Article by: Hari Yellina
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has stated that Labor will not prohibit the sale of live sheep during this term of government, giving producers some certainty. Murray Watt, the Agriculture Minister, said Monday that the government will prohibit live sheep exports by air and sea. “We keep our promises, whether they’re in this industry or not,” he remarked. Labor confirmed its plan to halt Australia’s $92 million live sheep trade, which it claimed had been in decline for 20 years, just weeks before the federal election. “No one was imagining a phase-out in this term of administration,” Mr Albanese said today on ABC Radio Perth.
“We went into the 2019 election with a longer time frame in mind than a single term of office,” he explained. “We understand that the farmers who may be listening to your programme put in long hours and deserve to be acknowledged.” Animal welfare concerns have prompted Labor to propose a ban on the trade. Mr Albanese added, “We also need to make sure that animal welfare issues are addressed.” “Individuals care about these concerns, but they also care about the economic implications, and I know that the vast majority of people in the industry care about the animals and their wellbeing.” “So, look, we’ll work through those difficulties so that we can move on with confidence.”
According to records from the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, 552,957 sheep were transported by sea in 2021, compared to 22,572 via air, with one death reported among air transports. Senator Watt stated that the government was aware that industry, relevant state governments, and other stakeholders needed to be consulted. “It’s not something you do in a day,” he explained. The suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia, which occurred over night 11 years ago, caused many to fear that the live export restriction on sheep might be extended to cattle. The new Agriculture Minister, on the other hand, argued that this was not the case. Senator Watt stated, “We absolutely have no plans to stop or phase out the live cattle export trade.”When asked if he had any plans to regulate the live cattle trade, the Prime Minister was categorical in his response, simply saying “no.”
Nutrien is one of the major sheep-handling firms in WA, and Leon Giglia, the company’s state livestock manager, said the Prime Minister’s remarks gave producers “some clarification.” Mr Giglia told the WA Country Hour that “there is some time for the industry and cattle producers to alter their enterprises with the understanding and acceptance that there will be a phase down.” Premier Mark McGowan of Western Australia has justified the present limitations that have been imposed on the local sector. “Our belief is that the safeguards we put in place, which were the summer prohibition in the northern hemisphere… and enhanced vet and animal welfare standards put in place in the business, were appropriate at this time,” he said.
Mr McGowan said he did not agree with the newest version of federal Labor’s strategy when asked if he backed it. Senator Watt’s remarks about air exports caught Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive Mark Harvey-Sutton off guard, and he said he would seek clarification. “If it’s accurate, I think it just emphasises the policy’s ineffectiveness,” Mr Harvey-Sutton said. “Air performance is one of the most efficient ways to transport cattle. So, I think it’s entirely pointless to try to undertake a phase-out.”
Mr Harvey-Sutton expressed optimism that the business could persuade the federal government to reconsider its decision. “I believe there is still a good amount of consultation to be done,” he remarked. Meanwhile, the new Agriculture Minister stated that there are chances for meat processing closer to home. “I’d like to investigate what further we can do to move Australian agriculture up the value chain,” he said. “Of course, we want to create the best commodities in the world, whether it’s cattle, lamb, crops, or anything else, but we also want to make sure that we’re processing them into the best products.”