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MacLoran Farm

Open letter to PM Anthony Albanese re: live sheep exports by sea

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Dear Prime Minister,

Phase-out of live sheep exports by sea

Live export stakeholders are losing confidence in your government’s ability to work in their best interests and those of the Australian agriculture sector, rural and regional communities that depend on the live sheep export trade.

The decision to phase out the live export of sheep by sea will not only cause irreversible harm to our sector but also to Australia’s trade and diplomatic partnerships in the Middle East.

On 1 March 2023 we wrote to Senator the Hon Murray Watt, Minister for Agriculture, advising that the commitment to phase out live sheep exports was a red line issue for the entire agricultural sector and the only outcome that would be acceptable is a reversal of the policy.

This letter was a request for your Government to listen – but we have not been heard.

We urge you to reconsider.

Today, Australia are the world leaders in the export of live sheep by sea.

Banning sheep live exports from Australia will alter supply dynamics, however it will not change global demand.

To meet religious and cultural requirements, markets will continue to source live sheep from countries that do not have the same animal welfare standards, so if the decision is being made on the grounds of improving animal welfare, the ban will be an abject failure.

Your Government’s appointed Independent panel Chair, Mr Phillip Glyde, is quoted as saying: “…clearly this sort of policy change will adversely affect industry, so how do we make the best of it.”

The simple fact is a phase out will cause significant damage that was not even remotely considered when the Australian Labor Party developed the policy to phase out the live export of sheep by sea.

While the panel has only been asked to provide recommendations on how to implement the policy, Mr Glyde’s comments highlight the sheer magnitude of adverse effects that the implementation of your government’s policy will have.

The stated and likely reversal of this decision by the conservative side of politics should they gain government, will make the ban not only pointless, but a very expensive and disruptive process for no gain.

Middle Eastern countries reliant on Australian live sheep exports are critical to diversify Australia’s trading partnerships. They are crucial investors in Australia’s future prosperity, and we have seen a twenty-fold increase in two-way investment in the past 20 years. The phase out policy will jeopardise trade deals Australia is pursuing in the region and will erode our reputation as a reliable economic partner.

Domestically the fallout associated with the policy announcement is already occurring with a devastating collapse in producer confidence and the sheep industry – not just in Western Australia, but nationally.

National rural confidence has recently dropped to one of the lowest levels in two decades.

More than half of Australian producers expect the agricultural economy to worsen over the next 12 months.

Sustainable sheep and wool industries are the cornerstone of many regional economies. If people are forced to leave these industries, regional communities will be devastated.

This policy will cause harm. It will hurt Australian families and damage Australia’s international standing as a reliable supplier of food and fibre and a trusted trading partner.

We simply cannot support or reconcile logic without scientific basis of the phase out of a legitimate world-leading industry for purely domestic political purposes, and therefore cannot accept anything less than a policy reversal.

No doubt there will be activist groups and non-farming interests urging you to stay the course on this policy.

An opportunity exists for you to do the right thing and work with Australian agriculture, not against it – as this is the choice you will be making.

The Australian Government must support Australia’s global leadership on animal welfare and at the same time reinforce the point that long standing international friendships in the national interests are important.

We are the voices of Australian Agriculture. We need you and your Government to listen to us.

Yours sincerely,

The signatories of the letters are listed as:

David Galvin, Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council

Fiona Simson, National Farmers Federation

John Hassell, WA Farmers

Tony Seabrook, Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA

Andrew Spencer, Sheep Producers Australia

Steve Harrison, Wool Producers Australia

David Foote, Cattle Australia

John Falkenhagen, Goat Industry Council of Australia

Barb Madden, Australian Lot Feeders Association

Peter Baldwin, Australian Livestock and Property Agents Association

Georgie Somerset, AgForce

Barry Large, Grain Producers Australia

Rick Gladigau, Australian Dairy Farmers

David Connolly, Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association

Bron Christensen, Kimberley Pilbara Cattlemen’s Association

Joe Keynes, Livestock SA

Xavier Martin, NSW Farmers Association

Emma Germano, Victorian Farmers Federation

John Cunnington, West Australian Livestock Exporters Association

Greg Pankhurst, Queensland Livestock Exporters Association

Jim Teasdale, South East Australian Livestock Association

Holly Ludeman, The Livestock Collective

Ken Vowles, Northern Territory Livestock Exporters Association

Published: 28 September 2023