Industry-minister row on livestock export heats up

Zach RelphCountryman
Simon Crean
Camera IconSimon Crean

Tensions between one of Australia’s most senior live export figures and Federal Agricultural Minister David Littleproud are heightening.

A war of words between Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council chairman Simon Crean and Mr Littleproud erupted last month after the disputed draft report into live sheep heat-stress risk assessment was released.

After the report’s unveiling, Mr Littleproud questioned why ALEC had not “led industry transition”, while calling for the livestock organisation to address heat-stress concerns plaguing the live sheep industry.

In response, Mr Crean penned a stern three-page letter, obtained by Countryman, to Mr Littleproud outlining a lack of communication between the pair regarding the live sheep turmoil despite “one heated exchange”.

“Since you were appointed Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, apart from one heated exchange, you have resisted my many attempts to engage with you, both on progress and the way forward,” he said.

“Now in the interest of securing the viability of the trade, I am pleased that you have finally agreed to meet and discuss our reset and the way forward.”

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources-led report, made public on December 13, proposed defining the northern hemisphere summer from May to October based on findings from ALEC into heat stress.

It also recommended a 28C wet-bulb temperature limit for live sheep voyages to the Middle East, which has been disputed by WA industry figureheads who have warned it would end the trade in the State if enforced.

Mr Crean echoed industry concern and said the proposed animal welfare indicators would render the live sheep sector unviable.

“The draft recommendations contained in this report, if adopted, will result in the end of the live sheep trade, with the potential for severe contagion to cattle,” he said. “A closure of the sheep trade, as a result of the panel’s report, will have an enormous impact on producers, particularly those in WA.”

Mr Littleproud played down a rift.

“My office has met with ALEC numerous times in the past year,” he said.

“ALEC has twice lodged last-minute drop-in requests which couldn’t be accommodated due to other commitments in the diary. I share ALEC’s concern about the future of the live sheep export industry which is why I hope they work with me and grasp the urgency of this situation.”

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