Legislation to phase out live sheep exports passes through Parliament

The Australian Senate has today passed legislation enshrining the phase-out of live sheep exports into law

This is how it went down for up to an estimated 3,000 farm and associated industry people who will have their livelihoods reduced or even eradicated by this legislation.

The Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Act 2024 went ahead with a Senate vote of 33 votes for and 30 against enacting the bill.

Federal law now prohibits exporting live sheep by sea from Australia by 1 May 2028.

Opponents to the bill sit on the farm industry side of the fence while animal activists have convinced a slight majority of the Senate to enact the ban.

Those for the bill have been campaigning vehemently since 1985 when a Senate Select Committee on Animal Welfare reported that, if a decision were to be made on the future of the trade purely on animal welfare grounds, there was enough evidence to stop the trade.

It has taken almost another forty years, but that decision was made late on Monday night the 1 July 2024.

Put in simple terms, live sheep exports by sea will be phased out over the next four years.

Farm industry representatives voiced strong opposition to the bill right up to the death knell, requesting a Senate inquiry into the legislation.

The Keep the Sheep delegation sat down with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Monday afternoon in a last-ditch effort to put off the Senate hearing. But all to no avail.

Even though the legislation has passed, the group still intends to point iut the devastating impact it will have on farming communities involved in the live sheep exports.

It is expected the group will mobilise a campaign against Federal Labor MPs by targeting every marginal seat across the country.

In addition, Keep the Sheep is another body representing farmers who it says will be significantly impacted by the passing of the bill, with an estimated 30% of wealth lost by participants with live sheep exports being banned.

Put bluntly it is Western Australian farmers that will be the most impacted by the new law, currently the only market that exports live sheep by sea.

Agriculture Minister Murray Watt has advised parliament there is compensation available to anyone affected by the new legislation in the form of a $107 million transition package .

However, several industry bodies and affected farmers have reviewed the compensation package and have previously outlined why the $107 million is inadequate.

NFF surprised legislation passed

National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) president David Jochinke said farming communities have been sold out for political gain.

And has this to say, “The facts are that unless this ban is reversed, farming communities, animals and Australia’s strategic trade partnerships will all suffer.

“This is a dangerous precedent to allow outside groups to shut down our livestock production industry. This isn’t just about live sheep. This government has just told every farmer in Australia to sleep with one eye open,” David Jochinke concluded.

Labor losing ground to The Nationals

The Federal Labor government has made it clear it will back campaigns against farm operations with the recent fresh food tax that would have impacted farm incomes being barely defeated in its present form. See story here.

Farmers appear to be voters that Labor is prepared to antagonise if presented with a group with high numbers that may favour them at the next Federal election due by 25 September 2025. Not far off.

In August 2023 Federal Labor was presented with a Parliamentary petition signed by almost 44,000 voters calling on the government to legislate a date to end live sheep exports. The numbers worked.

Coming from an entirely different perspective is The Nationals leader David Littleproud who said Labor had turned its back on the farming industry and was treating farmers with contempt.

David Littleproud elaborated, “Today is devastating for the farming industry in Western Australia and around the entire country.

“Farmers now know Labor is willing to sell them out and shut down a successful, world-class trade based on ideology.

“This decision is simply Labor bowing down to animal activists, even though Australia has the world’s best animal welfare standards. It is senseless to remove ourselves from the market as the Middle East will simply find other suppliers and they may not have our high animal welfare standards.

“There is plenty of time to sit down and make sure that people understand and have explained the science and the economics of why this industry should not be shut down,” David Littleproud concluded.

The numbers that swayed Agriculture Minister Watt

• The Independent Panel on the Phase out of Live Sheep Exports submitted its report to government on 25 October 2023 following a six month inquiry, which held 14 public forums attended by over 2,000 people in rural areas of WA, and received over 4,100 submissions, 80% of which it is purported to have supported the phase-out

• Australian chilled sheep meat exports are 58 times the value of the live sheep export trade ($4.5 billion v $77 million, 22/23, ABS).

• The chilled sheep meat export trade to the Middle East alone is 8 times the value of the entire live sheep export trade ($632 million v $77 million, 22/23, ABS).

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