Live Export

Watt unapologetic on short consultation for live sheep inquiry

Sheep Central, June 5, 2024

Minister for Agriculture Murray Watt in Senate Estimates last week.

MINISTER for Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Murray Watt is unapologetic about giving the sheep industry only a week to make submissions to a House of Representatives inquiry into legislation ending live sheep exports by sea.

The House Standing Committee on Agriculture yesterday commenced an inquiry into the Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Bill 2024, that will end the live sheep export trade by sea from 1 May 2028.

Committee chair, Meryl Swanson, said that the bill fulfils the government’s election promise to end the live export of sheep while providing time and funding for industry to adjust to the end of the trade.

The announcement came just days after Senator Watt acknowledged in Senate Estimates last week that there would be a Senate inquiry into the legislation.

Stakeholders have been encouraged to contact the committee secretariat as soon as possible to register their interest. Submissions to the inquiry will be open until 11 June 2024. The committee will hold two public hearings for the inquiry in Canberra on 12 June 2024 and in Muresk, Western Australia on 14 June 2024.

However, Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive officer Mark Harvey-Sutton declared the move was “outrageous” and an attempt by the Albanese Government to jam through a policy that is universally unwanted across the agriculture industry.

“This is another typical move from a government that has tried to rush in a policy that puts farmers out of business, as well as risks WA’s small towns going broke,” he said.

Last week in Parliament, the opposition’s urgent motion in the House Representatives to commence an inquiry was defeated by the government. Instead of agreeing to it, the government declined, but has now backflipped and given industry just seven days to respond to the inquiry, Mr Harvey-Sutton said.

“Unfortunately, this is typical of the Minister’s entire approach to this issue. It is radio silence and then eleventh-hour notification to industry. It’s not the approach that farmers or industry deserve,” he said.

“In Senate Estimates last week the Minister was clear that he promised a Senate inquiry.

“However, he is now walking back from that promise to the safety of the government’s majority in the House of Reps. For farmers, contractors and other people in these WA communities who make long term decisions about their businesses to only be given a week to tell their stories is shameful.”

Mr Harvey-Sutton said last week the Minister failed to front farmers and their 3000+ supporters as the convoy, which stretched over 20km and involved over 1700 vehicles through Perth took to the streets, in one of the largest protests ever seen in Australian agricultural history.

“This policy is ruinous and a Senate Committee that he promised is now not happening. Such a committee needs to listen to WA farmers, instead of looking for votes from inner city activists.”

Inquiry is disingenuous – Littleproud

Leader of The Nationals David Littleproud said Labor’s inquiry into the phase out of the live sheep export trade is once again disingenuous.

Mr Littleproud said Labor has allowed just one week for submissions and has requested the committee report back in just over two weeks from now, by June 21, despite two public hearings in both Western Australia and Canberra.

“Labor’s committee cannot possibly investigate the consequences into the phasing out of the live sheep export trade in such a short timeframe,” Mr Littleproud said.

“This is another example of Labor treating our farmers with contempt.

“The committee The Nationals tried to obtain would have been given until 8 October, 2024, to report back, allowing thorough and proper investigation, instead of Labor’s rushed inquiry,” Mr Littleproud said.

“Farmers deserve answers, because Minister Watt is now avoiding a Senate inquiry and still unable to explain the science behind closing the industry and destroying the livelihoods of 3000 farmers.

Watt

However, Sheep Central has been told the House of Representatives committee is only conducting an inquiry into the legislation, not the policy implementation by government. That work was undertaken over seven months by the independent panel, his office advised.

Mr Watt was asked if the calling of the House of Representatives inquiry meant there will be no Senate inquiry as suggested by Minister Watt in Senate Estimates and he said: “Whether a Senate inquiry is held is a matter for the Senate.”

Mr Watt did not directly comment on whether the inquiry represented him “walking back” from his assurance that there will be a Senate inquiry and retreating “to the safety of the government’s majority in the House of Representatives.”

“I consider it important an inquiry into this legislation is undertaken prior to passage in either chamber of the parliament,” Mr Watt said.

“An inquiry held by the House committee would enable the participation of members whose electorates have a strong interest in the legislation.

“Furthermore, the bill will provide appropriate legislative authority to implement programs under the $107 million transition support package,” Mr Watt said.

“Making this funding available as soon as possible will support sheep farmers, processors and supply-chain businesses to plan and make decisions appropriate to their circumstances.

“Questions about the timing and location of the hearings is best directed to the committee,” the minister said.

The House Standing Committee on Agriculture will examine the provisions of the Bill and its application to the live sheep export trade, especially in Western Australia. This includes the end of live sheep exports by sea and authority for Commonwealth spending to assist sheep farmers, businesses and communities to prepare and adapt.

“There are a range of views on this issue.

“The Committee is looking forward to meeting and talking with stakeholders in Western Australia,” Ms Swanson said.

“The public hearing in Muresk will provide an opportunity for the Committee to meet those most affected.

“Anyone who would like to share their views on the Bill can engage with the Committee in a number of ways including by making a written submission, or attending a public hearing where the Committee plans to hold a community statements session,” she said.

Further information about the inquiry, including how to make a submission, can be found on the Committee’s website.

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Comments

  1. Sam Huong, June 6, 2024

    I’m a former taxi driver. When Ubers began taking away my business I didn’t get a handout from the government. In contrast, the Federal Labor Government warned before the last election that if elected they would ban live sheep export. Sheep producers who ignored that warning and kept breeding are now getting a government package to assist the change, and yet you are still complaining. Shame on you.

    • Glenn Nix, June 7, 2024

      How happy where you with governments that allowed uber Sam? Did they not buy back some licences? Did your troubles affect your whole community? This is what is happening in rural Western Australia. No money will reach the ground as most will go to processors and oversight. No one is giving farmers money for sheep. If we stop breeding sheep what will happen to the meatworks and allied jobs? Or are you for banning them as well? If the sheep population falls from about 12 million to 5 or 6 million those meatworks start closing. Then you can whinge about lamb chop prices when they come from Victoria or New Zealand.

  2. Joyce McConnell, June 5, 2024

    Get rid of Murray Watt, he is totally ignorant of the repercussions of the decision to ban live export of sheep. He is just kowtowing to the Greens, activists and unionists. This is a dumb decision. Labor does not understand many areas of agriculture.

  3. Dale Price, June 5, 2024

    So Ms. Swanson will go through the pretense of listening to industry’s concerns and advice in regard to the termination of live sheep exports, with an acknowledged biased position on the issue. That make this consultation exercise a farce. So Australian farmers with world leading practices can’t help people, particularly in the Middle East eat a prime source of protein, but others with substandard practices can? Isn’t this a case of ideological stupidity?

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