Government's live sheep export inquiry takes just a week to give bill the greenlight

21 June 2024
Pic: AgriShots
An article by  Natasha Lobban

The Australian Parliament’s Agriculture Committee has given its stamp of approval for legislation to end live sheep export by sea.

The committee on Friday released its report into the Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Bill 2024, after conducting two public hearings in Canberra and Muresk, Western Australia, last week.

The report recommends that the bill be passed.

Committee Chair, Ms Meryl Swanson MP, said: "The bill fulfils the Albanese Government’s election promise to end the live export of sheep by sea while providing time and money for the orderly transition of industry to new avenues of production and trade."

"This matter has been extensively canvassed by governments and communities. The time has come to transition away from this trade. Like all transitions, it will not be without pain, but the outcome will provide industry with long-term certainty in line with community expectations."

In addition to recommending that the bill be passed, the Committee has made two recommendations including that the Australian Government:

  • considers making additional funding available to support the industry transition, potentially through the 2026 stocktake of industry progress; and

  • continues to seek opportunities to work with the Western Australian Government to refine and implement the transition support package.

The committee received more than 13,000 contributions from people supporting and opposing the bill and offering feedback on its contents.

Australia’s peak farm body savaged the report, with Acting Chief Executive Charlie Thomas labelling the inquiry process a “hoax” designed to sideline the concerns of farmers.

“We’re talking about cancelling an industry. Cancelling people’s jobs and livelihoods," Mr Thomas said.

“This ban is already causing real pain and suffering, and it will lead to a lot more.

“To rubber stamp the suffering this ban will cause with just two public hearings and four business days for submissions is shocking.

“13,000 submissions were received. Thousands of those haven’t even been processed. Questions on notice have gone unanswered.

“This report is nothing but a political hit and run on the hard-working people whose livelihoods are at stake.”

The NFF called on the Government to make good on its commitment to a Senate Inquiry.

“We had a commitment from Minister Watt in Senate Estimates that he would back a comprehensive Senate Inquiry to unpack the merits of this policy. It’s time to make good on that," Mr Thomas said.
“This is clearly an incredibly complex and contested issue with a lot to unpack. We call on all Senators to urgently refer this to a Committee so that scrutiny can get underway.”

The full report can be found on the Committee’s inquiry webpage.

Meanwhile, the ‘go-ahead’ to the Albanese Government’s proposed ban on the live export of sheep by sea has been strongly rejected by Sheep Producers Australia and WoolProducers Australia who said the decision was rushed, unprofessional and thoughtless.

Sheep Producers Australia CEO Bonnie Skinner said the Inquiry into Export Control Amendment (Ending Live Sheep Exports by Sea) Bill 2024 was seeking to phase out an important supply chain which provided jobs and supported families, small businesses, and country towns.

“The people on this committee have not listened to the impact this decision will have on communities or small towns. They're also refusing to read submissions written by producers who have taken time out of their businesses to put their views forward. It’s absurd” Ms Skinner said.

WoolProducers Australia CEO Jo Hall said she wanted the people sitting in Canberra to think about the respected and hardworking men and women in the sheep industry who underpin regional Australian economies for decades.

“They’re offering a ludicrous compensation package which will barely touch the edges of what will be needed to support families and their businesses,” Ms Hall said.

Sheep Producers Australia and WoolProducers Australia both said the policy to ban live sheep exports by sea, purportedly to protect the welfare of sheep, was poorly conceived, lacking in evidence, and driven solely by a political agenda.

“The transition package, contingent with the passage of the Bill, is inadequate and does not meet the stated objectives of the Albanese Government to grow onshore processing or increase the value of production for Western Australian sheep producers, or protect the industry in any way,” Ms Skinner said.

Both Ms Skinner and Ms Hall reiterated the Government had not undertaken adequate analysis or due diligence to properly understand or mitigate the negative economic, competition, and social consequences of the ban of live sheep export by sea.

“We won’t stop fighting for what’s right,” Ms Skinner said.

“We’re in this to the end and we will continue to support and defend our Western Australian producers,” Ms Hall said.


News that inspires, educates and celebrates life and work in regional Australia.