‘Thrown under a bus’: Farmers’ fury at MacTiernan over sheep ships

Headshot of Peter Milne
Peter MilneThe West Australian
VideoAnimals Australia has released shocking video of animal abuse on a live sheep export vessel to the Middle East last year. WARNING: Distressing content.

WA farming leaders are headed for a showdown with Alannah MacTiernan today after accusing the Agriculture Minister of throwing the industry “under the bus” over the live sheep export furore.

Pastoralists and Graziers Association of WA president Tony Seabrook said Ms MacTiernan’s lack of support during the animal welfare scandal of the past few weeks had affected her standing in the agricultural community.

“Appallingly — instead of working with us — to work our way through this, she has taken every opportunity to throw us under the bus,” he said.

Mr Seabrook and WAFarmers president Tony York were both scheduled to discuss their grievances with Ms MacTiernan this morning.

There has been conflicting reports about conditions aboard the live export vessel Maysora, which Mr Seabrook, Mr York and State Government inspectors visited at Fremantle port on April 11 before it sailed.

VideoIsrael’s first lady Sara Netanyahu has spoken out against Australia’s live sheep trade.

Ms MacTiernan said that the inspector’s report about those conditions made for distressing reading.

Mr York said selective use of the leaked report had implied inappropriate standards, while Mr Seabrook called some of the claims “absolute rubbish”.

Ms MacTiernan said with forces marshalling for a total ban on live exports, which she did not support, she needed to maintain credibility so not to lose control of the issue.

“If I take the line that it is all fine, I would lose the ability to help,” she told WestBusiness yesterday, in reference to a short-lived 2011 ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia.

Mr Seabrook said the abolition of the trade would decimate regional WA.

“It will be one of the most destructive things you could ever do to the sheep industry in WA and could very easily lead to its demise,” he said.

Ms MacTiernan urged the industry to face up to the situation. “Confidence in live export is at an all-time low, and real steps must be taken to restore that confidence,” she said.

Mr Seabrook concurred, saying what occurred on the Awassi Express could not be allowed to happen again, referring to the voyage last year whose images of suffering and dying sheep triggered the current siutation.

“We need to be absolutely exemplary,” he said.

Mr York also met Federal Liberal MP Sussan Ley yesterday in a failed attempt to dissuade her from introducing a private member’s Bill to phase out the live export trade.

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