The Rural Times

Business Publicity

Labor is keeping the live sheep export industry in the dark in 2024, after refusing to release findings of its Independent Panel Report into the consequences of ending the trade.

Leader of The Nationals and Shadow Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said Agriculture Minister Murray Watt had committed to providing more certainty by the end of 2023, but had instead treated Western Australian farmers with contempt by hiding the report in Cabinet.

It comes after a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for a 230-page Independent Panel report into the consequences of phasing out the live sheep trade was denied in 2023, due to Cabinet-in-Confidence.

Mr Littleproud said Labor needed to be transparent about the report in the new year, after a live sheep export phase-out panel travelled around Western Australia but failed to properly consult with the industry.

“I am incredibly disappointed that Labor sees fit to remain secretive about phasing out the live sheep export trade in 2024,” Mr Littleproud said.

“If Agriculture Minister Murray Watt is so confident in his decision to phase out the industry, why won’t he release details of the report?

“Labor is destroying the livelihoods of more than 3000 people who work in the trade and an industry worth $85 million.”

Warranine park farmer Ellen Walker from Brookton, WA, said farmers were worried about 2024.

“We are still in limbo land,” she said.

“We were lucky enough to get some lambs on a boat to Saudi in November but we still have two-year-old wethers waiting for a boat and the price of everything, from mutton to lamb, has fallen. Two years ago it was $200 for ewes and lambs, now I’m lucky to get $100 a head for cross-bred lambs and $40, if I'm lucky, for ewes.

“There is no market for store sheep and to top it off feed prices are ridiculous – oats are now over $500 a tonne, hay is around $300 per tonne and pellets are over $400.”

Farm groups have also written to Minister Watt, pleading for a reversal of the ban, saying the reopening of trade into Saudi Arabia and prevailing market conditions had increased the possibility for east coast exports.

“It is becoming more and more obvious that Labor doesn’t want to release its so-called scientific and economic evidence because it simply doesn’t exist and Labor instead hides behind Cabinet-in-Confidence,” Mr Littleproud said.

“While I am pleased WA Premier Roger Cook is finally standing up for WA farmers and backing the trade, he must now spend 2024 visiting Federal Labor east coast politicians, to ensure they reverse their senseless decision to end live sheep exports.”