Live Export

Senate told no update on live sheep phaseout date

Terry Sim, February 14, 2024

Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt at Senate Estimates yesterday.











AN end date for Australia’s live animal exports by sea remains unknown after Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt yesterday provided no update on a government response to a independent phaseout panel’s report.

Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie told a Senate Estimates hearing yesterday that Mr Watt has now had the panel’s report for 111 days.

“Sheep producers and farmers in WA (Western Australia) who have been thrown into crisis and turmoil are desperate to understand the impact on their industry

“When will that report be made public?” she asked.

“That is a decision for the government to make,” Mr Watt told Ms McKenzie and the senators on the Rural Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee.

“You are right, I did receive the panel’s report in late October and the government is considering the recommendations.”

Senator McKenzie asked if any of the recommendations being considered included to “not ban live sheep exports.”

“Well, I’m not going to go into what the recommendations of the panel are, but the government remains committed to delivering its election commitment.

“We haven’t given a timeframe for the phaseout, that’s one of the things that we sought advice from the panel on and that’s one of the things that the government is yet to decide,” he said.

She asked if Mr Watt appreciated that farmers were making long-term and seasonal decisions to buy and sell sheep, to join, lamb and to plant crops rather than graze.

“So every month you delay you I think really undermine their decision making in this space.

“Can you give them some timeline whereby they’ll have confidence they will know one way or the other what’s going to happen?”

Mr Watt said he understood people were eager to know the government’s decision.

“Having said that, we’ve always said that we want to make the right decisions and do this transition in an orderly way and that does involve taking a bit of time to consider the recommendations and work on  transition plan.

However, he reiterated that the government would not be ending the trade in this term of government.

When Senator McKenzie asked if a draft response or brief to the panel’s report was with DAFF secretary Adam Fennessy or has a draft gone to the Minister’s office, the secretary said the department was working on the report and had advised Mr Watt on the implementation of the phaseout policy.

Senator McKenzie questioned why Mr Fennessy was “being deliberately evasive”, he said the department had advised the minister and would update its advice based on any broader industry or interjurisdictional conditions or any further questions from the minister.

Mr Watt said he had not seen a draft transition plan for the trade’s phaseout.

“The department has a team of people that are working on this transition, they have been doing work on this for some time, but a transition plan can’t be finalized until the government has reached a position on the recommendations of the panel.”

Mr Watt said he also had not seen a draft government response to the panel’s report.

“I know that the department has been doing work on preparing a response.”

He said he would check if that response was on his desk.

No commitment on trade end date

Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi at Senate Estimates yesterday.

Mr Watt later told Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi he was not prepared to put a timeframe on the release of the live export phaseout panel’s report and the government’s response.

“It is obviously something that the government is considering but I think I recognized earlier that there is a range of people win the community who are eager to have a response.”

He anticipated the panel’s report will be made public when the government announced its response.

When Senator Faruqi asked if the government would legislate an end date to the live export trade by sea in the current parliamentary term, Mr Watt said: “All of these matters are yet to be decided by the government.”

Farmers treated with contempt by hiding report – Nationals

Leader of The Nationals David Littleproud said Mr Watt was treating Australian farmers with contempt by hiding the phaseout panel report in Cabinet, despite previously committing to providing more certainty by the end of 2023.

Mr Littleproud said Labor needed to be transparent about the report because lives were being kept in limbo, after a live sheep export phase-out panel travelled around Western Australia but failed to properly consult with the industry.

“It has now been 111 days since the report was delivered to the Minister and farmers are desperate to understand the impact on phasing out the industry and what will happen to them.

“It is not good enough that Minister Watt claims the transition ‘does involve taking a bit of time,” Mr Littleproud said.

“Minister Watt is turning his back on farmers while failing to give them answers.

“Labor is destroying the livelihoods of more than 3000 people who work in the trade and an industry worth $85 million but doesn’t seem to care about being transparent,” he said.

“If Minister Watt is so confident in his decision to phase out the industry, why won’t he release details of the report?

“It is becoming more and more obvious that Labor doesn’t want to release its so-called scientific and economic evidence because it simply doesn’t exist.”


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