NATIONALS leader and Shadow Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has called on the Albanese Government to immediately release the findings of the independent panel report into phaseout of live sheep exports by sea.
The call came today after the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics claimed during a Senate Estimates hearing yesterday that there was no link between lower sheep prices and the phaseout policy.
ABARES executive director Dr Jared Greenville also told the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee that the bureau had not analysed the impact of the policy on livestock values nor spoken to any farmers.
Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt told Senate Estimates yesterday he would receive the livex phaseout panel report today and intended to release it publicly, but did not give a date.
Under questioning, Mr Watt said he expected the report would make recommendations on a phaseout date. The government has been under pressure from animal welfare groups to declare a phaseout date in the current term of government.
Mr Littleproud said Labor must be transparent about the report. The report was prepared after receiving more than 4000 submissions from stakeholders, mainly in Western Australia, the state that will be hardest hit by the proposed phaseout.
“Minister Watt should have the courage of his convictions and immediately release the scientific and economic modelling behind his decision,” Mr Littleproud said.
“Labor is destroying the livelihoods of 3000 people who work in the trade and an industry worth $85 million.
“Minister Watt didn’t have the courage to travel with the panel and look farmers in the eye himself to say he was stopping the trade – so the least he can do is release the report,” Mr Littleproud said.
Livestock price levels not linked to live export phaseout
During the Senate Estimates hearing yesterday, ABARES executive director Dr Jared Greenville said ABARES’ assessment is that there was no link between the live sheep export phaseout policy and lower domestic prices. Although he also admitted that ABARES had not done the work
“The underlying drivers in these markets are relat4ed to climate, supply and rebuilding of the national herd and flock.
“We are seeing the same impact on prices in the east as we are in the west, and the live export avenue is still open,” he said.
“We are seeing producers still accessing that avenue as a way to turn off animals, so the core drivers really are … we are in a position where we’ve got a large number of animals, a high ability to produce, we’ve had good seasonal conditions.
“And as you would expect when supply is high and demand is low, the price is falling.”
However, under questioning from Western Australian Liberal Senator Slade Brockman on the issue of lower farmer confidence as highlighted in a Rabobank survey and the impact of government policy on WA sheep producers, Dr Greenville said he was not completely discounting it “but we don’t think it is driving the market at this point in time.”
Nationals Senator Matt Canavan noted no analysis on the impact of the proposed live sheep phaseout on sheep prices in a recent ABARES report. Dr Greenville said ABARES’ assessment of the current livestock price situation was not in the report. He said although he was not saying that confidence did not move markets, ABARES’ assessment was that confidence was not enough to move the markets beyond where the key drivers – supply and seasonal conditions – had influenced the market.
Dr Greenville would not answer when asked if he believed the live sheep policy had had no impact on livestock prices “because we haven’t done the specific bit of work.”
“Our assessment is the key drivers in these markets are unrelated to the announced policy position.”
Mr Littleproud added he was dismayed ABARES admitted in Senate Estimates that it hadn’t done any work on the ban’s impact on sheep prices, despite ABARES advising Minister Watt on the issue.
“The trade has actually increased by 41 per cent since 2021/2022.
“But Minister Watt made decisions based on what animal activists wanted, rather than thorough and detailed advice,” Mr Littleproud said.
“Farmers have lost confidence, with sheep prices plummeting. Minister Watt has turned his back on the live sheep industry.
“If Minister Watt is so confident in his decision and the science behind it, details about the Independent Panel Report must be released,” he said.
“A future Coalition government with The Nationals will ensure the live sheep export trade is saved. Unlike Labor, The Nationals support Australian farmers and their exports.”