Live Export

Silence from Minister Watt on live sheep export questions

Terry Sim, May 3, 2024

Everyone wants to know where live sheep exports are heading

AUSTRALIA’S Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt seems unwilling to offer Western Australia’s struggling sheep industry or live export opponents any certainty in the lead up to the Federal Budget, despite pressure from most stakeholders.

Mr Watt has offered no comment to Sheep Central’s query on whether Australian voters, Western Australia sheep producers, live exporters, Middle East trading partners or live export activists could expect any Federal Budget announcements to give certainty on the proposed sheep trade phaseout.

Minister Watt: no comment on live sheep exports

Specifically, Sheep Central listed the key areas of interest as the release of the live export panel report, any proposed phaseout timeline with end date, short or long-term financial transition assistance, a legislative timetable or even WA domestic meat processing industry initiatives or assistance.

The Western Australian request to relax the Middle East Northern Summer shipment moratorium by 10 days has also yet to receive a Federal Government response.

The Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council said that while the last week had brought a brief reprieve for WA farmers with the WA State Government’s $8.6 million assistance package, the silence from Mr Watt was deafening.

ALEC chief executive officer Mark Harvey-Sutton said it was disappointing that there was no response from Canberra to the calls of farmers from WA, particularly when it is the government’s own proposal to ban live sheep that is undermining confidence.

“The Albanese Government can inject much needed confidence into the market immediately by withdrawing their proposed ban.

“We know that there’s times of drought and oversupply and farmers plan for that. Let me be very clear – this is not the fault of farmers. Instead, it is the ‘bloody mindedness’ of a government interfering in legitimate market. All to pursue an activist driven agenda,” he said.

“The best the government has been able to come up with is pointing to growth in markets such as the UK, India and China which, while incredibly important and valuable, generally seek a different product to that provided by WA.

“To go so far as to categorise the WA industry as remaining strong, in the current circumstances, shows a complete detachment from meat industry dynamics, the view of the WA Government and Farmers regarding the situation on the ground,” Mr Harvey Sutton said.

“The Albanese Government cannot shirk its responsibility.

“In the face of all scientific evidence and data, the government are going to ban a trade that is crucial to setting prices and underpinning confidence in the west,” he said.

Mr Harvey-Sutton said WA Minister for Agriculture Jackie Jarvis’ call for delay in the moratorium on shipping is a significant acknowledgment of the trade’s importance, “yet it seems to be sitting in Minister Watt’s inbox with no public acknowledgment of the request.”

“For the Commonwealth Government to remain silent in the face of a disaster they have caused is shameful and contemptuous to WA’s crucial farmers.

“All Western Australians are rightly appalled by how their farmers’ livelihoods are being destroyed by Canberra.”

Mr Harvey-Sutton said it is imperative that Minister Watt listens to WA farmers.

“To be honest, I think the budget is going to be the last thing on farmer’s minds as they’re simply getting through day to day presently.

“They want transparency from the government on this issue and answers as to why it isn’t taking responsibility for their current predicament,” he said.

“The entire agriculture industry is aligned in saying the potential ban is a red-line issue and will be disastrous for WA farming families and it is proving to be.

“Rather than announcing anything in the budget on the phase out, they should be announcing that they’ve got their policy wrong, its hurting people and they won’t be proceeding with it,” Mr Harvey-Sutton said.

“Instead the government should invest in more worthwhile things that address the cost of living rather than activist vanity projects.

“Minister Watt has demonstrated this week that he isn’t listening to farmers.

“The best thing that Minister Watt can do to support Western Australian sheep farmers and their families is to reverse the policy to ban live sheep exports.”

SPA has also applied for federal support

Sheep Producers of Australia chief executive officer Bonnie Skinner said the peak body had also independently requested additional support from the Commonwealth for WA farmers.

“While producers are working through their own seasonal strategies to manage the prolonged dry season the current market conditions are making it difficult to move certain classes of stock off farm.

“The Commonwealth may be limited in its capacity to deliver on-ground support directly to farmers; however, any further assistance that can be provided to the Western Australian government to assist affected producers, in whatever form that may take, should be provided so as a matter of priority,” she said.

“Sheep Producers Australia will support any move to enable flexibility on the commencement date of the live sheep moratorium and adding additional air freight access for sheep meat exports out of Perth.

“Producers, communities, and the whole live export supply chain need to hear from the Commonwealth as to the findings of the independent panel’s report on the phase out of live sheep exports by sea.”

Animal protection bodies urge Albanese to honour commitment

Alliance for Animals co-founder and director of policy & government relations Dr Jed Goodfellow said the Labor Party promised during the 2022 federal election that it would phase out the export of live sheep by sea.

He disclosed this week that on 18 April the alliance and 10 other animal protection groups had written to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese urging him to honour the election commitment “by legislating a definitive end date to the cruel trade within this term of parliament.”

“Now, almost two years have passed since the election and six months have passed since the independent panel provided its advice on the phase out, and we are yet to see this promise fulfilled,” Dr Goodfellow said.

He said the upcoming Federal Budget on 14 May presents the ideal time for the Albanese Government to act. Last week, with 10 other leading animal welfare groups, the alliance drafted a joint open letter to the Prime Minister.

Labor playing politics with panel report – Littleproud

Leader of The Nationals David Littleproud told Sheep Central Labor refuses to release details of its independent panel report into the consequences of phasing out the live sheep export trade, because the so-called scientific modelling simply doesn’t exist.

“Labor is playing politics with the report and the sooner it is released, the better.

“Labor’s policy to phase out the live sheep export trade is based on ideology rather than the practical, economic and cultural reasons of the trade,” he said.

“Animals Australia and the RSPCA, who have been activists in this debate, have lost their moral compass.

“It defies common sense to value the welfare of a sheep in Australia above that of a sheep from another country. Our high ethical standards are in fact one of the many reasons we should stay in the trade.”


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Your comment will not appear until it has been moderated.
Contributions that contravene our Comments Policy will not be published.


  1. Katrina Love, May 4, 2024

    “…Labor refuses to release details of the independent panel report…” or, with less drama and sensationalism, Labor is yet to release details of the IP report?

    It’s probably the one thing Littleproud and I agree on though – the report must be released, but some of the more rational among us can understand if they are not rushing into anything, given the Gillard government/Joe Ludwig decision to implement what equated to an overnight ban on all live cattle leaving Australia for Indonesia and the ensuing class action. Can anyone blame them for being tight-lipped and getting all their ducks in a row first?

    I do hope to see provision for a transition package for producers in the budget, and the imminent release of the report and an accompanying timeframe for a speedy phase-out – for the animals, for the voters who considered Labor’s live sheep export ban policy in casting their vote, to give certainty to sheep producers and associated industries.

    Another factor to consider is that once an end date is announced, any relatively good operators in the industry are going to move on/get snapped up in other arms of the animal agriculture industry and live sheep export will be left with the cowboys and dodgies. Yet another reason to set a date and a short transition period and get it done in the quickest possible timeframe. The trade can’t — won’t — be regulated currently. Imagine what it’s going to be like when any half-decent stakeholders get out.

  2. Beth Green, May 4, 2024

    Very well put Mark Harvey-Sutton. Fact over fiction. Keep asking for the report that justified the ‘promise’ in the first place.

  3. Glenn Nix, May 3, 2024

    We need some foot in the door journo to chase this Ag minister and bombard him with questions, and actually embarrass him on a current affair program. Nothing else seems to work on this bloke, with him and Albo ignoring Western Australia and hoping we will go away.

Get Sheep Central's news headlines emailed to you -