Live Export

WA farmer leaders boycott meeting with Ag Minister Watt

Terry Sim, February 19, 2024

WAFarmers president John Hassell.

WESTERN Australian sheep industry leaders will meet with Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt today, but Prime Minister Anthony Albanese won’t make the meeting.

And WAFarmers president John Hassell, Pastoralists and Graziers Association Tony Seabrook have boycotted the meeting after being denied a meeting with Mr Albanese.

However, both WA farmers bodies will send representatives to the half hour meeting, Mr Hassell said. Federal Cabinet is meeting in Perth today.

On January 9, WAFarmers wrote to Mr Albanese and Mr Watt requesting a meeting, but the Prime Minister “almostly instantly” declined, Mr Hassell said.

“We think that’s a bit of a snub, but we’re not going to die in the ditch over it.”

Mr Watt only notified WAFarmers last Monday that he would meet with them today in a half hour meeting and restricted to two people from the organisation at a location of his choice, and including two live exporters.

“So I just said I’m going to send my Grains councillor (president Mark Fowler) and my Livestock councillor (president Geoff Pearson) and I’m not going.

“He’s treating us with contempt,” he said.

“I think we’ve treated him (Mr Watt) with respect the whole way through.”\

Watt behaving like a dictator – Seabrook

PGA president Tony Seabrook.

Mr Seabrook said a PGA letter recently requesting a meeting with Mr Albanese was not acknowledged.

“I told him we don’t behave in the same way that European farmers do, but we are just as angry and frustrated and we will react in the appropriate manner, at some point in the future.”

The PGA leader confirmed he would be boycotting the meeting with Mr Watt today.

“We need a minister to engage with us and I’m more than happy to meet with him.”

Mr Seabrook said two live export companies were also been invited to the meeting, but he believed they have also declined to attend. PGA would send staff, but not members, he said.

“It just gets worse and worse; if it had just been John (Hassell) and myself and we had half an hour, it still would have been a futile meeting.

“But when the live exporters were there together, the minister would drone one for at least half that amount of time, and John and I both came to the conclusion that it is a day out of our lives to be there and we just don’t have any opportunity to interface,” Mr Seabrook said.

“We’re both more than happy to meet with the minister, but he needs to be serious about it and 30 minutes it not serious.

“There is no respect shown in what Watt has done,” he said.

“He is the Minister for Agriculture, for, he there by the privilege of the electorate that elected him to offer good governance in his role and he is behaving like a dictator.”

Mr Seabrook said the farmer bodies were never told when Federal Cabinet was going to be in Western Australia or where it would meet.

“I think the Prime Minister is terrified of the optics of protests and things, so we’ve been kept in the dark.”

Last month, Mr Hassell said he wanted to ask Mr Albanese and Mr Watt to abandon the proposed phase-out of live sheep exports, or risk a political backlash in marginal seats in Western Australia and other states.

Mr Pearson today said it was hoped to achieve some outcomes on where the WA industry was heading and live export was high on the agenda, as well as biosecurity.

“We’re going to go with some key questions for the minister and hopefully we get some key outcomes.”

Littleproud also calls for PM to meet WA farmers

Leader of The Nationals David Littleproud also today called on Mr Albanese to meet with live sheep export farmers during his Cabinet visit and meeting in Western Australia.

Mr Littleproud said the Prime Minister owed it to live sheep farmers to give them the decency of listening to their concerns.

The Nationals leader said the Prime Minister and his Cabinet are treating Australian farmers with contempt by hiding the live export phaseout panel report in Cabinet, despite previously committing to providing more certainty by the end of 2023.

“The absolute least they can do is give farmers the respect of a meeting.

“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.

“It has now been 117 days since the report was delivered to Agriculture Minister Murray Watt and farmers are desperate to understand the impact of phasing out the industry and what will happen to them,” Mr Littleproud said.

Mr Littleproud said given the live sheep export trade is one of the most important issues in the state, it should be a top priority.

“The Prime Minister and his Cabinet are turning their backs on farmers while failing to give them answers.

“If Labor is so confident in the decision to phase out the industry, why won’t they release details of the report?,” he said.

“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.”

Mr Littleproud said WA Premier Roger Cook must use the Prime Minister’s visit to fight for farmers.

“It is imperative Premier Cook uses this visit to show east coast politicians the importance of the live sheep export market and ensure Labor reverses its senseless decision to end live sheep exports.”


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  1. Darryll Smart, February 20, 2024

    Petulant and childish, rendering themselves even more irrelevant to the modern producer.

  2. Glenn Nix, February 19, 2024

    I can’t remember state ag representatives ever boycotting an ag minister before. Surely Watt needs sacking. Albo in WA won’t meet either, gutless. Come all this way to ignore us, wow. But no doubt there will be a media blitz and they will be all smiles and handshakes.

  3. Ron Piggott, February 19, 2024

    Well done WAFarmers. As a farmer/grazier all my working life, together with 20-plus years in live export on ships, we know what we have achieved — they do not. Typical arrogance of a lame Labor government.

  4. Katrina Love, February 19, 2024

    Tony Seabrook:

    “He is the Minister for Agriculture, for, he there (sic) by the privilege of the electorate that elected him to offer good governance in his role and he is behaving like a dictator.”

    Ahhh… Watt is a Queensland Senator, so none of these whingers from WA voted for or *could have* voted for him even if they wanted to.

    Seabrook has the honour of the most clueless sheep producer I’ve ever had the experience of talking to- He is ignorant about the trade, ignorant about sheep and apparently, now ignorant about politics.

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