Live sheep export ban laws triggers opposition outrage

The Nationals say laws to ban live sheep exports by sea will destroy livelihoods in WA.

The Nationals say laws to ban live sheep exports by sea will destroy livelihoods in WA. Photo: AAP

A controversial ban on the live export of sheep by sea has been slammed as ripping away the livelihoods of thousands of farmers.

The federal government introduced laws to the lower house on Thursday that would commit to banning live exports by May 2028.

The laws would still allow for live sheep to be exported but only by air, following animal welfare concerns.

The government has set aside $107 million for an estimated 3000 farmers in Western Australia who would be affected by the shut down of the industry.

Introducing the legislation, Infrastructure Minister Catherine King said a planned phase-out date would provide certainty to the industry, rather than imposing harsher measures.

“This is the right thing to do for sheep welfare outcomes, but the government recognises that it does need to be done in a way that allows for an orderly transition,” she said.

“It is expected that phasing out live sheep exports will see this sector adapt through more sheep meat processing in Australia. Value adding can increase farm-gate returns. It keeps jobs in Australia and it boosts regional development.”

But Nationals leader David Littleproud said the government was letting down farmers.

“It’s important that when a government is about to make such an important decision … that they show them the respect, not the contempt they have shown these men and women , who have lawfully gone about their business,” he told parliament.

“What contempt would a government do that to its own people … their livelihoods are being ripped away from them all because of ideology.”

Attempts by the Nationals to have the laws examined by a parliamentary committee failed.

Littleproud said while the live export industry had committed mistakes in the past, it had implemented animal welfare reforms.

“We have been able to make sure that the animal welfare standards in (countries that receive sheep exports) now mirror ours, but if we cut and run, that is lost,” he said.

“We should be proud of the fact that Australia is leading the world and has led the world in imposing these standards that have been adopted around the world, but this government wants to cut and run and cut 3000 livelihoods out of Western Australia.”

The coalition has vowed to overturn the laws should it win the next election, with farmers from WA intent on making it a major election issue.

Labor pledged to end live sheep exports after more than 2000 sheep died from heat stress in 2017 while travelling on a ship from Australia to the Middle East.

Under the laws introduced to parliament, penalties would apply for those who continue to carry out live exports.

While the laws affect live sheep exports, other live exports such as cattle would be allowed to continue by sea.


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