Western Australian communities who are continuing to ramp up their fight for the trade to stay and said the NFF will continue to stand with them.


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  1. Sharon Bourne, July 8, 2024

    Congratulations on this decision. No one could consider sending live sheep, over long distances by sea, inhumane.

  2. Winton Nazzari, July 5, 2024

    What a disgraceful decision to ban the trade. If it was in decline and obsolete, why ban it?
    If Murray Watt was really interested he would address the processor issues we have in WA first and let the processors outcompete the live exporters and let market forces rule the day.
    They spend $400 million on a referendum, $500 million on a rugby team in Papua New Guinea and Mark McGowan had to throw out $650 million dollars of COVID testing kits he personally ordered that were never required.
    They ban a lawful industry and offer $107 million with no plan on where that money goes.
    I am completely at a loss.

  3. Trisha Boyce, July 5, 2024

    A wonderful result for sheep. You can’t tell me putting a sheep on a boat for weeks with standing room only, stuck in their own excrement and no paddocks to graze in, is not cruel.

  4. Nadia Edinger, July 2, 2024

    I can’t believe what I saw on the news about the ban of the live sheep export on channel 9 at 6pm. One politician said the WA people voted for it and came through. When di this occur. I can’t remember seeing any promotional content to say ‘have your say’. I would have voted against the ban. Our farmers will suffer and so will every cosumer. Prices will go up. The politicians don’t care as they are all very well off financially.

  5. Adrian Carey, July 2, 2024

    This is just another failure of the Federal Government that will have its way without considering the people it will leave stranded.
    Let’s get rid of these parasites next election and put in a decent government.

  6. Iris Iwanicki, July 2, 2024

    I am sad that the delay will mean more sheep shipped out during hot weather. If permitted, this will result in more animal cruelty. In addition, the halal killing of live sheep results in live sheep purchased at the destination being inflicted more pain when purchasers who have no regard for humane killing. If the animal industry has any regard for animal welfare, surely the industry can set up systems that demonstrate animal welfare concerns are being addressed?

  7. Laurie Tonkin, July 2, 2024

    Where are the facts to support the ministers statement that 70 percent of Western Australians support the ban on live sheep export?
    I think 70pc plus support live export. Show me the evidence.

    • Paul Vallely, July 3, 2024

      I think I can help you there Laurie. In May 2023, professional research company McCrindle polled 800 West Australians, asking if they supported the live export ban — 72 percent of city respondents and 69pc of rural respondents stated they agreed with the ban. The poll was commissioned by the RSPCA.

      • Glenn Nix, July 3, 2024

        What passes as rural Paul; Bunbury and Mandurah? No one I know down here where all the towns end with ‘up’ has been polled, and 800 people, really? What sort of push polling was done? Ask the good people of Boyup Brook or Kojonup and all are in favour of live sheep exports.

    • Katrina Love, July 2, 2024

      Every poll taken on live exports since 2011 has shown majority support from between 68 percent and 85pc support for an end to the trade. The latest independent poll was commissioned by RSPCA. Details here:

      • Tom Casey, July 5, 2024

        City slicker support. They don’t care about country people or their choices.

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