03/05/2018 - 14:22

Labor likely to phase out live sheep exports

03/05/2018 - 14:22

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Federal Labor has effectively committed to end live sheep exports with its agriculture spokesman, Joel Fitzgibbon, telling an Adelaide radio station the party does not believe there is a future for the sector.

WA represents 85 per cent of national live sheep exports.

Federal Labor has effectively committed to end live sheep exports with its agriculture spokesman, Joel Fitzgibbon, telling an Adelaide radio station the party does not believe there is a future for the sector.

“We don’t (want) to force a transition or force this live sheep sector out of business,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“We want to work with the sector towards that transition.

“We believe and understand it will take not months but years, but it should not take anything like a decade.

“We need to begin this transition now and do it in an orderly way so that our farmers aren’t adversely affected.

“We see a future for sheep meat producers.

“We see a bright future for meat processing here in Australia ... a bright future for jobs in that industry, but Labor does not see a future for the live sheep export sector.”

It follows weeks of debate about the future of the industry sparked by television footage of poor conditions on a live export vessel that had departed Fremantle for the Middle East.

The industry's biggest player, ASX-listed Wellard, was not involved in the recent controversy; nonetheless its share price has slumped this year to just 12 cents, close to its all-time low of 10.5 cents recorded last September.

WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan called for tougher restrictions on live movements in the months of the Middle Eastern summer, while Victorian federal Liberal member Sussan Ley said she would introduce a bill to end the industry.

Business News reported that a report by consultancy Mecardo for WAFarmers had found a ban would cost the industry up to $150 million.

And this week, it was reported that the Australian Livestock Exporters Council had agreed to reduce numbers on vessels during hotter months.

WAFarmers president Tony York said a federal government review into the sector was due next week, and that any significant decisions should await that report.

“The livelihoods of farmers and the health of their communities across the nation would be put at significant risk by a ban, especially so for Western Australian producers who represent 85 per cent of the national trade,” he said.

“Further, without very careful and considered processes, there will likely also be downward pressure on overall sheep flock size.

“We have seen from past experience that a ban on live export is widely destructive to regions and regional communities.

“We implore those in power not to make the same mistake twice.”

The state opposition's agriculture spokesman, Ian Blayney (Liberal), said a considered approach was required in addressing the concerns around the live export trade.

“This is yet another example of an eastern-states centric announcement from Federal Labor designed for political purposes rather than in the best interests of farmers or animal welfare,” he said.

“The question is, where is Premier Mark McGowan on this issue?

"It is completely inappropriate for Bill Shorten to make policy on the run that disproportionately and quite severely impacts Western Australia, the nation’s largest exporter.

“It is especially inappropriate, considering the federal government’s review into live exports is only a matter of weeks away.

“This just highlights that Bill Shorten has no interest and no understanding of the WA economy and the jobs that rely on it."

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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